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Pat Harty: Let the change begin

[ 7 ] March 5, 2012 |

Change is what some Iowa football fans begged for, and change is now here.

Part of that change was on display Monday when new Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis held an introductory press conference at the Iowa Football Complex.

Actually, Davis is the new interim offensive coordinator and will coach under that title throughout the 2012 season because his hiring failed to comply with equal employment hiring standards set by the university.

The 60-year-old Davis will be required to go through the interview process all over again, but it should just be a formality unless Iowa falls apart on offense next season or Davis doesn’t enjoy his new job in the Midwest.

The chance for a quick divorce seems slim, though, because Davis needed a job, and you could do a lot worse than being the Iowa offensive coordinator under coach Kirk Ferentz.

Iowa isn’t Texas, where Davis ran the offense from 1998-2010, but a lot of BCS schools aren’t Iowa, either, when it comes to football.

Davis talked Monday about his history of adapting to his personnel and wanting to blend the philosophies he used at Texas with the approach already in place at Iowa.

Davis also warned fans not to expect Iowa to come out slinging the ball in some new spread formation.

“Based on where we’re going with the playbook, there will be a lot of change,” Davis said. “There will be a lot of different things that you will see.

“At the same time, I don’t want to imply, I don’t want the fans to come out and think that we’re going to be four and five wides (receivers). That’s not going to happen. So we are just trying to take the best of both worlds, blend it together and come up with something that is ours.”

Ferentz is hardly a dictator, but he expects the game to be played a certain way on offense, and he expects his offensive coordinator to stay within a certain framework.

Davis will call the plays just like his predecessor Ken O’Keefe did for the past 13 seasons at Iowa. But Ferentz ultimately will call the shots.

One thing that stood out Monday about Davis is his thick Texas accent. That’s a big change from O’Keefe, whose East Coast roots were obvious every time he spoke.

Davis was born and raised in the Lone Star State, and hearing him speak brought back memories of another Texas native, Hayden Fry.

Davis apparently knows his limitations because when told that Fry was quite the storyteller during his 20 seasons at Iowa, Davis seemed to already know that about Fry and where he stood against Iowa’s all-time winningest football coach.

Davis has been coaching for almost 40 years, and you hear things along the way and you learn about iconic figures, which Fry became at Iowa.

“I will have a story or two that we’ll hit as we have more press conferences, I’m sure,” Davis said. “Not as many in any way, coach Fry stands alone. He stands alone by himself. Do not think in any way that I will go out and barnstorm like he did.”

The good thing for Davis is that he doesn’t have to barnstorm.

Fry was trying to build expectations and morale when he took over an Iowa program in 1979 that had suffered through 17 consecutive non-winning seasons.

Davis, on the other hand, comes at a time when finishing 7-6, which Iowa did this past season, isn’t good enough for some fans and when Kinnick Stadium is full on most Saturdays in the fall.

It may not be like the pressure cooker and the expectations that Davis faced at Texas, which he tried to explain by telling a funny story about Texas governor Rick Perry.

But the black-and-gold fishbowl, and the critics who come with it, also can wear on a coach.

All Davis has to do is help Iowa win at least three-fourths of its games next season and it won’t matter what kind of offense he runs.

Only during tough times was O’Keefe criticized for being boring and predictable.

Recruiting won’t be at the top of Davis’ to-do list, but he sounds ready to embrace the challenge, even if his new boss doesn’t expect him to.

Davis told reporters Monday that he already has heard from about 20 high school coaches in Texas, which sounds like a good start.

“Recruiting is a lot about building relationships, so that won’t change,” Davis said.

It’ll be interesting to see if the style of the Iowa quarterback changes under Davis’ watch. It won’t change next season with starter James Vandenberg returning for his senior season and based on the other pro-style quarterbacks on the roster.

But Davis mentioned more than once Monday the importance of having a quarterback who can improvise when the play breaks down.

He only had one dual-threat quarterback at Texas in Vince Young, but together they won a national title in 2005.

Ferentz has only had one dual-threat quarterback at Iowa in Brad Banks, and they won 11 games in 2002 and finished undefeated in the Big Ten.

“What you would like out of that position is that he can do some things off-schedule,” Davis said. “I mean, if he is not going to move at all, he needs to be really special in the pocket, I mean really special, because it’s hard to block them all every time. It’s just hard if that guy can’t move some.”

Hearing Davis say that makes you wonder if landing a dual-threat quarterback, perhaps one from Texas, will be the next sign of change at Iowa.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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