PSU still preparing for a doubtful Weisman

October, 17, 2012
10/17/12
3:38
PM ET
Mike Hull isn't surfing the internet or asking his coaches about the status of Iowa tailback Mark Weisman. He'd rather be surprised Saturday.

The bruising runner is listed as doubtful, but Hull didn't seem to care if he had a 1 percent chance or 100 percent chance of playing. Hull and the defense planned to treat this game the same way no matter what.

"We're preparing as if he's going to play just because he's been a big part of their offense," Hull said Wednesday. "He's made some big plays for them. He's tough, he's a big guy, and we're going to have to stop him for us to be successful."

But wouldn't the game at least be a bit easier without the 225-pound fullback-turned-tailback bursting through Penn State's defensive line?

"Well," Hull said, "their other backs have had success. He's just been a spark for them recently."

[+] EnlargeMark Weisman
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallIowa Hawkeyes fullback Mark Weisman has rushed 100 times for 631 yards and eight touchdowns in six games this season.
That's an understatement. In the last four games, Iowa's former walk-on has basically been the offense by averaging 25 carries for 156 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Without Weisman, it's unknown whether Penn State's backup linebacker could even name the next running back in line. Iowa apparently even had trouble with it -- the Hawkeyes misspelled de facto starter Greg Garmon's name on the depth chart: "Garman."

That just speaks to Iowa's lack of depth at the position. Just like Penn State earlier this season, the Hawkeyes have been forced to get creative with their depth chart.

Damon Bullock remains foggy after a Sept. 15 concussion and won't play Saturday. That means the true freshman with the tricky last name will get the start -- with Jordan Canzeri backing him up. Canzeri hasn't played yet this season after undergoing ACL surgery in the spring.

But Penn State's players didn't want to hear all that.

"We realize right now he's not on the depth chart," safety Jake Fagnano said. "But we're preparing as if he's going to be playing every down. Obviously, he's a big part of their offense."

Matt McGloin took that preparation talk one step further. Forget that injury uncertainty, he wanted to see Iowa's version of Zach Zwinak in the backfield Saturday night.

"It would be great to have him in the game and see him do his job," McGloin said Wednesday afternoon. "It's definitely good to see another kid have success who started out as a walk-on."

Penn State's quarterback could regret those words if Weisman somehow defies the odds to return. In the last two games -- both wins -- Weisman has accounted for more than 49 percent of Iowa's entire offense. His 6.3 yard-per-carry average this season is surpassed by only two tailbacks in the country who also have at least 100 carries.

McGloin complimented Iowa signal-caller James Vandenberg. But it's clear this is Weisman's offense -- and, without him, the Hawkeyes could struggle against the Nittany Lions' front seven.

"We are going through our preparations as if he's going to play," Pete Massaro said in a familiar refrain. "He's got a lot of ability between the tackles, but that doesn't change the fact they have a big and aggressive line."

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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