Blessed with a well-coached offensive line and a pro-style offensive attack that features the run, the Iowa Hawkeyes seemingly always have a strong running attack under Kirk Ferentz.
Unfortunately, rarely during Ferentz's recent tenure have his running backs been able to remain as the starter for more than a season. Not since the days of Albert Young (who left in 2007) have the Hawkeyes have enjoyed any real continuity at running back. Each of the past five seasons, in fact, Iowa has had a different player lead the team in either rushing yardage, rushing touchdowns or both.
The turnover will continue in 2012 due to the fact that Iowa's leading incumbent rusher Marcus Coker will be taking his talents to FCS powerhouse Stony Brook.
Coker, who led the Hawkeyes with 1,384 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011, was suspended from the team prior to the Insight Bowl matchup against Oklahoma. The reason for his suspension and subsequent surprise releasal from his scholarship by Iowa entirely hasn't been made public other than that his actions constituted a violation of the university's Student Athlete's Code of Conduct. Coker was investigated after a woman claimed he sexually assaulted her in October but played during the investigation and was never formally charged of any crime.
Despite only one season as a fulltime starter for the Hawkeyes, Coker had already established himself as a potential pro prospect. Coker, in fact, ranked No. 6 on NFLDraftScout.com's 2014 RB rankings.
Listed by Iowa at 6-0, 230 pounds, Coker is a physical back with good vision and surprising burst for a player of his size. Coker is on pace to graduate and, according to Stony Brook head coach Chuck Priore, was very interested in his new university's academics as well as athletics.
That said, a spectacular junior campaign could force Coker to consider leaving his new school early should the NFL come calling. Though it was injury and not an investigation that prompted another former Iowa running back -- Jewel Hampton -- to transfer to Southern Illinois a year ago, he too sounded like a player willing to spend two seasons with his new program rather than making the attempted jump to the pros.
Instead, after rushing for 1,121 yards and a conference-leading 21 touchdowns this season, Hampton headed off to the NFL.
Just as they did with Hampton at Southern Illinois, scouts will certainly be keeping an eye on Coker at Stony Brook, whether it be for the 2013 or 2014 draft.