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Harty: Is Davis ready for change in talent?

[ 10 ] February 28, 2012 |

If Greg Davis was still the offensive coordinator at Texas, he’d be preparing to welcome next fall what Scout.com feels is the nation’s top incoming recruiting class.

It’s no secret that his new job as the Iowa offensive coordinator won’t afford him that luxury.

It won’t be a situation where Davis can count on the state in which he now works to supply enough players to form elite recruiting classes on a regular basis.

That’s what so incredible about Texas’ recruiting classes in that almost all the players come from Texas and the classes almost always are ranked among the nation’s elite.

All but four of the 28 players that signed with Texas this year are high school seniors from Texas. And of those 24 high school seniors from Texas, five of are ranked as five-star recruits by Scout.com, which is the highest ranking.

Iowa’s 2012 recruiting class, on the other hand, was ranked 45th by Scout.com, only has three players from instate and nobody with a five-star rating.

It’s a different world to which Davis is about to enter as Kirk Ferentz’s new leader and presumed play caller on offense.

Davis, 60, enters a select group when you consider that he is just the fifth different offensive coordinator at Iowa since Hayden Fry took over as head coach in 1979 and the second to work under Ferentz, who is entering his 14th season.

Davis replaces Ken O’Keefe, who often was singled out for blame when the offense fizzled, much of it unwarranted.

You can argue that clock management has been an issue for the Iowa coaches on offense, but to blame O’Keefe for being too conservative and too predictable and too vanilla is not only unfair, it’s wrong.

O’Keefe ran the kind of offense that his boss and long-time friend wanted him to run at Iowa. That’s not to say that O’Keefe didn’t add his own wrinkles, but the style and the philosophy was mostly influenced by Ferentz.

That won’t change under Davis.

Zone blocking, grinding between the tackles and not taking risks always has been and always will be synonymous with Ferentz.

Davis will add his own wrinkles, but you’re naïve to think that he’ll get his new boss go for it on fourth down from midfield with the clock ticking down if Ferentz doesn’t want to.

Ferentz believes strongly in how the game should be played and even though Iowa has struggled recently, his low-risk approach has been successful.

Contrary to what his critics thought, O’Keefe ran an offense that worked at Iowa with the right players. Nobody accused the 2002 team, which finished 11-2 overall and 8-0 in the Big Ten, of being boring or predictable because more times than not the players out-performed their opponent.

It was the same with Davis at Texas, where he coached under Mack Brown from 1998-2010 before being let going when Brown purged his staff after Texas finished 5-7 in 2010.

Davis looked like a genius when he had Vince Young and Colt McCoy running his offense at Texas.

Young led Texas to a victory over Southern California in the 2005 national title game and did so in spectacular fashion by passing and rushing for 267 and 200 yards, respectively. It’s considered one of the greatest single-game performances in the history of college football and Davis was the mastermind behind it, although, it helped having a freak lined up behind center, just like it helped O’Keefe having Brad Banks playing quarterback in 2002.

But when Davis didn’t have a star running his offense, Texas struggled and that caused some fans to accuse his playing calling of being too predictable.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it because the same thing happened to O’Keefe at Iowa.

You might see Iowa use more spread formations under Davis, but O’Keefe also wasn’t against using a one running back set with multiple receivers.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Davis is his roots in Texas, where he was born and raised. He also coached the quarterbacks at Texas A&M from 1978-84. So it’s reasonable to assume Davis has connections to the Lone Star state, which could pay dividends in recruiting.

That brings us back to where we started.

Iowa has had some success recruiting in Texas under Ferentz, but nothing like the pipeline that Fry established with his home state.

So perhaps Davis will take advantage of his Texas background and re-established that recruiting pipeline.

We live in age when it’s easy to second-guess coaches. From message board know-it-alls that hide behind screen names to radio call-in shows to newspaper columnists, everybody has an opinion.

But the truth is; O’Keefe has forgotten more about football than most of us will ever know. The same goes for Davis and every other offensive coordinator in college football.

But even the best coaches need talented players to help showcase their wisdom.

Davis will have them at Iowa. It just won’t be like the never-ending buffet of talent that he had at Texas.

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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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