IOWA CITY, Ia. – LeShun Daniels Jr. is not only Iowa’s first-team running back, he’s become No. 1 in the weight room, too.
A media tour last week of the new Football Operations Center allowed a few reporters to snap photos of Iowa’s strength and conditioning records by position. Daniels is the record-holder at running back on a chart that spans the Ferentz era in the pro-agility drill (4.03 seconds for a 20-yard, two-stop shuttle run) and the bench press (405 pounds).
“I was never out of shape, but just dropping the weight, I just felt better,” Daniels said Tuesday, four days before the Hawkeyes’ season opener against Illinois State. “I felt I could run more, do different things. I just had more energy.”
Even though head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday that he would go with the hot hand in Saturday’s 11 a.m. game, Daniels seems to be the guy Iowa wants to take hold of the job. Running backs coach Chris White shared his vision a month ago that Daniels would become a 20- to 25-carries-per-game guy.
Daniels said his sleeker 6-foot, 225-pound frame allows him to “do different things, whether it be run a guy over or make people miss” as compared with his previous 51 carries (for 191 yards) over two years.
The bubble wrap has been mostly kept around Daniels and backup Jordan Canzeri in fall camp, with the hopes they can form a 1-2 tandem similar to Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher in Iowa’s 11-2 season of 2009.
Daniels and Canzeri have maintained a friendly competition. Daniels, a third-year junior, said the two have been close ever since he arrived on campus. Canzeri (5-9, 192) doesn’t seem to have a chip on his shoulder about being No. 2 despite having 1,089 rushing yards, including 120 in Iowa's most recent game, during his injury-slowed career.
“Just the fact we both have the relationship we do, whoever’s on the field, we’re hoping for the best,” Canzeri said. “We know how it is. Whoever has the hot hand is going to be the one playing the most.
“However it plays out, we’re ready for it. We’re both willing to do the most we can for our team.”