IOWA CITY, Ia. - Julian Vandervelde knew something was wrong. The Iowa guard immediately, and somewhat frantically, signaled to the sideline for help.
Ohio State DB Jermale Hines on Saturday delivered a vicious hit on Hawkeye running back Adam Robinson, who lie motionless on the field.
"It was very clear that something had gone wrong," Vandervelde said. "I saw that it was a helmet-to-helmet hit and that he wasn't moving. Anytime you get in that situation, your immediate reaction is "Oh my God, get the trainers out here."
Robinson suffered his second concussion in four weeks and will miss this weekend's regular-season finale at Minnesota. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said on Tuesday that he expected his sophomore to be cleared to play in the post-season game.
"I would assume (Robinson will be available for a bowl game)," Ferentz said "We have five, six weeks until then, so I would assume he'd be fine, but he's doing fine."
Some people who have seen the hit on Robinson felt Hines should have been penalize for either an illegal hit or pass interference.
"It is a good football play," Ferentz said. "The only thing in question was it pass interference or not? I've got an opinion on that. But it was a bang-bang play. You can look at it and make up your own mind on that.
"But as far as the legality of the hit, I don't think anybody in our camp has an issue. If we do, I haven't heard from anyone. But football is a tough, aggressive game. Those things are going to happen."
Studies on concussions have provided trainers and athletes with a lot more information than was available to them 20 years ago, when smelling salts often were the remedy. They also have resulted in more careers ending with the knowledge that there can be a cumulative effect from being concussed multiple times.
Ferentz said he and the physicians don't feel like Robinson's career is in jeopardy.
"I know they're talking about (concussions) now more than ever before, but I don't want to turn this into Days of Our Lives or General Hospital," Ferentz said. "I mean, football, you get knee injuries, you get concussions. It's just part of the game. Running backs get hit pretty hard. It's going to happen."
Ferentz said there haven't been any in-depth studies conducted to see how concussion have affected his program or if they're trending in any direction. He did research one aspect.
"I've gone back and reviewed some of the stuff," Ferentz said. "We've had pretty average numbers the last number of years. One thing is we've had more game time missed due to concussions, and the conditions around concussions have changed; how they're looked at, diagnosed and treated.
"So those are things that we'll look at in the off-season."
Iowa is proactive in trying to make the players aware of concussion symptoms in case one hits one of them or a teammate.
"We get a lot of presentations at the beginning of the year on concussions," Vandervelde said. "Guys are looking out for each other. If you see a guy take a shot, you watch him for a while. If you think he's acting a little funny, you might go and tell a trainer."
Former Hawkeye and Iowa City West High star Alex Kanellis' Iowa career ended due to concussions. His final moment with the team came in the weight room.
"He was easily the strongest guy I've ever seen come in (to the program)," said Vandervelde, who was in Kanellis' recruiting class and was in the weight room at the time. "To see him go down in the weight room doing what he loved to do the most, that was really hard."
Concussions stopped Jayme Murphy and Paki O'Meara from continuing at running back at Iowa in the last few years. The latter suffered two head injuries early this season.
"I don't think there is any alarm here," Ferentz said. "From what I've heard, there is no reason to be alarmed in Adam's case or anybody else that's had a concussion, outside of Paki's. Paki's was a different story. That was from special teams."
Robinson set a freshman mark at the school with 834 yards last season. He posted 941 this year before leaving against Ohio State.
One of Robinson's best assets has been his ability to hang onto the football. Before the hit against Michigan State that caused him to fumble, he carried 351 times without coughing it up. Since then, he's had three fumbles on 33 carries.
Ferentz was asked if that change was the result of good hits or Robinson not protecting the football. The coach seemed annoyed by the inquiry.
"Probably a combination of everything," he said. "That's part of the deal. I can see this is going to be the big story for the next six weeks.
"Hopefully he'll be healthy in the bowl, have a heck of a bowl game and we can all turn the page. But I don't know. That's smart. You guys might be on to something."
Robinson's injury opens up the door for Marcus Coker. The true freshman has started two of the last three games. He ran for 129 yards at Indiana and totaled 70 on nine carries against Ohio State, which included the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"He's just letting the game come to him," Iowa Quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. "He's doing a good job of learning the game each week and understanding the defenses a little bit better. Each week he's improved a lot and you can see it out on the field."
Part of Robinson's package as a running back is his ability to pick up blitzes and block for his quarterback. Stanzi feels comfortable with that aspect of Coker's game as well.
"He knows what he's doing," Stanzi said. "Coach (Lester) Erb does a good job of coaching those guys up. And the older guys in the room, especially Brett (Morse), help those younger guys see things a little bit clearer, picking up the blitzes and keeping us protected so we can make some of the throws."
Iowa appeared set at running back heading into '10 with Robinson, Jewell Hampton and Brandon Wegher. Hampton was lost to an ACL injury in Week 3 and Wegher hasn't played a down.
Ferentz was asked on Tuesday if the door was open for Wegher to return in '11. He sat out this season for personal reasons after setting a freshman touchdown record in his first season on campus in '09.
"That’s up to him," the coach said. "I've been trying to coach our team. I've been kind of busy the last however many weeks.
Ferentz said he has not spoken with Wegher since August.
"My thoughts have been on trying to coach the guys that are here working every day," he said. "Who joins our team in January, I don't know. But you've got to be academically eligible and all those things, so I'm really not thinking about that right now. I'm making sure Marcus is ready to go Saturday."
DeAndre Johnson saw a lot of action in preseason camp with Wegher and Coker (broken clavicle) missing time. The Miami native ended up redshirting but will throw his hat in the ring next fall.
"We spent so much time in the off-season worrying about how it was all going to shake out (in '10)," Ferentz said. "It's a lot of wasted talk. So I'm not too worried about it right now. We'll go into spring ball, let everybody compete and go from there.
"I think Adam's demonstrated he's a good player this year. I think Marcus is showing potential. I can just tell you Jewel's rehab is going very, very well.
"We'll see where everybody's at in the spring. Jewel will not be practicing in the spring, I know that. So we'll let Adam and Marcus get work and go from there."
Iowa has a verbal commitment from one running back in the 2011 Class, Melvin Gordon of Kenosha, Wisc. The Scout.com, three-star prospect is rated as the 39th best player at his position nationally. The Hawkeyes also are finalists for Edwardsville, Ill., four-star back, Rodney Coe, who officially visited Iowa City last weekend.