IOWA CITY, Iowa – The Iowa football team could be without at least one running back against Pittsburgh on Saturday. And that’s even if LeShun Daniels does play.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz released a statement late Monday afternoon saying that sophomore running back Derrick Mitchell Jr., had been suspended due to a football program and a student code of conduct violation.
“This is not a legal issue,” Ferentz said in the release. “Derrick is working through the issues at hand in regards to being in good standing as a University of Iowa student. We will follow the established university protocol as we move forward.”
Mitchell wasn’t with the team for last Saturday’s 31-17 victory over Iowa State in Ames. The St. Louis native was in uniform for the Sept. 5 season opener against Illinois State, but didn’t play because of what Ferentz described as a precautionary measure.
"He could have played today, but he hasn’t practiced enough where I think the coaching staff would have been comfortable," Ferentz said in his press conference after the Illinois State game. "You like to see a little bit more evidence, but we expect him to be full speed.
"He has been full speed the last couple days. So hopefully, we can get him built up there where we have confidence that he can play the way he needs to play."
Ferentz was asked again last Tuesday at his weekly press conference about whether Mitchell would be available for the Iowa State game.
"Hoping so," Ferentz said. "He’s looking better."
Mitchell drew praise from Ferentz after switching from receiver to running back in the spring. The 6-foot-1, 212-pounder climbed to third on the depth chart at running back and was competing to be Iowa’s third-down back, according to Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis.
As for Daniels, Ferentz said his status for the Pittsburgh game is uncertain after he injured his ankle in the second quarter of Saturday’s 31-17 victory over Iowa State in Ames.
Senior defensive end Drew Ott also injured his arm in the first quarter against Iowa State and didn’t return to the game.
Daniels and Ott both were listed on the new depth chart that was released Monday. Ferentz likely will update their health status at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
Mitchell and Daniels are among six running backs on scholarship for the Hawkeyes. The others are senior Jordan Canzeri, sophomore Akrum Wadley, redshirt freshman Marcel Joly and true freshman Eric Graham. Sophomore Jonathan Parker, who now plays receiver, also could be an option at running back after playing that position last season.
Wadley saw action in eight games last season and led the team with a career-high 105 rushing yards during a 48-7 victory over Northwestern.
However, Wadley has struggled with fumbling, including losing one fumble against Illinois State. The Newark, N.J., native didn’t play against Iowa State.
Wadley fell behind Mitchell to the fourth spot on the depth chart during spring practice. They stayed in that order during preseason practice.
Iowa lost a running back when redshirt freshman C.J. Hilliard left the team shortly before the start of the season. Hilliard, who is from Cincinnati, has since transferred to Ohio University. He was buried on the depth chart Iowa.