Some of Iowa's early departures this offseason were expected, like A.J. Epenesa and Tristan Wirfs. Even Geno Stone's decision to test the NFL waters was not too surprising. But this early exit caught us off guard: junior running back Toren Young is leaving the Iowa program.
Young leaves Iowa with one year of eligibility remaining. While Epenesa and Wirfs had considerable NFL Draft buzz and Stone has generated lesser hype, Young hasn't seemed to be on the NFL Draft radar. Young's best case scenario for the NFL is to earn a camp invite of some sort of and impress a team that way. That said, we certainly don't begrudge him taking an opportunity to try and crack the professional ranks; football careers are short on average and they're shorter still for running backs.
Young ends his Iowa career with 1262 yards rushing on 262 carries (a 4.8 ypc average) and 8 touchdowns. He debuted as a redshirt freshman in 2017 as one of the backups for senior Akrum Wadley. His first action came against North Texas, where he ran for 78 yards on 19 carries in an Iowa win. His first touchdown came in Iowa's historic 55-24 bludgeoning of Ohio State that season; he scored Iowa's final touchdown of the game.
Young's most productive year came in 2018, as a redshirt sophomore. He was part of a three-headed rushing attack with Mekhi Sargent and Ivory Kelly-Martin and finished with 637 yards and five touchdowns on 136 carries (ranking second on the team in all of those categories behind Sargent). He played well at the end of the regular season, notching 67 yards and two touchdowns in Iowa's 63-0 win over Illinois and picking up 83 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries against Nebraska.
In 2019, though, Young found himself sliding down the depth chart a bit. Sargent entered the regular season as Iowa's top back and the emergence of Tyler Goodson in the second half of the season pushed Young even further into the background at the running back position. He only had more than 10 carries in a game once -- 11 against Middle Tennessee State, when he also posted a career-high 131 yards. Young ended the season with 432 yards and a touchdown on 81 carries.
The emergence of Goodson and the crowded state of Iowa's backfield heading into 2020 does help us better understand Young's decision. Iowa's top three rushers from 2019 (Goodson, Sargent, and Young) were all slated to return in 2020, as well as Ivory Kelly-Martin (who used a redshirt in 2019). Iowa will also be adding Shadrick Byrd to the mix off a redshirt year in 2019, as well as true freshmen Gavin Williams and LeShon Williams. Some attrition at running back was to be expected.
While Young was never "the man" at Iowa, he was often effective when called upon and at 5'11", 223 lbs, he provided a physicality that Iowa's other main running backs don't possess. Best of luck in wherever your path takes you next, Toren.