June 27, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
By ERIC CLARK
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Improving efficiency and staying healthy is where the focus lies for Mark Weisman, a junior running back who led the University of Iowa in rushing in 2012.
The Buffalo Grove, Ill., native gained 837 yards on 159 carries last fall, scoring a team-high eight rushing touchdowns. Although he began the 2012 campaign at fullback, Weisman emerged as the Hawkeyes' primary ball carrier Sept. 15 against Northern Iowa after running back Damon Bullock left with an injury.
The 236-pound bruiser was himself bit by the injury bug during the Hawkeyes' contest with Michigan State, tweaking an ankle on a late-game touchdown run. He saw limited or no action in the Hawkeyes' next four conference contests.
"Injuries are tough, you can't avoid them sometimes," Weisman said. "We've got to work to get more durable during the offseason, and that's what we're trying to do right now."
"The summer is one of the most important parts of the year, getting everyone on the same page for our one common goal. We've got to stick to the plan."
UI junior running back Mark Weisman
Despite a position change last season, both Weisman and UI head coach Kirk Ferentz say his training has fairly minimal alterations.
"(UI running backs coach) Chris White was trying to work with him on his cutting and flexibility, things like that, like he would with anybody," said Ferentz. "The big focus is on the football, more so than blocking. A year ago, it was primarily on blocking."
Regardless of his backfield switch, Weisman still employs a powerful running-style.
"It's always hard out there," he said. "You've just got to fight for that extra yard each and every play."
Weisman was disappointed with last season's offensive production, and added that consistency is of the highest priority this offseason.
"Every game, we would show signs of being great," he said. "We've got to have consistency each and every drive."
The Hawkeyes ranked 11th in the Big Ten in first downs and scoring offense last fall, one place ahead of Illinois in both categories. Weisman said the players need to work hard this summer in order to improve those totals.
"The summer is one of the most important parts of the year, getting everyone on the same page for our one common goal," he said. "We've got to stick to the plan."
Ferentz said he hopes the Hawkeye backfield will have more depth this season, in order to avoid having one player shoulder the bulk of the running back responsibilities.
"Last year, because of some injury situations, when Mark had to go, he was basically the only guy we had back there," said Ferentz, who enters his 15th season as UI head coach. "Hopefully we'll have a little bit more balance this year."
Weisman's 2012 production, although impeded by a nagging injury, twice garnered him an honorable mention as Running Back of the Week from the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA). He credits the blockers.
"The offensive line is unbelievable, they're the ones making the holes," he said. "Give them the credit, not me."
Iowa opens the season Aug. 31 against Northern Illinois in Kinnick Stadium.