IOWA CITY — Before settling into his office at the Iowa football complex, new Hawkeyes offensive coordinator Greg Davis did a little homework.
He watched tape of every game Iowa played last season, paying particular attention to the work of returning starting quarterback James Vandenberg.
In addition to replacing Ken O’Keefe as the Hawkeyes’ offensive coordinator, Davis also replaces him as the program’s quarterbacks coach. The man who worked with Major Applewhite, Vince Young and Colt McCoy during his 13 seasons at Texas likes what he has seen from Vandenberg.
“There are certain things you can see on tape, throws from one hashmark to the sideline, that’s kind of a benchmark if they can do that, and he can,” Davis said. “The other thing I was very excited about is the number of plays he made off schedule.”
Through the air, Vandenberg recorded the fourth-best single-season passing yardage total by an Iowa quarterback last fall as a junior. He completed 257 of 404 passes for 3,022 yards and was intercepted seven times in addition to throwing 25 touchdown passes during the Hawkeyes’ 7-6 season.
Vandenberg rushed for only 61 yards on 78 carries, but his ability to scramble on third down caught Davis’ attention.
“When you cover everybody and the quarterback runs and makes a first down, that’s heartbreaking for a defense,” Davis said. “So watching him, I thought his decision-making was good. I was impressed with him for a lot of reasons.”
Davis said defining his ideal quarterback starts with a mentality as much as physical skill.
“I want a winner. I know that’s very simplistic, but you know, everybody has different styles,” Davis said. “Accuracy is important, and you want a guy who is bright because he’s going to have a lot of things on his plate to get us in and out of plays.”
Davis prefers a quarterback with some mobility.
“If a quarterback is not going to move at all, he needs to be really special in the pocket and I mean really special,” Davis said. “It’s just hard if the guy can’t move some.”
Davis points to his experience with Applewhite as example.
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“Most of y’all could outrun him in the 40, but he could manipulate the pocket,” Davis said. “He was good at manipulating the pocket and was extremely smart at knowing where to go when things broke down.”
That was one of the things that impressed Davis as he watched Vandenberg settle in during his first season as Iowa’s full-time starter.
Davis said Young was really the only true dual-threat quarterback he worked with at Texas, although McCoy demonstrated the ability to do some things with his feet as well.
That allowed him to thrive when things didn’t go as planned, a trait Davis insists on from his quarterbacks.
“You like a guy who is athletic enough to do things off schedule, because so many times the play doesn’t happen exactly like it does in the meeting room,” Davis said. “So the ability to extend the play — decision making, intelligence — is important. You’d like to have a guy that’s tough. Being tough at quarterback is a little different than being tough at the guard position, but you want a guy who can stand in and take a lick against a blitz and to handle the pressure that goes with his position.”