Hawkeye football picks up 'complete' junior-college running back
IOWA CITY, Ia. — As Iowa football newcomers get ready to start their summer academic and conditioning schedule, there’s a fresh face in the Hawkeye backfield.
Mekhi Sargent, a first-team all-American running back at Iowa Western Community College last season, has enrolled at Iowa, his junior-college coach confirmed to the Register.
Sargent rolled up 1,449 rushing yards last season in 10 games for the Reivers, who have become a Hawkeye football pipeline in recent seasons. Sargent averaged 7.1 yards per attempt and fumbled just once on his 205 carries. He also caught 12 passes for 91 yards and scored a total of 16 touchdowns for Iowa Western.
“Mehki is a complete back,” Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier said. “(He has) great vision and patience as a runner; strong, good balance; great in pass (protection) and has good hands out of the backfield.”
Originally from Key West, Florida, Sargent is listed at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, though he looks a little shorter than that on film. Yet he’s an explosive and physical runner who will add depth and intrigue to the Hawkeyes’ least-experienced position group, which is operating under first-year running backs coach Derrick Foster.
Strohmeier thinks Sargent will be on scholarship at Iowa, although a university spokesperson wasn’t able to confirm his roster addition as of Sunday afternoon. Monday marks the first day of summer school, so perhaps there will be official word soon.
Sargent has three years of eligibility remaining, Strohmeier said. He has already used his redshirt season, so the Hawkeyes likely are planning to see what he can do right away.
Iowa feels good about its co-starters in sophomores Toren Young (5-11, 221) and Ivory Kelly-Martin (5-11, 200), who racked up impressive stats in limited work while playing behind seniors Akrum Wadley and James Butler last season. Young and Kelly-Martin combined for 377 rushing yards and six total touchdowns on 65 carries (5.8 average) last fall.
But behind them, Iowa has very little experience. There have been red flags raised by head coach Kirk Ferentz about the football availability of Toks Akinribade, who redshirted last season due to a medical condition. Iowa’s only other scholarship running backs are freshmen Kyshaun Bryan (who redshirted) and Cam Harrell (a converted defensive back).
Strohmeier said Sargent ended up at Iowa Western after becoming a late academic qualifier. But, he added, the Hawkeyes have long been pursuing him. Now that he’s coming aboard, it’ll be an interesting story to watch — and similar to a year ago, when the Hawkeyes added a summertime running back (in Butler) to its stable.