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Vandenberg: ‘Everything is brand new’ in Hawkeye offense

[ 7 ] March 28, 2012 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg might look a little different when he runs onto Chicago’s Soldier Field for the Sept.1 opener against Northern Illinois.

For the first time in his life, the senior-to-be just might have to wear one of those play-calling reminder cards on his left wrist.

That’s how much things have changed around the Hawkeye football complex now that new offensive coordinator Greg Davis is on board.

“It might go all the way up to my shoulder—that’s the truth,” Vandenberg said Wednesday. “Everything is brand new.”

Davis not only brought a more varied offensive attack with him from Mack Brown’s Texas Longhorns staff, but he also brought new terminology.

That’s where the wrist card comes into play.

“Coach Davis’ system is a numbering system — it’s like everything has a number,” receiver Keenan Davis said. “Under coach (Ken) O’Keefe, it was always words.”

Look for Vandenberg to throw more to the running backs, whose combined 31 receptions accounted for about 13percent of last season’s catches.

Five receivers on a play?

“We have a new play-caller,” Vandenberg said of Davis. “He’s going to have a little different style, but we’re not going to be Texas Tech.”

That’s a reference to the pass-happy Big12 Conference team with the pass-first, run-second tradition.

“Coach Davis summed it up best,” Vandenberg said. “He said we’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re just doing it a little different.

“It’s nothing we haven’t seen, it’s just called something a little different.”

But the playbook is different “and a little thicker,” Vandenberg said.

“That’s why all the quarterbacks are spending as much time as they can in the film room.”

Vandenberg has become an expert on Texas football — especially the exploits of past Longhorns Colt McCoy, Vince Young and Major Applewhite.

“Coach Davis has had a lot of great quarterbacks,” Vandenberg said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to learn just by watching some of the best.”

Opportunity exists for whichever running back emerges as No.1. Currently, it’s Jordan Canzeri, whose 114 yards on 31 attempts last season included 22 rushes for 58 yards in the Insight Bowl loss against Oklahoma.

He inherits the top rung on the depth chart after pre-senior departures of Marcus Coker and Mika’il McCall.

“He’s not Shaun Greene or Coker,” Vandenberg said when comparing the 180-pound Canzeri to bigger backs. “You can tell that as soon as you shake his hand, but from Day One when he stepped in here, we realized he was one of those freshmen who could do everything.

“He didn’t mess up the drills, or get beat up by the older players.”

It’s just a matter of keeping the sophomore-to-be around. The last Hawkeye running back of note to play as a senior was Albert Young in 2007.

Injuries, leaving early for the NFL and off-the-field issues have turned the position into a here-today, gone-tomorrow challenge for running backs coach Lester Erb.

“I’m getting good practice at it,” Erb, who has coached that position the past four seasons, said Wednesday.

“The biggest thing is our players are eager to learn, and as a coach, you kind of start over every year, anyhow.”

Injuries are a fact of college football life. The other stuff?

“We’re dealing with 18- to 22-year-old guys,” Erb said. “As you know, 18- to 22-year-olds don’t always make the best decisions.

“As much as we can educate these guys — and Kirk (Ferentz) does a great job educating these guys with various speakers on the pitfalls of being a college student, especially a football player — what it really comes down to is decision-making, and as coaches, we cannot be with those guys 24 hours a day.”

Spring scrimmage: Iowa’s final spring scrimmage is open to the public on April14. It starts at noon at Kinnick Stadium.



Iowa football assistant coach Eric Johnson has moved from tight ends coach to assistant defensive line coach in a move coach Kirk Ferentz hopes shores up recruiting.

Johnson has been the Hawkeyes’ recruiting coordinator the past nine seasons.

“The No. 1 driving force there is just the way recruiting continues to change and evolve,” Ferentz said Wednesday. “The demands of that segment of our organization are so strong. My goal is to get Eric in a position where he can dedicate more time to that area.”

Ferentz said graduate assistant David Raih, a former Iowa quarterback, will concentrate on tight ends. Additionally, Chris Polizzi joined the staff as a graduate assistant, and will assist with the defense. He has been on the football staffs at Utah, UCLA and Central Methodist.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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