Iowa coaches want Akrum Wadley bigger for larger role in 2016

Matt Cozzi

Akrum Wadley already emerged for the Iowa football team.

Actually, Wadley is the owner of two breakout games in his first two seasons on the field for the Hawkeyes. And both were against Northwestern.

The junior-to-be running back rushed 15 times for 106 yards in November 2014 against the Wildcats and then this season Wadley zigged and zagged for 204 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries. Wadley totaled 496 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 83 carries in nine games in 2015  — an average of 6.0 yards per carry, second-highest on the team among Iowa's four running backs.

Jordan Canzeri (5.4) departs due to graduation, while senior LeShun Daniels (4.5) and junior Derrick Mitchell Jr. (6.5) return. Wadley entered this past fall fourth on the depth chart and exited third. Could he begin 2016 as the starter?

"He took a huge step (against Northwestern)," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said at a press conference Thursday. "To me, I'm hoping that's a career-changer for him."

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Wadley struggled with ball security early for the Hawkeyes, but Ferentz is hopeful the Newark, N.J., native has tightened up that part of his game for good.

Another factor is Wadley's build. The coaches want the speedster to get above 185 pounds, which should increase his durability and therefore also help with holding onto the ball. For what it's worth, Wadley is listed at 5-11, 185 on the 2016 depth chart. Offseason workouts start Jan. 19. 

"If you touch the ball, you've got to really treat it as important," Ferentz said. "It's hard to win if you don't, so I think he really — and I can't quantify this — but my belief is he felt the responsibility of the football team and he really took it to a different level, and I'm hoping that will move him forward.

"I hope he'll do the same thing with his training. I'm not saying he's been loafing, but to have a college football physique and compete at this level, it really takes dedication."