IOWA CITY, Ia. — Greg Davis walked to the podium at Elmwood Country Club in Marshalltown this spring and told the Marshall County I-Club it was nice to be in their presence.
“After 4-8, it’s a pleasure to be anywhere,” said Davis, who has just completed his first season as Iowa’s offensive coordinator.
The 2012 Hawkeye football season was an offensive disaster. And Davis was in the bull’s-eye of the second-guessing target.
“I hadn’t heard about that criticism,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday, tongue planted firmly in cheek. “Imagine that. That’s just the nature of being a coordinator.”
Davis is still at Iowa, and the hot seat has cooled considerably. With resilient and cerebral Jake Rudock at quarterback and the players another year older and wiser in the ways of Davis, the Hawkeye offense has been significantly better through the first seven games of 2013.
“We’re hardly out of the woods yet,” Ferentz said. “But we’re a little more experienced, a little more balanced.”
Iowa’s 19.3 points a game last season was the lowest output since 2007. The 310.4 yards a game were the fewest since 2000. This year’s team is averaging 28.9 points, and 410.9 yards.
If you ripped Davis last season, you need to pat him on the back for the progress shown so far.
The Davis offense is a work in progress, but the start of the Ohio State game was a testimony to his approach, his ability to gameplan and his faith in Rudock to make the proper adjustments at the line of scrimmage: a 12-play touchdown drive on the first possession, 10-play drive resulting in a field goal on the second possession, and a 15-play touchdown drive on the third possession.
“The staff had a good plan,” Ferentz said. “Most importantly, the players executed it.”
That starts with Rudock, who said his bond with Davis has strengthened with each game.
“Just understanding why the play is coming in, and what he’s thinking when he says, ‘Let’s run this play,’” Rudock said. “And it just helps to understand that, ‘Hey, we’re going to try this. And if they don’t give it to us, then you know where to go with the ball.’”
Rudock has the freedom to change the play at the line of scrimmage. Ferentz said that Rudock’s penchant for getting out of a bad play and into a good one at the line of scrimmage is the brightest part of the sophomore’s development through seven games.
That spring night in Marshalltown, I talked to Davis about his offense and the freedom he gives his players to make changes on the fly.
One thing he said stuck with me.
“Somebody asked me, ‘It didn’t look like you were always on the same page (in 2012),’” Davis said. “We weren’t always on the same page. There’s always going to be some of that if you give them options post-snap. But we had too much of that last year.”
Another season of experience in the system has been invaluable to the players. So has the addition of receivers coach Bobby Kennedy, who worked with Davis for seven seasons at Texas.
Each Tuesday, Davis unfurls the offensive game plan for that week’s game. Rudock usually knows what’s coming, thanks to his conversations with Davis. Last week, a three-tight-end look caught Ohio State by surprise.
Each week, Davis gives the offense a set of checks to go to if the called play looks destined for failure. That’s why you’ll see Rudock barking audibles as the play clock shrinks.
Davis has full faith in Rudock to make the right move.
“There’s more of a comfort level, an understanding that he has no problem with me coming to the line, seeing something different and saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got to change it,’” Rudock said.
And so far this season, change has been good.
Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year and covers Hawkeye football and basketball for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football