IOWA CITY — A simple approach provides a starting point for the Iowa offense as the Hawkeye football team begins to work its way through spring drills.
Changes in the offensive coaching staff have led to new terminology and new ideas which will shape an Iowa offense that will be run by a first-year starting quarterback next season.
That combination creates a few expected growing pains as the Hawkeyes work through their 15 spring practices leading up to an April 21 spring game under the lights at Kinnick Stadium.
“The goal is really to figure out what it is we want to do for the Iowa offense,’’ head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s not so much reshaping or retooling, but it’s just what we want to do if we’re starting at ground zero.’’
That’s where the basics factor into things as Brian Ferentz shifts into the offensive coordinator’s role and coaches running backs after working with offensive linemen and serving as the run game coordinator the past two seasons.
“We’ve always kind of believed simplicity is better, if we can, in all regards, run or pass,’’ Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s most important that your players understand what it is you’re asking them to do. Secondly, how do they adjust to all the various situations that can come up that a defense can present them with, that type of thing. It starts with that.’’
There has been a learning curve for coaches this spring as well.
With Tim Polasek arriving from North Dakota State to coach the offensive line, Kelton Copeland joining the staff from Northern Illinois to coach receivers and Ken O'Keefe rejoining the program from the NFL to coach quarterbacks, the work for coaches before the first practice last week included creating cohesive terminology.
“When Greg (Davis, the former Hawkeye offensive coordinator) came in, we pretty much rolled with his lingo and dialect. That’s usually what you want to do, make sure that the play caller is comfortable with whatever terminology you’re using,’’ Ferentz said. “Whether it’s for personnel groups, plays, protections, routes, all those types of things, you want them on the same page.’’
That involves creating a consistent vocabulary, something that has taken some work.
“One thing about football, there’s not a lot of new stuff out there, but the way you call things does vary from program to program, place to place,’’ Ferentz said. “The big thing was everybody getting an understanding of what we wanted to feature, how were going to name those things, getting on the same page. It’s been a little bit of a process.’’
That process is designed to create consistency in how things are taught and how Hawkeyes grasp what they are being asked to do.
Ultimately, Ferentz wants the Hawkeye offense to look more like what Iowa put on the field in 2015, a balanced attack which tilted heavily in favor of the run game last fall in part because of injuries and inexperience in the receiving corps.
“Obviously, our passing game was not where it needed to be at the end of the season last year,’’ Ferentz said. “But we had the same coaches, a lot of the same (scheme) that did pretty well in 2015.’’
The success of Iowa running backs Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels had working behind the Hawkeye offensive line impacted Iowa’s offense numbers last season as well, leading to an offense which picked up 2,234 rushing yards and 1,991 passing yards.
“The kind of balance we had in ’15 really is what we’d like to have,’’ Ferentz said, pointing the team’s 2,544 rushing yards and 2,862 passing yards in that Rose Bowl season.
“It may not look exactly like that, the plays may not look exactly like that, but we were at a pretty good place offensively in ’15 where we could run and throw, do some good things that way. From the time we got here, balance has been a key thing for us.’’