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Harty blog: It’s time for Kirk Ferentz and Greg Davis to create a wingback position

[ 0 ] November 29, 2012 |

This was written with the huge assumption that the Iowa running backs can stay healthy, can stay out of trouble and want to stay here.

It’s time for Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz to start thinking out of the pro-style box with regard to his running backs, which under Ferentz is another word for tailback. It’s time for a new wingback position to be created at Iowa, sort of blend between a running back and a receiver.

You’re either one or the other playing in Ferentz’s pro-style attack.

It was the same way for the most part with former Iowa coach Hayden Fry, although, he used Tim Dwight, Ronnie Harmon and Mike Saunders at both positions. Dwight also ran reverses and returned punts. But he still mostly lined up at receiver, which at times, seemed like a waste.

Ferentz needs to allow Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis to create a wingback position that would be a threat to run or catch on any given play. Junior-to-be Kevonte Martin-Manley is the closest Iowa has to that, but he’s still just a slot receiver.

It’ll make no sense having Damon Bullock, Greg Garmon, Jordan Canzeri, Michael Malloy and Barkley Hill all standing on the sideline watching Mark Weisman carry 25 to 30 times per game next season.

“Anytime you have guys that are capable of helping the football team, you’ve got to find a way to get them on the field,” Ferentz said Wednesday.

 Well, coach, here’s a way: create a wingback position.  

 Bullock and Garmon would seem to be the best candidates for this new position because of their size and because their skill sets. Senior-to-be receiver Jordan Cotton also would be a good candidate to play wingback because of his size, his speed and because he also rushed for over 3,000 yards in high school.

 All three are at least 6-feet tall and weigh between 185 and 200 pounds.

 Bullock came to Iowa as a running back, but switched to receiver early on as a freshman last season before switching back to running back.

 The coaches wouldn’t have moved Bullock to receiver if he couldn’t catch. He also rushed for 513 yards this season, proving he can run.

 So why not combine the two and figure out ways to get Bullock the football in space?

If we learned anything about Davis’ offensive system, it’s that he seems to thrive on having his quarterback throw short, horizontal passes.

That puts pressure on the receivers to gain yards after making a catch. You’d think that a converted running back would be more effective at doing that than a receiver.

 Garmon played sparingly as a true freshman this season, but he still flashed as a runner and as a receiver. What Garmon lacked more than anything besides experience was the physicality needed to run between the tackles at the Big Ten level.

 He looks more comfortable playing in space, so put him there as a wingback.

 That would still leave Weisman, Canzeri, Malloy and Hill to handle the running back position.

 It would’ve been nearly impossible for this experiment to have worked this season because nobody stayed healthy long enough to do it and because Canzeri, Malloy and Hill were being redshirted.

 But if Iowa finishing 4-8 this season proved anything, it’s that playmakers are desperately needed on offense.

 There are some playmakers on Iowa’s current roster, but too many of them play the same position. It’s time for Ferentz and Davis to get creative and think of ways to get the best playmakers on the field at the same time.

 The problem when Iowa lines up in its traditional I-formation with a blocking fullback and with an immobile quarterback is that the defense doesn’t have to account for seven players on most running plays.

This isn’t to say that Iowa has to scrap the ground-and-pound approach that’s been effective under Ferentz because Weisman at 235 pounds fits perfectly in that system.

It’s just time to add some new wrinkles beginning with a wingback position.





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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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