Greene-to-NFL talk starting early

IOWA CITY — It was bound to happen sooner or later. We’re six games into the season, and Shonn Greene is on pace to rush for more than 1,600 yards. The question is starting to circulate among Iowa fans in Iowa City and beyond.

Will he? Or won’t he?

The answer is Greene, the Hawkeyes 235-pound, punishing running back, probably will enter the NFL Draft after this, his junior season. The real question is: Why wouldn’t he?

For starters, take a look at NFL rosters — 235-pounders who can move like Greene don’t grow on trees. He’s a junior, but he’s already 23 years old, which makes him older than most NFL rookies. Yet, at 23, he has logged limited mileage, having sat out last season because of academic struggles and playing a limited role in 2005 and 2006. Greene is a bruising runner. You’ve got to figure he’s got only so many carries in his tank before all of the vicious hits both he and defenders initiate start to take their toll.

On top of that, we know college hasn’t been easy for him, as evidenced by his academic struggles in the past. Why stay and have to go to class when, on the heels of such a strong season, he likely would be a first-day NFL Draft pick?

Why stay and risk injury when his draft stock probably won’t get much higher?

“I think (the NFL is) in his future, certainly,” coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. “We have a lot of water to cover before we get there. Right now, I’m focused on the six games he’s got scheduled left.

“The most impressive thing I think he’s done — it’s just consistent performance. He hasn’t had 200 yards in one game and 42 in another. … He’s playing well. He is really playing well.”

Greene has carried 129 times for 822 yards and five touchdowns. His 137-yards-a-game average ranks second in the Big Ten and sixth in the nation. His 6.4-yards-per-carry average is ridiculous when you consider his between-the-tackles running style.

He’s definitely on the radar of NFL scouts.

Ferentz was asked Tuesday if he thought Greene’s age would factor in a decision to turn pro.

“I’m not worried about that. He’s not on social security yet,” Ferentz cracked. “Right now, he just needs to worry about each game. That’s the best thing he can do, and we’ll cross that bridge whenever we get to it. We’ve been down that road before with a couple guys. I hope he plays well enough where he has a choice. That would be great.”

Dallas Clark is the only Iowa player to leave school early during Ferentz’s 10-year tenure. The tight end was taken by the Indianapolis Colts with the 24th overall pick in 2003.

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