IOWA CITY, Iowa – Now that Eno Benjamin has committed to the Iowa football team, it’s time to start obsessing about him de-committing and ultimately signing with a blue blood program.
I’m just teasing.
Cherish the moment because it’s not often that a heralded running back from Texas picks the Hawkeyes.
Almost a quarter century has passed since Austin native Sedrick Shaw signed with Iowa in 1992. He would go on to become Iowa’s all-time leading rusher with 4,156 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Shaw was so talented and productive that he kept Tavian Banks as his backup for three seasons in the mid-1990s under former coach Hayden Fry.
Texas native David Hudson also played a significant role as a fullback under Fry in the mid-1980s.
Hudson and Shaw are pretty much it, though, as far as running backs from Texas who starred under Fry at Iowa.
Fry recruited some other talented running backs from Texas such as Andre Hill in the early 1990s. But his career as a Hawkeye never materialized.
The situation has been no different under current Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. He recruited Texas native Damon Bullock, who certainly had his moments as an Iowa running back, rushing for 1,074 yards from 2011-14, but hardly was a star.
Iowa’s heralded 2005 recruiting class included a running back from Texas named Corey Robertson. But he never played a down for the Hawkeyes at running back before transferring out of the program.
Shaw and Hudson are the only Texas natives who are ranked among Iowa’s top-25 career rushing leaders.
Fry was born and raised in Texas and he recruited more than his share of talented players from the Lone Star state while coaching the Hawkeyes. He just didn’t land many running backs from Texas, nor has Ferentz.
Nine different running backs from seven different states have led Iowa in rushing under Ferentz, who is entering his 18th season as head coach. The nine running backs are are Ladell Betts (Missouri); Fred Russell (Michigan); Sam Brownlee and Adam Robinson (Iowa); Albert Young and Shonn Greene (New Jersey); Marcus Coker (Maryland); Mark Weisman (Illinois) and Jordan Canzeri (New York).
So in a way, Benjamin is taking a path less traveled. He is going where few Texas running backs have gone before recently.
The Iowa coaches made a connection with him early in the recruiting process, forcing the other programs to play catch up.
Michigan appears to have made up some ground, but not enough to get Benjamin to change his mind.
It probably is fair to assume that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh won’t back off if he still wants Benjamin. Who knows, Harbaugh already could be trying to arrange a sleepover with Benjamin.
Iowa fans need to remember that verbal commits are about as official as a promise ring. It is nothing more than a verbal agreement between two parties.
The challenge for the Iowa coaches is keeping Benjamin convinced that being a Hawkeye is his best option. That’ll be no easy task based on Benjamin’s ever-growing list of scholarship offers.
Iowa has withstood Michigan’s late charge for Benjamin. But what’ll happen if Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M throw their hats in the ring by making late scholarship offers?
We’ll just have to wait and see, but you can’t question Benjamin’s word to this point. He said all along that Iowa was his top choice and he proved it on Monday.
The best way Iowa could help its cause with Benjamin is to perform well on the field in order to stay relevant.
Winning isn’t everything. But it probably is no coincidence that Benjamin committed to Iowa following a 12-2 season.
Iowa’s success also played a role in five-star defensive end A.J. Epenesa committing to the Hawkeyes in January. Epenesa was an easier sell than most mega-recruits because his father played at Iowa. But winning 12 games last season helped to seal the deal with him and with Benjamin.