Fans probably don’t need to be reminded how hard it is for the Iowa football coaches to recruit explosive playmakers on offense because Saturday’s 9-6 loss to Iowa State served that purpose.
It was 60 minutes of being reminded about that — one unproductive play after another.
Iowa (1-1) should have an overall edge in talent against Northern Iowa (1-1) on Saturday, but not necessarily with regard to the offensive skill positions.
The Hawkeyes are entering the third game of the season without having produced a touchdown pass and without having scored a touchdown despite six trips inside the opponent’s red zone.
Senior quarterback James Vandenberg has to shoulder part of the blame, as do new offensive coordinator Greg Davis and coach Kirk Ferentz because it goes with the territory.
But is also seems painfully obvious after two games that Iowa has a severe shortage of playmakers on offense. Take away senior receiver Keenan Davis, junior tight end C.F. Fiedorowicz and sophomore slot receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley and there is nobody left on the roster with a proven track record of making plays.
And it’s not as if the three aforementioned players have left defenders in their wake on a consistent basis.
Ferentz didn’t mince words when asked after Saturday’s game, which lowered his record to 6-8 against Iowa State, if he thought the passing attack was more in sync compared to the season opener against Northern Illinois.
“Not really,” Ferentz said. “At times, when we were driving the ball we hit some plays and made some plays, and that’s part of the game.
“But we’re not there yet. I think that’s fairly obvious.”
Why the passing attack isn’t there yet is open for debate, but player attrition has to be partly to blame.
It’s no secret that Iowa has been decimated by attrition at running back, but it goes way beyond that.
Iowa signed 92 players in its four recruiting classes from 2008 to 2011. However, 32 of those players, including 18 offensive skill position players, left the program early.
That doesn’t include Khalif Staten, who was listed as a receiver coming out of high school in 2008 before switching to linebacker during his brief stay at Iowa. It also doesn’t include quarterback/tight end Austin Vier, who signed with Iowa in 2010, but had to quit playing football for medical reasons.
Iowa’s 2008 recruiting class, which had 25 players, was nearly cut in half by attrition with 12 players leaving the program early, including eight who played offensive skill positions. That doesn’t include offensive lineman Riley Reiff, who skipped his senior this fall to enter the NFL draft.
The 2008 recruits would be fifth-year seniors if they had stayed at Iowa and been redshirted their first season.
The 2009 recruiting class wasn’t quite as unstable with eight players leaving the program before using up their eligibility. However, half of them were offensive skill players.
There were five receivers and two tight ends in the 2008 and 2009 classes who bolted from Iowa early.
None of them achieved stardom anywhere else, so maybe they wouldn’t have provided the spark that Iowa so desperately needs on offense.
But they were given scholarships and were being counted on to plug holes, or at least provide depth.
Too many unplugged holes at some point will catch up with any team. Perhaps that’s what we’re seeing right now with Iowa.
This is one of Ferentz’s youngest teams at Iowa, but that’s partly because he has to keep finding new offensive skill players to replace the ones who bailed on him.
Combine that pattern with the fact that Iowa mostly signs receivers who have few other BCS scholarship offers and you have a recipe for a struggle.
Iowa receivers coach Erik Campbell had the luxury of working with more talented receivers during his 13 seasons at Michigan because the Wolverines routinely signed heralded prospects. That’s not the case at Iowa, never has been and probably never will be.
The Iowa coaches can’t afford to be as selective because the pickings are slimmer compared to a school like Michigan. You take what you can get, but you also take more chances.
It’s no mystery why Ferentz is yet to recruit a receiver who has caught a single pass in the National Football League.
Davis fired the first warning shot when he said shortly after being hired as the new offensive coordinator that Iowa needed to recruit more speed at the receiver positions.
Iowa has four receivers in its true freshmen class, but none of the four had scholarship offers from any traditional powers such as Michigan, Ohio State or Notre Dame.
Chicago native Maurice Fleming was probably the most sought-after recruit among Iowa’s four freshmen receivers with scholarship offers from Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota and Cincinnati, according to Hawkeye Insider.com.
The fact that none of the four freshmen receivers have played after two games probably indicates they’re not ready yet because the situation has to be all hands on deck at this point.
The Hawkeyes sure could have used a few more dependable hands Saturday.
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or email@example.com.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football