Iowa Football Media Day: Offensive Notebook

Canzeri sees missed opportunity

Jordan Canzeri doesn’t believe in curses or ghosts.

Yes, he suffered an ACL injury during spring practice when he would likely have been the Hawkeyes’ clear-cut starting running back. And yes, three of his backfield teammates from last season — Marcus Coker, Mika’il McCall, and now DeAndre Johnson — are gone.

But when you’re working to rehab from a knee injury and hoping to get back on the field ahead of schedule, you can’t think about those things.

“We don’t believe in it,” he said. “You can’t let something like that be over your shoulder and have something negative like that in your head. The things that happen, it makes people like to bring it up. We definitely try to keep that out of our meetings and out of the young guys’ heads. There’s no running back curse.”

The running back position may not be cursed, but it sure is thin. All those departures and injuries have left the Hawkeyes counting on a fullback, a converted receiver, and a pair of true freshman to carry the ball this season.

But offensive coordinator Greg Davis said he isn’t worried about the backfield situation. As a coordinator at Texas, he has relied on true freshman backs before in Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles.

“I believe we’ll be able to put several backs on the field that can be productive,” Davis said. “You would certainly rather have a returning back who has done it on a big stage, but it is a position where you can play when you’re young.”

Canzeri started in the Insight Bowl and rushed for 58 yards against Oklahoma. He tallied 114 total rushing yards last season. He’s officially listed as questionable for the 2012 season. But Canzeri boldly said on Monday he hoped to play in the team’s first game.

But for now, he’s forced to remain on the sidelines.

“It’s hard, because the opportunity can slip away that fast,” he said. “But I’m a team guy, so I’m helping the young guys out and cheering my team on.”

Receivers spent offseason working on chemistry

The Hawkeyes now begin life without Marvin McNutt, who was selected in the sixth round by the Philadelphia Eagles in April’s NFL Draft. Players and coaches said they don’t expect one player to replace McNutt’s production (82 receptions, 1315 yards, 12 touchdowns in 2011), but they can’t accept a drop in performance.

The first step was building a strong chemistry between the receivers and quarterback James Vandenberg. That’s something junior Kevonte Martin-Manley said he and his teammates got an early start on.

“That started as soon as the season ended,” he said. “We got together with the [returning receivers] we were going to have, and we threw the ball. We can’t use Marvin being gone as an excuse for a lack of production.”

Martin-Manley said the receivers spent more time working together this summer than they had in previous years, and that the time together has helped the group progress in new offensive coordinator Greg Davis’ system.

Senior wideout Keenan Davis will be looked upon to be Vandenberg’s go-to receiver this fall. The Cedar Rapids native had 713 yards in 2011, good for second among returning wideouts.

“I hope everybody wants to be [the go-to] guy,” he said. “If everybody’s doing that, we’re going to have a good crew. If everybody wants the ball in their hands, we’re going to be good.”

Head coach Kirk Ferentz said the coaches have also been pleased with the group of true freshmen, and that he wouldn’t be surprised if they contribute offensively.

Greg Davis said he’s willing to be flexible with his personnel groupings, and will try to play to his players’ strengths as best as possible.

“We’re going to try and get our best personnel group on the field,” he said. “Whether that’s two backs, three wide receivers, two tight ends, we’ll just have to see.”

by Daily Iowan sports staff

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