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Why Iowa’s offense could be its best since 2002

[ 0 ] July 2, 2014 |

It’s time for Iowa to shoot for the stars.

Everything is in place — talent, schematics and tempo — for the Hawkeye football team to have its most prolific offense in more than a decade.

Not only is starting quarterback Jake Rudock returning, backup C.J. Beathard figures to play a significant role as well.

They’ll be joined in the backfield by the top three rushers from last season, and throwing to a diversified group of receivers.

The anchor for it all is an offensive line that includes Brandon Scherff, perhaps the nation’s premier left tackle.

“We’ve got a good core,” coach Kirk Ferentz said earlier this summer, “but that doesn’t mean we’re there yet. We’ve got to get better.”

Since Ferentz took over the program in 1999, the Hawkeyes have produced four seasons in which they averaged at least 30 points a game.

They bring eight starters back this season, from an offense that scored 26.3 points in 2013.

“There’s definitely potential on this team,” running back Mark Weisman said, “but potential only goes so far.

“It’s about how hard you’re willing to work.”

Weisman, Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri combined to rush for 1,923 yards, one of the highest totals for a running-back trio under Ferentz.

Kevonte Martin-Manley was the most productive receiver, catching 40 passes for 388 yards and five touchdowns.

He was Rudock’s go-to guy, while Damond Powell and Jacob Hillyer showed glimpses of their abilities.

Derrick Willies became a sensation during spring practices.

“We’ll continue to try to be a team that as we grow, especially in the passing game, can beat you either way,” offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. “Regardless of what formation or personnel grouping we’re in, we just want the best receivers, whether or not it’s two of them out there or three of them out there.”

Davis continues to alter the Hawkeyes’ approach, which led to one of the most telling numbers from last fall: Iowa averaged 71.7 plays per game, up from 66.1 in 2012.

It’s a reflection of Davis’ push to pick up the pace.

“It’s something that we want to continue to get better at,” Davis said. “We can function totally without a huddle now, even though we can huddle if we choose to.”

Davis’ tinkering may include Beathard playing meaningful snaps.

Rudock is dependable (completing 59 percent of his passes for 2,383 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2013), but Beathard adds a little pizazz.

“It’s something that we have discussed,” Davis said during spring drills. “We will continue to look at it as something we want to implement next year.”

Could this Hawkeye ensemble reach the rare air of 2002?

That was the year quarterback Brad Banks became a Heisman Trophy runner-up, and Iowa averaged 37.2 points – the most since 1913.

Fred Russell and Jermelle Lewis combined for 1,973 rushing yards. Maurice Brown was the leading receiver, averaging 20.1 yards per catch and scoring 11 touchdowns.

The offensive line featured four players who would eventually be selected in the NFL Draft, including left tackle Robert Gallery.

The ’02 season, however, included a series of fortuitous twists.

Banks blossomed beyond all expectations. Some thought Aaron Greving would be the primary ball carrier. And nobody was predicting Dallas Clark would emerge as an all-America tight end and NFL all-pro.

You can expect a few surprises in 2014, but it’s July 4 weekend — eight weeks until the Aug. 30 season opener against Northern Iowa — so why not aim high?

 

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 15 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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