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Pat Harty: Questions remain for Davis after Outback loss

[ 0 ] January 2, 2014 |

Fair or not, opinions of Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis are still mixed in the wake of Wednesday’s 21-14 loss to Louisiana State in the Outback Bowl.

He isn’t the same lightning rod or punch line that he was a year ago, but the jury is still out on Davis after two seasons on the job. The Outback Bowl did nothing to change that. If anything, it erased some of the good will and confidence that Davis had gained during regular season when Iowa doubled its win total from the previous season with eight victories.

The Iowa defense did its part to win the Outback Bowl, but the offense was mostly ineffective. From a sputtering rushing attack to receivers struggling to get separation to quarterbacks missing their targets, you name it and Iowa struggled to do it against the Tigers.

Greg Davis just completed his second season at Iowa's offensive coordinator. (Bryon Houlgrave/The Register)

Greg Davis just completed his second season at Iowa’s offensive coordinator. (Bryon Houlgrave/The Register)

LSU deserves part of the credit because play calling and strategizing go only so far against superior talent.

But the Iowa offense is still very much a work in progress under the 62-year old Davis. The Outback Bowl was similar to Iowa’s losses to Michigan State and Wisconsin during the regular season in that the offense failed to meet the challenge, producing a season-low 233 yards, including just 76 rushing yards against LSU.

And though there is no miracle cure for what ails Iowa on offense, perhaps it’s time to switch things up a little bit in terms of personnel.

I said a year ago that Davis should consider moving senior-to-be Damon Bullock from running back to slot receiver and I’m saying it again now. I also think that senior-to-be Mark Weisman should play more at fullback while junior-to-be Jordan Canzeri, sophomore-to-be LeShun Daniels and whoever else is available compete for time at running back.

It seems like a waste to have Bullock, Weisman, Canzeri and Daniels all competing for playing time at the same position, especially when help is needed elsewhere.

Bullock seems like the best candidate to switch to receiver because he actually played the position for a while early on at Iowa. The Iowa receivers have struggled to gain yards after the catch, so perhaps Bullock could use his instincts as running back to help in that area.

And maybe Weisman could use his success as a running back to expand the role of Iowa’s fullback, which is mostly to block. It would make no sense to move Weisman back to fullback where he started the 2012 season and then use him almost exclusively as a blocker.

He’s too talented as a runner to not use him in that role. Imagine the options with Weisman and Canzeri or Daniels lined up in a split backfield with Bullock in the slot.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz might respond to these position changes with one of his famous snorts, but that doesn’t change the fact that his offense for the most part failed to deliver against elite competition this season.

And while I understand that you never can have enough running backs, especially at Iowa where attrition has rocked the position, Bullock and Weisman could always switch back to that position if the situation called for it.

There is also Michael Malloy and Barkley Hill to consider. Neither played as redshirt freshmen this season, but that could change with more experience. Ferentz was evasive when talking about Malloy’s status during the season, saying only that he was sidelined by an undisclosed medical issue.

Akrum Wadley and Jonathan Parker are two more options at running back, or perhaps one of them could switch to receiver. They both were redshirted as true freshmen this season.

Iowa also has received verbal commitments from two high school senior running backs, including Markel Smith, who is the second-leading rusher to come out of the St. Louis area with more than 7,000 yards.

So there should be enough depth to experiment a little.

The Outback Bowl was another reminder that the Iowa program is moving in the right direction after a disastrous 2012 season. Eight starters return on offense, including the entire backfield, so there is reason to be optimistic.

But the loss to LSU also showed that Iowa has a way to go on offense. Getting the best players on the field at the same time might help to shorten the distance.

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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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