One of the top players at his position in the 2007 NFL Draft, Auburn University running back Kenny Irons is sure to make an impact on his future team. The Georgia native was a PrepStar All-American in 2001 and was a Sporting News Top 25 prospect. He ran for 1,985 yards that season, a career high. His production led to a scholarship from the University of South Carolina.
In his first year as a Gamecock in 2002, Irons contributed immediately. He played in nine games that season, rushing for 201 yards, while racking up 63 yards and a touchdown through the air. The next season, however, he played in just five contests, rushing for a mere 51 yards on 19 carries. That lack of action led him to transfer to Auburn in January of 2004, and he sat out that fall due to NCAA transfer rules.
Irons really stepped up his game as a junior in 2005, his first year as a starter for the Tigers. That season, he ran for 1,293 yards and 13 touchdowns, which was good enough to make him a unanimous All-Conference selection.
As a senior, Irons saw a shortage in touches, which led to a shortage in production. On 198 carries (58 less than the previous season), he ran for 893 yards (4.5 yards per carry). He reached the end zone just four times in the campaign and was a non-factor in the passing game as well. Injuries were no help to his cause and have led to his stock dropping a bit heading into April's draft.
Even though he measures in at a shade under 5-foot-11, Irons plays like he is a much bigger back. He's a tough runner who always keeps his legs churning to gain that extra yard. He shows good vision and even better explosion once he finds the hole.
Very explosive as a runner, Irons' ability to find a cutback lane is remarkable at times. With outstanding balance and a shifty nature, arm tackles simply are not enough to take down his 203-pound frame.
Irons has deceptive speed, though he isn't a burner at 4.45, and great quickness. He has the versatility to be a shifty, cutback runner or a capable between-the-tackles rusher, which is tough to find. The fact that he only really played in two full seasons gives him fresher legs than most prospects.
Injuries are obviously a concern when you talk about Irons. His senior season was disappointing to some scouts after such a great 2005 campaign. Is he a one-year wonder? His size and lack of elite speed bring even more questions to the table.
Irons doesn't make much of an impact in the passing game as a receiver or as a blocker. Each facet could turn some teams off as well. Picking up a blitz is all about technique and not nearly as dictated by the size of the player as many would think, so Irons could improve upon this aspect of his game with a little coaching.
Despite running low, Irons needs to work on his ball security while running through traffic. NFL position coaches can help correct this, as evidenced by the masterful job the New York Giants' staff did with former running back Tiki Barber's fumbling woes.
It's a foregone conclusion that Irons will be a mid-round selection in the draft. The questions surrounding Louisville's Michael Bush (leg) have helped in his rise, along with Irons' 4.45 time in the 40-yard dash. Teams that have shown interest in him thus far include the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers, two teams that presumably will address the position earlier than where Irons will end up going.
More realistic possibilities include teams such as the Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles. Irons would benefit most from going to one of these teams or any team that uses a rotation in the backfield.
About Francis Duffy
"Fran Duffy has been involved in sports since he was a child. A Philadelphia native, Fran is obviously a die-hard fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers. Fran is desperately waiting to see his first major championship from one of his hometown teams. He is a Broadcasting major at Temple University and has experience on the radio as well as in television production. Fran also currently works with Temple football's video-operation's team and is an avid fantasy sports player. Looking for more experience in writing, Fran joined KFFL in the spring of 2005."
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