Steady diet of LeShun Daniels is Iowa's run-game dream

Chad Leistikow
Iowa running back LeShun Daniels Jr. (29) runs a drill on March 30. He is expected to be the Hawkeyes' workhorse in most cases this fall, with Akrum Wadley as his wingman.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — LeShun Daniels’ Iowa football career seems like a blur.

Suddenly, he's down to one chance to turn immense promise into a dynamic season.

His position coach, Chris White, reinforced the running back’s potential on Wednesday.

“I would love to give LeShun the ball 25 times. I would love to see him for 12 games kind of like Shonn Greene, just kind of wear people out,” White said Wednesday, referencing the 2008 Doak Walker Award winner who rushed for a school-record 1,850 yards as a Hawkeye senior. “I'm sure LeShun would love that, and the whole staff would, too.

“But unfortunately for him and for us, that has not been the case. But we'll keep trying.”

Daniels is the clear leader to succeed Jordan Canzeri as Iowa's top back. Daniels is listed No. 1 for the second straight year on Iowa’s depth chart, but as White pointed out, staying healthy has been a chore.

Injuries, all ankle- and foot-related, have limited the 6-foot, 225-pound Warren, Ohio, product to 195 carries for 830 yards in three seasons.

“The injuries that he had were all lower body, kind of ankle things, where he just kind of got rolled up,” White said. “I don't think those are preventable. Just seems like every time he started to really get in a groove, he'd just get that one turn of the ankle and a pile and you know …”

Yeah, Daniels knows.

He got hurt in the second game last season at Iowa State and tried to play through it. Then he got shut down for a few games. Finally, Nov. 14, he broke out with a 26-carry, 195-yard, three-touchdown performance against Minnesota.

How about staying healthy as a fourth-year senior?

“That’s the plan,” Daniels said, smiling. “I just do whatever I can, training-wise, to keep my body as healthy as possible so come the season, I can try to avoid (as) many freak things as possible.

“Obviously, coach White would love to have somebody out there that can carry the ball 20, 25 times a game. We always talk about that. But with the amount of backs that we have and the talent that we have there, it’s not necessarily the No. 1 priority right now. We have me and Akrum (Wadley) right now healthy, and I’d like to think that we complement each other really well.”

Wadley is listed No. 2, but he might as well be a co-No. 1. He was a fourth-stringer a year ago before his 204-yard, four-touchdown eruption at Northwestern. In the offseason, he’s gotten more serious about his diet — bulking up to a mostly consistent 190 pounds, where the coaches want him.

Wadley was worried the added weight (from about 182) would slow him down. Instead, White said Wadley set the weight-room record in the 10-yard dash this spring. That was eye-opening for Wadley, a junior who brings an exciting element to the run game.

“(Wadley’s) start to finish (speed) is just … I don't think I've seen that in college, how fast he can accelerate,” White said. “And then the other thing is, his jump cutting, his lateral movement is as good and as rare as I've seen, as well.

“Now you couple that with a little bit more strength to pull through some inside runs, and you've got something now. You get him in the perimeter, he's going to make someone miss and wiggle someone. Now he can run through a tackle and that's the thing that's exciting to see and hopefully you'll see that this fall.”