IOWA CITY, Iowa — Akrum Wadley can put on a show. Wisconsin’s Jack Cichy never gets to see it.
While those in the stands and those watching on TV see the juke, spin move or cut that are the trademarks of the Iowa running back, Cichy never moves his eyes from Wadley’s belt.
It’s his only defense to ensure he isn’t a part of Wadley’s next run worthy of the nightly highlight reel.
“That is kind of the old basketball defense,” said Cichy, who is out for the season with a torn right ACL and won’t have another chance to meet Wadley in college. “You got to look at his hips. You can’t look at the shaking up top or the shoulders.”
Trying to tackle Wadley is one of the tougher tasks a Big Ten defender faces. Wadley, the All-Big Ten third-team back, is shifty and doesn’t need much help to create a crease and to run for a big play.
What makes it so hard to bring him down? Land of 10 asked Big Ten foes to explain.
“He’s a patient runner,” Penn State linebacker Jason Cabinda said. “He is fast. I mean he is a slice-and-dice kind of guy. He can take it the distance, has that kind of speed.”
Wadley brings the kind of skill set a defender doesn’t enjoy facing. Fast and elusive are the first two traits a handful of Big Ten defenders used to describe Wadley.
Wadley is only 5-foot-11, 195-pounds, but he comes across quickly laterally as he runs. His vision stands out to opponents, and he reaches top speed within a step or two of coming out of a cut.
His unique athleticism is part of the reason he rushed for 1,081 yards last season and averaged at least 6.0 yards per carry the last two seasons.
It’s a tough combination for a defender to deal with. Even when standing a few steps away, Wadley might not end up running into the spot that Penn State safety Marcus Allen expects him to head.
“You got to be on your toes,” Allen said. “You have to be able to move with him, and that is the hardest thing about it: open-field tackle.”
Wadley is his best in space, where his various jump cuts and spins are their most effective.
“His spin move got me a couple of times,” Cichy said. “I thought I had him, and he spun right out of it.”
Cichy said he is impressed by Wadley’s vision and instincts. He’s not sure if Wadley makes the same juke twice in the same situation.
“He does a great job with timing and using his moves at the right times, and that is something I think he is savvy about,” Cichy said. “As far as that goes, he can kind of pick and choose when he does that.”
Sometimes speed is all he needs. He ran past the Minnesota linebackers on his 54-yard game-winning touchdown run last season, and no one else was in position to stop him.
When reminded of Wadley’s touchdown, Minnesota defensive tackle Steven Richardson shook his head.
“He can definitely play,” Richardson said.
It’s something the Iowa defense agrees with. The rest of the Big Ten only sees him once a year. The Hawkeyes must try to wrap him up multiple times during the week. It doesn’t get easier the more often you face him.
“He is obviously a very good player and he has tremendous change of direction, speed and all that stuff — and elusiveness in general,” Iowa defensive end Anthony Nelson said. “It’s a challenge to try to bottle him up in practice.”
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