What does Tyler Goodson's departure mean for the present (and future) of Iowa's running back room?

For the past three seasons, it's been a heavy dose of Tyler Goodson in Iowa's rush offense. But the Hawkeyes will have to look elsewhere for production in the upcoming Citrus Bowl. Goodson announced on Friday that he will enter the 2022 NFL Draft and opt out of the Jan. 1 bowl game against Kentucky. 

That decision means Iowa will start a new running back for the first time in 25 games.

Who will it be?

Head coach Kirk Ferentz has said throughout the season that he's confident in the running back depth on the team. An interesting dynamic existed this year with two veterans, Goodson and fifth-year senior Ivory Kelly-Martin, and three freshmen in redshirts Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams and first-year Deavin Hilson.

Looking ahead to the bowl game, who will get the bulk of the carries? And beyond this season, what's the future of Iowa's running back room?

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The several weeks still to go until kickoff could give Kelly-Martin enough time to reach full health. He's battled injuries throughout his career. He missed the last month of the regular season with a foot injury but returned to play on special teams in the Big Ten title game loss to Michigan. Kelly-Martin has also been hampered by ball-security issues. He fumbled twice against Kent State earlier in the year and on his most recent carry at Wisconsin on Oct. 30. 

Recently, Gavin Williams has ascended to the No. 2 running back role. He is the team's second-leading rusher with 49 rushes for 207 yards. Goodson's departure also leaves the door open for Leshon Williams, who starred in the Kids Day scrimmage in August with two 40-plus-yard runs. 

"The two young guys in the room are very talented," running backs coach Ladell Betts said of them in September. "I think people will be pleasantly surprised when they get a chance to watch both of them play. I'm sure it's tough for them not to get reps as a competitor. I know that feeling, I've been in that position."

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It's more than likely that the Hawkeyes will start with Gavin Williams first, but Leshon Williams and perhaps Kelly-Martin will be in the mix.

Looking ahead to 2022, there will be an open competition at running back for the first time in a few years. Based on how the workload flowed this season, it appears Gavin Williams will have an early advantage entering 2022. But Iowa's also bringing in two highly acclaimed running backs in the Class of 2022: Kaleb Johnson (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) from Hamilton, Ohio, is a four-star prospect by Rivals; Jaziun Patterson (5-11, 182) from Deerfield Beach, Florida, is a three-star prospect by Rivals and 247ports. 

Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at ksmith@gannett.com.

Iowa freshman running back Gavin Williams runs the ball in the third quarter against Illinois on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.