Hawkeyes without Hampton for opener

Updated: August 28, 2009, 2:26 PM ET
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com

Injuries to Iowa's running backs could make life without Shonn Greene a little more difficult early in the 2009 season.

Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz told ESPN.com on Friday that sophomore Jewel Hampton likely will miss the Sept. 5 season opener against Northern Iowa because of right knee problems. Hampton originally injured the knee during summer workouts. He returned for the start of camp but had a setback about a week into practice.

The sophomore backed up Greene, who was drafted by the New York Jets, last fall and rushed for 463 yards and seven touchdowns on 91 carries.

"Based on the fact that he hasn't been out there in a while, it's unrealistic [he'll play] next week," Ferentz said. "But we'll shoot for the week after that. Maybe he can make it back [for the opener], but he's missed a lot of time right now, so I'd worry about his conditioning level."

Asked if Hampton's injury could be a season-long issue, Ferentz said, "Well, it could go either way. Right now, we're not sure and I wouldn't want to try and predict it."

Making matters worse, redshirt freshman running back Jeff Brinson missed "a significant amount" of camp with an ankle injury. Brinson is back on the practice field with the Hawkeyes but needs to catch up a lot to play in eight days.

Neither Hampton nor Brinson is listed on Iowa's Week 1 depth chart, released Friday. Former walk-on Paki O'Meara is listed as the starter, ahead of redshirt freshman Adam Robinson.

"Without a doubt, [O'Meara] is the guy that's going to start," Ferentz said. "If we were playing tomorrow, I'd say he and Robinson would be the two backs in there."

O'Meara performed well last spring and rushed for 62 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries last fall, but he slipped behind Hampton and Greene, the Doak Walker Award winner in 2008.

Both O'Meara and Robinson have impressed Ferentz in camp.

"Paki probably had his best outing last Friday night," Ferentz said. "We had a big scrimmage, and it was probably the best outing he's had since he's been here. Adam Robinson's surfaced also, and done a nice job the last week and a half.

"We have some guys stepping up, and that's what you hope."

Adam Rittenberg covers Big Ten football for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com.