IOWA CITY — Well aware of the history of the running back position on the Iowa football team, Damon Bullock concerns himself only with the future.
Listed at the top of the depth chart at the position as the Hawkeyes work toward Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. season opener against Northern Illinois, Bullock concerns himself only with working on his own game and not on the laundry list of reasons other backs are no longer on the field or even with the program.
The sophomore insists that he isn’t superstitious.
“Nah, we’re good,” Bullock said.
Bullock said the long list of backs whose Iowa careers have been ended or halted by injury, transfer or dismissal is simply coincidence.
“As long as you keep your head straight and stay out of trouble, you should be good,” Bullock said. “I don’t consider myself to be a troublemaker, so I shouldn’t have any problems. I just have to stay focused on my goal. If I do that, I’ll be fine.”
Bullock’s goal is to provide some versatility in the role he has filled since Jordan Canzeri suffered an ACL injury during spring drills.
As Iowa’s depth at running back fluctuated a year ago, Bullock split time during his freshman season working out at that position and as a slot receiver.
He opens this season as the Hawkeyes’ most experienced running back, carrying the ball 10 times for 20 yards last season in addition to catching one pass for 11 yards.
“I feel like I’m ready to step in and do what is asked of me,” Bullock said. “I’ve always tried to keep things pretty simple, work hard every day, do what I can to get better from one day to the next. If I do those things, I believe that things will work out.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound native of Mansfield, Texas, understands he is at a competitive position.
Canzeri is working to return to the competition as quickly as he can and two true freshmen, Greg Garmon and Michael Malloy, share the second spot on the depth chart behind Bullock.
“All of the new guys have potential. We’re all trying to help them out,” Bullock said. “We don’t want to leave anybody behind. It’s not just a single-man game so whoever is going to help the team will help the team.”
That’s nothing new for running backs at Iowa, and Bullock believes his pass-catching skills can help him fill a major role on this year’s team.
“I consider myself to be a complete back, somebody who catch the ball, run it, make the blocks that I need to make,” Bullock said. “That is what I have to offer and I know that if I want to stay in games — and it’s the same for any back here — you have to be able to protect the quarterback and hold onto the ball. That’s the way it works here.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz believes performance will dictate how things play out at the running back position this fall.
“It’s going to be decided here in the next couple of months, and we’ll see how it goes. The guys are working hard. They look capable, but we have a lot of work to do,” Ferentz said. “That is representative of our football team. We certainly have enough talent out there, and hopefully we can bridge the experience gap.”
Bullock wants to be part of that equation.
He arrived at Iowa regarded as a top-50 recruit in the Dallas-Fort Worth area after rushing for 1,606 yards and 22 touchdowns as a high school senior.
An injury limited him to three games as a prep junior, one of the reasons Bullock believes led him to Iowa.
“I probably wasn’t recruited as heavily as a lot of guys because I wasn’t on the field much my junior year,” Bullock said. “People didn’t know a lot about me. I think Iowa saw that I could be a complete back and they gave me a chance. I work every day to show them they made a good decision.”