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As college football goes ‘away from playing big and physical,’ Iowa, Wisconsin embrace fullback trad

Iowa Hawkeyes fullback Monte Pottebaum (38) runs with the ball throughout a sport between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Michigan Wolverines at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa on Saturday, October 1, 2022. The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes 27-14 . (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY – Monte Pottebaum acquired fairly a shock on the primary day of Fall 2019 Camp.

“I was going to go into the linebacker room, and then linebacker coach Seth Wallace came out and wanted to talk to me in his office,” Pottebaum mentioned. “He mentioned, ‘Hey, we’re taking you to full-back.’ So that was actually all there was to it.”

Pottebaum “not really” has something to say in regards to the matter, however “I didn’t really care.”

“I just wanted to do everything to help the team,” mentioned Pottebaum.

In his fourth 12 months as a full-back, Pottebaum has featured ready the place fewer and fewer gamers are contributing on the Power Five stage.

Iowa is one among three Big Ten colleges to have used a full-back in a minimum of 100 video games this season, in keeping with a Gazette evaluation of Pro Football Focus information.

“It seems like college football is moving away from playing big and physical,” mentioned Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras. “It also has a personal aspect.”

The different six Big Ten West groups mixed have three fullbacks, though gamers who’re formally working backs or tight ends may additionally have fullback duties. Iowa has 5 fullbacks on its roster.

“That’s five people that you either have to recruit or take out of the linebacker room,” Petras mentioned. “Maybe some teams aren’t ready for that, but we certainly are.”

Iowa working backs coach Ladell Betts advised The Gazette’s Hawk Off the Press podcast in August that fullbacks are a “lost art.”

As excessive colleges transfer away from fullbacks, the Hawkeyes will typically convert gamers from different positions fairly than recruiting somebody to be a fullback.

“I don’t think it’s really a position that we’re necessarily recruiting and really looking for,” Betts mentioned. “It’s more of a body type that we might have in the building, or someone that we identified in a different location.”

In another conferences, using full-backs is even much less frequent. The solely workforce to area a fullback within the Big 12 is Kansas State, which has performed so for 53 video games.

The Pac-12 has two groups which have fielded a fullback in over 100 video games, however neither of them can match Pottebaum’s 185 snaps in Iowa this season.

“People who use it properly realize that it still works,” Pottebaum mentioned. “It also adds a little physical advantage to an attack and I’ve tried to bring that into attack for my career here.”

Petras mentioned Pottebaum has been a “very helpful” a part of the Hawkeyes’ offense, and it is not simply due to the full-back’s typical duties — “creating gaps in the running game and taking linebackers and hitting them hard.”

“A guy who you don’t mind holding the ball at full-back is really nice because he makes sure the defense stays honest,” mentioned Petras.

Iowa fullback Monte Pottebaum, 38, poses for a portrait at media day in Iowa City, Iowa on Friday, August 12, 2022. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

The Hawkeyes shall be up towards one of many few different groups that additionally has a distinguished full-back — Wisconsin.

Paul Chryst, the previous Wisconsin head coach who was fired earlier this season, mentioned on the Big Ten Media Days in July that this system was “lucky” to proceed having high quality fullbacks.

“You may want to go there, but if you don’t have one, it’s no use to you,” Chryst mentioned about two months earlier than his fall. “We had been fortunate. … Why it was us That we will proceed like it’s because we had good gamers.”

So far, whereas Chryst has left, the full-back custom has continued below interim coach Jim Leonhard. The Badgers have used full-backs on 164 snaps this season.

“It’s old-school football,” mentioned Pottebaum. “It’s pretty exciting for me as a full-back.”

Wisconsin fielded two completely different fullbacks in 2022.

Jackson Acker, formally listed as a working again, has performed nearly solely as a fullback this 12 months. The redshirt freshman from close by Verona, Wisconsin, was a working again as a recruit.

Riley Nowakowski, like Pottebaum, got here on campus as a linebacker earlier than finally shifting to full-back.

For the few remaining gamers within the Big Ten place, full-back group chats do not appear to exist but.

“It’s not like I have her number or anything,” Pottebaum mentioned.

Pottebaum has been paying consideration this 12 months to what his friends have been doing in Wisconsin.

“They played a lot of our similar opponents before us, so if I scouted there I could see a lot of Wisconsin offense,” Pottebaum mentioned. “I just like the way they play football.”

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