For fans and members of the media, the easy thing right now is to pour salt on the many wounds affecting the Iowa football team.
The past two games against Northwestern and Penn State were disasters and Saturday’s game at Indiana now looks like a formidable challenge with the Hoosiers actually favored in a Big Ten game for the first time since 2007.
All is not lost, though, as Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz stressed at his weekly news conference Tuesday. He reminded reporters several times that his only focus is trying to defeat Indiana and trying to make the most out of this season.
When asked how important it would be to make a bowl game in order to have additional practice time, Ferentz stayed in the moment.
“Bowl games are important for a lot of reasons,” Ferentz said. “That’s one, but they’re important for a lot of reasons. It’s like everything right now. The best thing we can do to help that or any situation is take care of this week. That’s what we’re worried about. The rest of the stuff will fall into place or won’t fall into place depending on what we do this week.”
Some of you might be rolling your eyes right about now, but what else is Ferentz supposed to say under the circumstance? He’s been a live-in-the-moment coach during good times and bad times since he took over at Iowa shortly after the 1998 season.
His current team, which is 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten, leaves much to be desired, but there have some positive developments during the season, most notably the emergence of sophomore running backs Damon Bullock and Mark Weisman.
Both have shown the ability to carry the load with contrasting running styles. Now if they could just stay healthy at the same time. Weisman is doubtful for the Indiana game because of a leg injury and Bullock already has missed four games this season because of a concussion.
They’ll both get healthy sooner or later and then the focus will shift to how first-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis plans to use Bullock and Weisman in the same backfield. It would be unimaginative, lazy and unfair to Weisman to just put them back in the standard I-formation with Weisman at fullback and Bullock playing running back, which is how they started the season.
Imagine the play-calling possibilities with Bullock and Weisman lined up next to each other in the same backfield as opposed to being in the traditional I-formation.
Or imagine the one-two punch with Bullock and Weisman rotating at running back while running behind a healthy Brad Rogers at fullback and a healthy Brandon Scherff at left tackle.
Unfortunately, Scherff is lost until next season because of a leg injury, but he was showing flashes as a sophomore of being Iowa’s next stud left tackle before being injured against Penn State on Oct. 20 at Kinnick Stadium. The offensive line for the most part has held its own with regard to run blocking, the two exceptions being the losses to Iowa State and Penn State.
Losing senior center James Ferentz will undoubtedly leave a void, but the pieces should be in place for Iowa to be a threat on the ground next season. It’s too ambitious to say that Iowa could be a force on the ground next season, especially given the uncertainty at quarterback.
But if there is a positive on offense while looking ahead to next season, it’s the options at running back and the ability of the offensive line to run block. Weisman has surpassed 100 yards rushing in four games this season and Bullock has done it twice.
“There are some options, but the first trick is to get them on the field healthy together,” Ferentz said of Bullock and Weisman. “We’ll look forward to that day. And then we’ll think about it then.”
The day fans really look forward to is when all the Iowa running backs are healthy at the same time. Sophomore Jordan Canzeri has been medically cleared for over a month, but it makes no sense blowing his redshirt season two-thirds of the way in.
And let’s not forget about true freshman Greg Garmon, who was the most celebrated of all the Iowa running backs coming out of high school. He’s still adjusting to the physicality of the college game, but there is no question he can perform in space.
Bullock also has shown the ability to perform in space, as has Canzeri, albeit in small doses.
Assuming Iowa adds a running back to the 2013 recruiting class, and assuming everybody returns next season, there should be enough depth at running back to experiment, which is ironic considering the alleged running back curse. Perhaps Bullock or Garmon could be molded into more of a slot receiver in order to get one of them in space.
That’s how you start to develop playmakers. Shift some of them around if that’s what it takes to get your best playmakers on the field.
Ferentz needs to do whatever it takes.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football