Greene has detractors, but he’s confident

April 23, 2009
Iowa's Shonn Greene flips into the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 1, 2009.   (Jonathan D. Woods/The Gazette)

Iowa's Shonn Greene flips into the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 1, 2009. (Jonathan D. Woods/ The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Shonn Greene unanimously was declared the nation’s best running back last fall.

He won the Doak Walker Award, which annually is given to college football’s best running back. He was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He was a consensus All-American.

Greene, 23, finished with 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns, both school records at Iowa. He ran for at least 100 yards in all 13 Iowa games last season and combined both speed and power rarely found in collegiate running backs.

“He’s fast, and he’s big, and he’s a pro,” said former Purdue defensive coordinator Brock Spack, who now is the head coach at Illinois State. “He’s the best back in this conference — bar none. There’s no contest.”

Greene’s college accolades have failed to vault him into the NFL first-round draft discussion. Whether it’s his size (5 feet, 9 inches, 227 pounds), a year of academic ineligibility, only one proven collegiate season or difficulty catching the ball out of the backfield, someone always has something negative to say about Greene.

“I like his running skills. I wish he were a better receiver,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “Catching the football out of the backfield is something he needs to work. If he was a little more complete, he’d be guaranteed a second-round pick.”

Kiper lists Greene anywhere from the NFL draft’s second through fourth rounds. Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Service, LLC., lists Greene as the fourth-best running back entering the draft.

Like Kiper, Shonka is concerned about Greene’s pass-catching skills. But Greene’s downhill running style and experience of running the ball in a zone-blocking scheme could elevate him into the second round.

“A lot of teams run a zone-blocking scheme, and Shonn is perfect because that’s what they teach at Iowa,” Shonka said. “The offensive line is taught pro techniques at Iowa. Shonn is a downhill one-cut runner, so he’s going to fit in a lot of different schemes.

“Obviously, I think the thing that concerns people about Shonn is his ability to block and to catch ball out of the backfield. But they just didn’t throw it to him a lot. And when they did, he kind of fumbled it or double caught it, or he wasn’t smooth catching the ball.”

Greene caught eight passes for 49 yards last season.

In February, Greene struggled in measurable categories at the NFL Combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds, but then cut that time to anywhere from 4.59 to 4.50 seconds at Iowa’s pro day, depending on the stopwatches. He also increased his 225-pound bench press repetitions from 19 at the NFL Combine to 23 at Iowa’s pro day.

“I feel like I had a very good day,” Greene said after his pro day workout. “I did everything better than I did at the combine. I ran faster, lifted more reps with the bench, did pro agility faster. I think I did pretty good, caught the ball well.”

Iowa running back Shonn Greene removes athletic wrap from his feet after practice at the University of Tampa on Dec. 26, 2008, in Tampa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa running back Shonn Greene removes athletic wrap from his feet after practice at the University of Tampa on Dec. 26, 2008, in Tampa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Shonka slotted Greene as a second-round pick to Houston and provide a 1-2 punch with second-year running back Steve Slaton. Kiper raved about Greene’s intangibles when running the football.

“Greene, I think, is a running back,” Kiper said. “You like his determination. I like the low center of gravity, the way he ran with power between the tackles, good balance as well. I like his running skills; I wish he were a better receiver.”

Greene, a junior last season, was ruled academically ineligible for the 2007 season and went to Kirkwood Community College to regain his eligibility. He was on pace to graduate before he declared to enter the NFL draft.

Greene shrugs off the experts’ criticism and instead points to his production last year.

“If you look at the stats and all that, it will tell you that I’m the top back,” Greene said. “You look at some of those guys that I went head-to-head with and some of them I faced the same defense, and I did much better. I’m not worried about that. Whoever takes me is going to get a good running back.”


King’s relentless personality will make an NFL team very happy

April 23, 2009

All right, I’m going to step out of my journalism shell for a second. I’ve caught some junk from friends of mine from my hometown of Burlington about not mentioning Mitch King’s hometown, which happens to be … Burlington.

OK, here it goes for just a paragraph. I played for Burlington’s only team to win a playoff game back in the early 1990s (Oct. 29, 1991). I coached there for a season. Burlington is as much a part of me as my family and the state of Iowa. I’m happy that a former Grayhound like Mitch King is going to the NFL. Anyone who shed his blood at Bracewell Stadium for the purple and gray can feel proud this weekend for King. That includes myself.

Now, back to journalism and a story on King that will appear in Saturday’s Gazette.

Purdue quarterback Justin Siller (5) looks to throw a pass as he is pressured by Iowa's Mitch King, right, during the first half Nov. 15, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Purdue quarterback Justin Siller (5) looks to throw a pass as he is pressured by Iowa's Mitch King, right, during the first half Nov. 15, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

IOWA CITY — Some consider Mitch King too small for defensive tackle, too short for defensive end and too big for linebacker. But he seems just right for the NFL.

King, a former Iowa defensive tackle from Burlington, has the drive and tenacity that draft analysts love. He’s a vocal leader in the huddle and his passion for football shows up on every down.

“He’s loved by every defensive line coach out there because of his relentless play,” said Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services LLC. “(King is) a high-motor, great-effort guy that had good Senior Bowl week. He’s very physical when he hits people. I think there’s a section in the Senior Bowl game where he made three or four tackles in a row, where he just dominated in there.”

King, 22, didn’t start in the Senior Bowl, but he registered four tackles, including three tackles in a four-play series. He also recorded a quarterback hurry.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. calls King “a hustler.”

“Every team is not going to look at Mitch King and say he’s going to be way up there,” Kiper said. “But he’s a guy who’s very, very productive, good technique, never quits on a play. (King is) a rotation guy and as a guy who can give you some versatility inside and a kid who spills his guts every play.”

King earned the Big Ten’s defensive lineman of the year award from league coaches. He had 15.5 tackles for loss last year, including four sacks. He had 54 tackles, six quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. He was named a second-team All-American by the Associated Press and first-team All-American by ESPN. He also was Iowa’s co-MVP and named a permanent team captain.

King’s tweener size seems to stump his high-round potential. He stands 6 feet, 1 and weighs 280 pounds. Most teams prefer defensive tackles in the 300-pound range and slightly taller. King’s frame also keeps him from shifting fully to defensive end, where the preference is a little leaner and a little taller.

Iowa's Mitch King puts his helmet on before playing Penn State, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa's Mitch King puts his helmet on before playing Penn State, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“He’s going to have to go in the right scheme,” Shonka said. “I think he’s going to probably be used as an undertackle in a four-man line. He’s going to be a one-gap penetrator where he can shoot up the field and only worry about one gap. He obviously won’t be a two-gap guy because he’s not big enough, but he’s got the explosive first-step quickness.”

Shonka said King reminds him of St. Louis Rams defensive tackle La’Roi Glover, who has earned six Pro Bowl bids. King and Glover are comparable in size.

“He might not be quite as fluid as La’Roi, but his relentless is very similar,” Shonka said.

King’s ability have others considering him for different positions. He came to Iowa as an all-state linebacker and played running back at Burlington. Shonka said King could move to linebacker or fullback as well.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if some ballclub tried to make a linebacker out of him, either inside or outside,” Shonka said. “We just kind of see him as that undertackle right now. He’ll play special teams. He can run well enough when he can go down and cover kicks.

“I wouldn’t worry about being 280 pounds and playing fullback, because there’s lots of teams sticking guys there as a lead blocker on the goal line, and he could do that, too. I’m sure with his explosiveness, his savvy for contact, he’d fit right in.”

King caught some passes during Iowa’s pro day in March, which induced a chuckle from Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz. Ferentz said King compares to former Hawkeye Jonathan Babineaux, who weighs 284 pounds but started all 16 games last year for the Atlanta Falcons.

“I think Mitch is a similar-type player,” Ferentz said. “He’s never going to be a 320-pound guy, but he’s an awfully good football player. People have acknowledged that, and for certain teams, that’s going to be really attractive. It’s just a matter of him finding the right niche.”


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