Kirk Ferentz skeptical of RB's return

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa is moving on without sophomore running back Brandon Wegher.

Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz told ESPN.com on Thursday that Wegher still isn't practicing with the team and has given no indication that he will return for the 2010 season. Wegher, who had 641 rushing yards and 967 all-purpose yards as a freshman last season, opened preseason camp with Iowa but left the team several days later for undisclosed personal reasons.

"He isn't here, and we have to operate as if he's not going to be here this year," Ferentz told ESPN.com. "He may return sometime during the year, he may not and he may never come back. Right now, we have to move forward, and I'm just hopeful that he'll immerse himself in his classes and keep moving forward academically.

"If he chooses to come back, that'd be wonderful, but we've had a lot of time elapse."

According to the Iowa registrar, Wegher remains enrolled in school. Classes began this week, and Ferentz thinks the running back is taking classes, although he couldn't confirm it.

Ferentz and his staff haven't communicated with Wegher for the last several days.

"It's an unusual situation, certainly, but I've got respect for his feelings right now," Ferentz said. "He's not feeling it, for lack of a better term. It's something I would imagine he may work through, but he may not, too. I hope he does. The most important thing is him getting his degree."

Iowa will enter the season with two proven backs in sophomores Jewel Hampton and Adam Robinson. Hampton set a freshman team record with seven rushing touchdowns in 2008 before missing last season with a knee injury. He's suspended for the season opener against Eastern Illinois following an alcohol-related arrest in June.

Robinson led Iowa with 834 rushing yards and five touchdowns last season.

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