Akrum Wadley returning to Iowa for senior season

Chad Leistikow

Iowa’s 2017 football roster received a major boost Thursday afternoon as running back Akrum Wadley announced he would return to the Hawkeyes for his senior season.

Wadley was Iowa’s leading rusher, scorer and playmaker during the just-completed 8-5 season.

He said in a statement that it “was the right decision for me and my family” and outlined three reasons for returning after meeting with his parents.

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley should be the featured guy for the 2017 Hawkeye offense after he announced his return Thursday.

“To earn my degree, to have another year to prepare physically, and to not end my collegiate career on a bad note,” Wadley said. “We have some unfinished business.”

The announcement came as a bit of a surprise considering the tone of his interview Monday following Iowa’s 30-3 Outback Bowl to Florida. Wadley’s answers were short, and while he said he hadn’t decided whether to enter the NFL Draft or not, he said he felt ready.

Wadley, listed at 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds, was a dynamic performer for the Hawkeyes this season, ending the year with a team-high 1,081 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards a carry.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has been tough on Wadley for not keeping his weight consistently at 190 and said last month he felt the talented back from Newark, N.J., would benefit from another year at Iowa.

“I would like to thank Coach Ferentz,” Wadley said. “He had good conversations and he let me know that he would be there either way — he would have my back. I also want to express my appreciation for all the support from my teammates, and the great and loyal Iowa fans.”

Wadley also ranked second on the team, with 36 receptions, and was by far Iowa’s best offensive player against some of the nation’s toughest defenses — Michigan and Florida (115 rushing yards in each game and a combined nine receptions). Recently, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. listed Wadley as his sixth-best running back in the upcoming draft class if he were to declare himself eligible.

Instead, Wadley is going to be a Hawkeye one more time. And he should be the main man in 2017, with co-team-MVP LeShun Daniels Jr. (1,058 yards, 10 TDs) graduating and with five returning starters on the offensive line.

Wadley is the third notable Hawkeye to return to school for one more season, joining team captains Josey Jewell (a Butkus Award finalist at linebacker) and wide receiver Matt VandeBerg (after he received a medical hardship waiver).

“It is positive news to know that Akrum has made the decision to be with our program for his senior season,” Ferentz said in a statement. “Akrum has displayed growth and maturity during his career, and had an outstanding season in 2016. We look forward to Akrum being a key member of our team in 2017.”