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How different will Iowa’s offense be?

[ 16 ] March 20, 2012 |

Change continues to be the theme for the Iowa football program during this offseason.

It started with several changes among the coaching staff, including having two new coordinators.

Based on what Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday, the offense is undergoing some changes heading into spring practice Wednesday.

But don’t assume it’s just because there is a new sheriff in town running the offense. Even if Greg Davis hadn’t replaced Ken O’Keefe as the offensive coordinator, Ferentz said it was time to make offensive changes with Iowa coming off back-to-back 4-4 seasons in the Big Ten.

“We were going to do it regardless of what happened personnelwise with our staff,” Ferentz said. “I think it’s just time to really go back and look at things.”

Some fans will be thrilled to hear this because one of Ferentz’s biggest criticisms is that’s he’s too stubborn and too conservative with his approach to offense.

But my response to what Ferentz said Tuesday is that I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m not suggesting that he is being less than truthful, but rather that the changes being made on offense will be more subtle than dramatic.

Ferentz said what needs to change more than anything next season is Iowa’s execution on offense. That means fewer turnovers, fewer penalties, better blocking, better passing and better catching more than it means having a facelift.

Fans would be foolish to think that Iowa would abandon its power running game in favor of a spread offense. That doesn’t fit Ferentz’s DNA or his team’s DNA.

Iowa often is lumped together with Wisconsin and Michigan State as Big Ten teams that prefer to play power football in this age of spread offenses and pass-happy quarterbacks.

Ferentz didn’t really give an answer when asked if that would change next season.

“Time will tell,” he said. “It will depend on what our players do best and what they can do. But I won’t take that as a derogatory remark. I like the way both of those teams play. They’ve been very, very productive and efficient.

“But at the end of day, I don’t know how much different we’re going to look overall. But it’ll be different. At least, if you’re paying attention, I think things will be a little bit different. We’ll try to size up our players over the next 15 days and then really figure out what’s the best thing to do with this group.”

It’s hard to picture the offense looking much different as long as senior-to-be James Vandenberg is lined up behind center.

Unlike most of the starting quarterbacks in the Big Ten, Vandenberg has limited mobility. Spread offenses usually feature a quarterback whose legs are as dangerous as his throwing arm. They also have a stable of speedy receivers that can make defenders look silly in space.

Iowa is lacking in both of those areas right now.

Some might take what Ferentz said Tuesday and assume that Iowa will pass more next season. Once again, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Especially when you take into account that Iowa only ran 42 more times than it threw last season. And that was with O’Keefe calling the plays and with 230-pound Marcus Coker in the backfield.

Vandenberg passed for 3,022 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, marking just the fifth time in school history that an Iowa quarterback has thrown for at least 3,000 yards in a season.

“It’s kind of funny,” Ferentz said. “I was just reading somewhere I guess we threw the ball last year more than we ever have. We didn’t get any credit for it I don’t think. But maybe they were conservative throws we were throwing.”

The Iowa offense will be different next season with Davis now calling the plays.

The personnel won’t be much different, though.

That’s why it’s hard to believe the offense will look much different to the casual observer, who makes up about 99.9 percent of the people that pack Kinnick Stadium on gameday.

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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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