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Harty: No offensive surprises just yet

[ 2 ] April 14, 2012 |

Much has been written and said this spring about how things are changing on the Iowa football team, especially on offense, that some fans probably expected Saturday’s Iowa Spring Practice to be an out-of-body experience.

The truth is it felt and looked like any other spring practice under coach Kirk Ferentz.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless you’re somebody who’s clamoring for wholesale changes on offense. Those people probably left Kinnick Stadium on Saturday wondering what has changed besides the guy running the show on offense and the area around the north end of the stadium, which is under construction.

The players Greg Davis inherited as Iowa’s new offensive coordinator are the same players that his predecessor Ken O’Keefe left behind when he resigned in early February to become the receivers coach for the Miami Dolphins.

The terminology has changed under Davis, along with some of the passing routes and other little nuances.

But the foundation still is pretty much the same. And why shouldn’t it be?

Iowa has hit a rut with 11 losses over the past two seasons, but the program is far from hitting rock bottom.

Perhaps what’s changed more than anything is the attitude within the program. It’s almost as if Ferentz has hit the reboot button with all the coaching changes.

The plays, on the other hand, don’t look much different based on what transpired Saturday.

Iowa ran the same stretch play in which quarterback James Vandenberg hands off to the running back that it ran countless times under O’Keefe.

That play probably symbolized the Iowa offense under O’Keefe more than any other play. It also helped set up play-action passes more than any other play under O’Keefe.

“We know at Iowa we want to be balanced,” Vandenberg said after Saturday’s practice. “So you’ll still see the stretch play, and you’ll still see the play action off the stretch play.”

You’ll also see a lot of 6-foot-7, 265-pound junior tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz next season.

He seems to have benefited from the changes on offense perhaps more than any other player. I didn’t count how many passes Fiedorowicz caught during Saturday’s practice, but it was a lot.

One thing that seems different under Davis is his willingness to get Fiedorowicz in space and in more mismatches in the passing game.

In fairness to O’Keefe, he helped Fiedorowicz get to this point, but it wasn’t easy, largely because of Fiedorowicz’s immaturity and questionable work ethic as a freshman and sophomore.

The light finally turned on for Fiedorowicz late last season as a sophomore and now Davis is ready to make it shine brighter.

Change always brings a sense of excitement, especially when you replace somebody that held the same job for 13 years, as was the case with O’Keefe.

But it’s not just because Davis is somebody different that has Fiedorowicz excited. It’s also because of who Davis is as a person.

“He’s a hilarious guy,” Fiedorowicz said of Davis, who served as the offensive coordinator at Texas from 1998-2010 before being let go. “He’s always making jokes in offensive meetings and everyone gets a kick out of it.

“That just gets everybody to pay attention when he makes jokes.”

Davis has a serious side, too. Reporters saw it last Wednesday when he said Iowa has to get faster at the receiver position.

But until that happens, it’s hard to see the Iowa offense looking much different under Davis because there is only so much he can do with the current personnel.

O’Keefe was criticized for being too predictable as a play caller, but any coach is at risk of that happening if they stay in one place long enough.

Why do you think Davis isn’t coaching at Texas anymore?

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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