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Harty: For Iowa offense, seeing is believing

[ 0 ] April 24, 2013 |

Nothing Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis could’ve said Wednesday would’ve made me believe that last season’s startling collapse of the passing attack was an aberration.

Words can’t make up for what happened last season when the Iowa passing attack sunk to a level of futility that nobody expected in Davis’ first season on the staff.

“It wasn’t a lot of fun,” Davis said.

Words can’t explain without throwing somebody under the bus why senior quarterback James Vandenberg threw only seven touchdown passes last season after throwing 25 the previous season.

Words can’t explain without throwing more than one person under the bus why the Iowa receivers struggled to get separation or why they struggled to gain yards after the catch.

No matter what happens in Saturday’s scrimmage to close spring practice, my opinion of the Iowa offense won’t change.

I need to see it get better this fall before I’ll believe it. I need to see that it won’t be another maddening case of trying to fit square pegs in round holes before I’ll believe it. I need to see more passes being thrown downfield instead of toward the sideline. And I need to see the Iowa receivers make catches on a more consistent basis while also making defenders miss tackles on a more consistent basis.

Davis chose his words carefully throughout Wednesday’s news gathering. He made sure that he was the only person he threw under the bus, which is a step in the right direction.

“I’m sure I could have done a better job,” Davis said. “I’m sure I could have done a better job with James. He is a better player than he played last year.”

Davis also is a better offensive coordinator than he showed last season. He has to be or he wouldn’t have lasted in the game for almost four decades.

Davis was optimistic Wednesday, saying things are further along than they were last spring when he was installing his offense.

He doesn’t seem close to picking a starting quarterback yet. But whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen.

Spring practice is a time to improve and to gain confidence, but it’s not a time to assume anything about the upcoming season, including the worst.

It’s hard to picture the Iowa passing attack being any worse than it was last season. But it’s not hard to picture it struggling again this fall, considering the starting quarterback will have no game experience and little mobility, considering the situation at receiver and considering the strength of Iowa’s 2013 schedule.

“We want guys who can make plays off schedule when things break down,” Davis said of the quarterback position. “Who can make a play that’s not exactly the way you draw it up.”

Davis wanted the same thing last season, but Vandenberg’s lack of mobility made it hard for plays to be extended. The returning quarterbacks also seem more comfortable in the pocket, so it’s reasonable to think that extending plays will be a problem again this season.

Iowa has five receivers in its incoming recruiting class, but four will be barely three months out of high school when the 2013 season starts.

“We’ve told the freshmen receivers that some of them will get a chance to come in and show what they can do,” Davis said. “At the same time, I would caution that they’re freshmen.”

Davis said he still is committed to running the football, and he should be because the pieces are in place for Iowa to excel in that area. The problem is that opposing defenses are well aware of that and will stack the box next season until Iowa proves it can move the ball consistently through the air. That never happened last season and the end result was a 4-8 record and a six-game losing streak to close the season.

What happened to the Iowa offense last season was a group effort. From Davis’ play calling to Vandenberg’s inaccuracy to the receivers failing to make plays, it was a recipe for disaster.

Injuries to key players on offense certainly didn’t help, either.

Davis spent much of his time Wednesday shouldering the blame for last season. He joked about getting some less-than-flattering letters from disgruntled fans, including from his own parents. And he said it wasn’t his decision when asked if there was any chance he wouldn’t return next season.

“You’re asking the wrong guy that,” Davis said.

The guy to ask is Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. He wasn’t available for comment Wednesday, but his support for Davis has been strong and consistent. Ferentz is convinced that Davis is the right man to lead his offense or he wouldn’t have hired him.

My response to that is not to disagree, but rather I’ll believe it when I see it.

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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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