Football has big hole instead of big plays


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Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis said the Hawkeyes lacked speed at the skill positions during fall camp, and it’s an issue that continues to hang over the Hawkeyes as they enter their final two regular-season games.

The Hawkeyes have tallied 42 pass plays of 15 yards or more this season — tied for seventh most in the Big Ten with Purdue. That’s significantly lower than the 72 such plays the Iowa offense had in 2011, which was second best in the conference.

Davis’ preferred style of offense calls for more underneath routes than former offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe’s system. The Hawkeyes also appear to still be missing Marvin McNutt’s presence in the lineup.

The former Iowa star had 33 receptions for 15 or more yards in his record-breaking 2011 campaign, and 15 receptions of 25 yards or longer. The Iowa offense currently has just 14 plays of 25 yards or longer this year.

Quarterback James Vandenberg said McNutt had an uncommon combination of skills that allowed him to provide big play potential.

“Marv had a unique ability,” Vandenberg said. “Marv was fast — he’s not the fastest guy in the world, though — he’s big. He had an ability to get behind people, regardless of how they were playing him.”

Vandenberg said getting on top of defenders (i.e., closing the space between the receiver and defender quickly and getting behind them) is important. The apparent lack of speed was something Davis said maybe affected by the change in offensive system.

“They’re actually playing faster now,” Davis said in his press conference on Oct. 2. “I mean, any time you’re out there thinking about what to do, where you should be lined up, what you do versus this coverage, this blitz, whatever, you’re not going to play as fast.”

He went on to say he hopes his receivers can take advantage when they are on an island with a defender.

“We’re going to continue to look for guys that are really hard to play one-on-one,” Davis said.

Current Iowa wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said McNutt was a big part of the offense last year, but the team has to move on and make the plays themselves. And that’s something he said the current receivers are all capable of.

“If you look at the film, we’re actually [getting on top of defenders] now,” Martin-Manley said. “It’s not like we’re not getting open or anything. We’ve just got to protect first, we’ve got to get open, got to run a route, and we’ve got to catch the ball.”

With the Big Ten’s best two pass defenses — Michigan and Nebraska — looming, Vandenberg said he doesn’t know how the offense will create more big play opportunities, but that they have options they can turn to.

“We’ve got to find a way to make more big plays,” he said. “Whether that’s gadgets or max protections, I’m not sure. Certainly, we’ve lacked in the big-play department.”

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