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Iowa running back Brandon Wegher had a solid freshman season, then quit the team the following August.

Iowa’s biggest player disappointment in Kirk Ferentz era

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ANSWER: I struggle with criticizing players, especially if it deals with on-field performance. They’re in this high-profile purgatory between their teen years and becoming a real adult. They’re adored by millions of fans, yet they aren’t compensated financially beside the cost of attendance.

I’m going to shy away from underperforming players. Injuries sidelined many talented players, and even a whiff of criticism for that makes me queasy. Lineman Alex Kanellis and receiver Jay Scheel were 4-star recruits whose promising careers were lost because of injuries. Dace Richardson was an NFL-caliber offensive lineman who suffered through several brutal knee injuries. Running back Jermelle Lewis was a potential thoroughbred but had knee problems.

Running backs tended to disappoint Iowa fans almost annually between 2010 and 2012. Jewel Hampton, Adam Robinson, Marcus Coker, Mika’il McCall, Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill all left Iowa before their eligibility expired. Hampton ran for 463 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2008. In 2009 and 2010, Robinson combined for 1,775 yards and 15 touchdowns. Coker rushed for 1,394 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011 alone. All left under unfortunate circumstances.

As for the most disappointing player in the Kirk Ferentz era, I’d have to go with another running back — Brandon Wegher. A 4-star recruit from Sioux City (Iowa) Heelan, Wegher was blessed with good size and incredible speed.

In 2009, Wegher played right away and gained 641 yards and scored a freshman-record 8 rushing touchdowns. He helped pace Iowa to an 11-2 overall record and a No. 7 national finish. In the Orange Bowl that season, Wegher rushed for 113 yards and the game-clinching 32-yard touchdown run in a 24-14 win against Georgia Tech. Everything seemed pointed upward for him.

Early in the 2010 training camp, Wegher quit the team. He never returned. He later transferred to Oklahoma as a walk-on, but didn’t last. Eventually, Wegher surfaced at Morningside College, where he set the NAIA single-season rushing record at 2,610 yards. Wegher signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2015 and made the team. He was on the active roster all season, and the Panthers reached the Super Bowl.

Iowa’s running back attrition was a primary cause of the team’s mediocrity from 2010 through 2014. Wegher, Hampton and Robinson were a three-headed monster entering the 2010 season and all were gone by that year’s Insight Bowl. Coker took over late in the 2010 season and was out by the 2011 Insight Bowl. McCall was booted after the 2011 season, while Garmon and Hill left after the 2012 debacle. It was a turnstile.

All of those players’ departures were unfortunate. But considering his state ties along with his talent, Wegher was the most disappointing player of the Ferentz era.

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