By Cody Goodwin
Greg Davis put it simply.
“We have to take more shots,” Iowa’s 2nd-year offensive coordinator said at Thursday’s Media Day. “We talked about it in the spring. We’ve made a big to-do of it in these [first] four practices … we have to put the ball down the field more often.”
The Hawkeye offense struggled mightily to do just that last season. The passing game, as a whole, accounted for just seven touchdowns during the 2012 campaign – running back Mark Weisman, in comparison, scored eight on his own in 10 games.
But Davis was adamant that Iowa would take more shots down the field, instead of the short-yardage-out-route’s fans became somewhat accustomed to. It’ll help put pressure on the defense, Davis said. A hesitant defense allows for the rest of the offense to open up. Play-action calls will be useful, should the current slate of Hawkeye running backs stay healthy.
“It helps a bunch,” Davis said of his fleet of healthy tailbacks. “I feel like we will be able to run the ball better, and that helps you create deep shots. It’s hard to just drop back and throw it over somebody’s head.”
Senior receiver Don Shumpert was the first name Davis mentioned when asked who would serve as a deep threat on offense. Shumpert is currently listed behind Tevaun Smith at split-end on the depth chart, and has only 6 career catches to his name.
Davis added Jordan Cotton to that list, as well as junior college transfer Damond Powell. Cotton’s quickness was apparent last season on special teams. Powell, a transfer from Snow Community College in Utah, led the nation in yards-per-reception (30) during a 41-catch, 14-touchdown campaign last season for the Badgers.
“All three of those guys, when you really think about it, those guys can run,” Davis said. “You want to make sure that you have some things in each game plan, regardless of where they’re playing, where they get a chance to challenge deep.”
Still, Davis expressed that his receivers will need “to do things other than just run fast.” Iowa has spent their first string of practices working on an up-tempo, no-huddle offense. Their routes must be crisp; their blocking, on point.
“We have to take that seriously,” said Kevonte Martin-Manley, who is the returns as Iowa’s leading receiver. “We’re calling signals from the sidelines, so we really have to pay attention. We’re moving at a faster clip. You have to be in good shape, you have to pay attention, you have to get the calls, you have to communicate — there’s a lot of things that go into this offense.”
Three senior linebackers will likely anchor Phil Parker’s defense this upcoming season. But experience is also evident on the defensive line, where five lettermen return.
That experience will be put to good use. Head coach Kirk Ferentz said on Thursday that an 8-man rotation at the defensive line is realistic — and, despite some inexperience from a few linemen, could be extremely useful.
Senior Dominic Alvis – who, along with junior Louis Trinca-Pasat, started all 12 games last year – said those athletes who aren’t as experienced are confident, and are ready to see the field.
“We have a lot of guys who have confidence,” Alvis said. “They have the capability that we can put them in there without worrying about them.”
Added defensive line coach Reese Morgan: “We’re better off putting a second group in that’s fresh than putting the first group in that’s fatigued and can’t execute.”
Lomax near full-health
Junior Jordan Lomax admitted he was scared when he was sent to the emergency room.
“I was like, man, I hope nothing is seriously wrong with me,” Lomax said. “I just had my shoulder surgery. I pray it’s nothing too serious.”
Lomax was one of two listed starters (the other being James Morris) to have appendicitis late last month. Lomax had his appendix removed shortly before Morris did.
Morris told reporters at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago that he’d be healthy and ready to play in the season’s opener against Northern Illinois on Aug. 31. An optimistic Lomax hopes to be at full-speed within the next few days.
“The comeback’s been great,” he said. “I feel pretty good now.”