Kirk Ferentz: Freshmen running backs will get instant opportunity

Chad Leistikow

IOWA CITY, Ia. — It’s time to learn about Toks Akinribade and Toren Young.

Their sped-up learning curve is about to begin, too.

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz indicated Wednesday during an unannounced press conference that the incoming true freshmen running backs would be given strong looks for immediate playing time.

The Hawkeyes lost backfield depth when Eric Graham decided to leave the program, a development Ferentz made official Wednesday. Graham rushed three times for 21 yards in the April 23 spring game.

Eric Graham (23) runs for yardage during Iowa's April 23 spring game. Graham decided to leave the Hawkeye program, leaving openings for true freshmen to contribute at running back.

“Our plan was to give those guys a full opportunity to see what they could do,” Ferentz said of Akinribade and Young. “If they can add to our rotation, that’d be great.”

Young, who became Iowa’s second commitment to the Class of 2016 more than 16 months ago, is more of the power-running option. The Monona Grove, Wis., native is 5-foot-11, 225 pounds. He racked up 2,569 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior.

Akinribade is more of a home-run threat. The Brownsburg, Ind., native stands 6-0, 205 and accumulated 1,424 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior.

With Graham’s departure, Iowa’s running back ranks are down to four: LeShun Daniels Jr., Akrum Wadley, converted receiver Derrick Mitchell Jr. (who missed the spring with an injury) and seldom-used Marcel Joly. There are openings.

“At the end of the day, we lost a really experienced player with Jordan Canzeri,” Ferentz said. “We’ve got LeShun, who we feel really good about. And Akrum did some really good things last year. Derrick Mitchell, we’re still trying to get a grip on that. He hasn’t really played all that much. So we could use more help that way, hopefully provide some depth, a little more octane for us.”

Linebacker Justin Jinning also announced his departure from the program Tuesday on Instagram, but Ferentz didn’t announce any walk-ons transitioning to scholarship status. Safety Brandon Snyder and long snapper Tyler Kluver are likely next in line when scholarships come available.

“I wish they could’ve stayed, would’ve stayed,” Ferentz said of Graham and Jinning. “But I respect their opinions and wish them all the best as they move forward.”