Iowa's Offense Changing Under Greg Davis

By Jay Beck

There’s little doubt there will be some big changes when Iowa’s offense takes the field this fall.  That fact is usually inevitable when a new offensive coordinator is on board.  Out is Ken O’Keefe who has been the Hawkeye’s offensive coordinator since 1999.  O’Keefe took a job in the NFL as Miami’s wide receiver coach following the 2011 season.  In is former Texas offensive coordinator, Greg Davis (insert Longhorn fan’s chuckling).

The hire was initially met with some skepticism, especially from those fans wearing burnt orange.  After all, Davis didn’t exactly go out on a high note following 13 seasons calling plays for Mack Brown.  Texas failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time in the Brown era in 2010 finishing at 5-7.  Davis took the brunt of the criticism after the Longhorn’s offense was largely anemic following the graduation of four-year starting quarterback, Colt McCoy.

It’s obvious, however, that Kirk Ferentz looked beyond the 2010 season and saw Davis’ body of work in its entirety.  There weren’t many Longhorn fans complaining while Texas reeled off a 101-16 record between 2001 and 2009 which included a national title in 2005 following a 13-0 season.  Of course, when Vince Young and Colt McCoy are quarterbacking your offense, they’ll usually make any offensive coordinator look pretty darn good.

Nothing against Iowa’s quarterback, James Vandenberg, who is solid in his own right, but it’s safe to say Young or  McCoy won’t be quarterbacking the Hawkeyes in 2012.  So can Davis translate much of the success he had at Texas to an Iowa team that figures to be a notch or two down the talent totem pole?

Ferentz talked about some of the offensive changes on Tuesday when he met the media as Iowa gets set to start spring practice.  “It’s given us a chance to examine everything we do,” Ferentz said. “With a new (offensive) coordinator, it gave us a chance to really kind of start from scratch.  Greg has demonstrated experience with a lot of different types of offenses,” Ferentz said. “Some people have a playbook, and they’re married to it. That’s great, but if your players don’t match that playbook, then that’s a bad thing.”

And that right there will be the key.  During the 2010 season when Texas struggled on offense, the Longhorns switched to a more pro-style attack while trying to feature a downhill running attack with Garrett Gilbert now under center.  The experiment didn’t go well for a variety of reasons, but a large part was due to the personnel not matching the system after switching from a spread offense with Young and McCoy at quarterback.

With Davis now calling the plays, it’ll be an all-important 15 practices this spring as he gets to know his personnel while trying to implement his system around the players currently on the roster.  ” At the end of the day, I don’t know how much different we’re going to look overall, but it’ll be different,” Ferentz said. “If you’re paying attention, I think things will be a little bit different.”

Outside of the 2008 season when Iowa averaged 30.3 points per game, second best in the Big Ten that season, Iowa’s offense has usually been in the middle to the bottom of the pack in the Big Ten during the second half of  Ferentz’s tenure in Iowa City.  It hasn’t necessarily been bad, but definitely not great, either, especially considering the Big Ten isn’t exactly a conference that has been known for its offensive prowess.

“There’s a lot of new nomenclature, terminology, and we’re all learning right now,” Ferentz said. “Even the old dogs are trying to learn some new tricks.  It’s invigorating for everybody. It’s not the same ol thing.”

That has to be good news for Iowa and its fans and maybe even better news for Texas’ faithful who have been enjoying the same kind of change under their new coordinator, Bryan Harsin.

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