Iowa offense ready to deliver


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There are no simple solutions when it comes to fixing a broken football team, and make no mistake about it, the 2012 version of the Iowa Hawkeye football team was broken.

But even the harshest critics of Kirk Ferentz’s 4-8 squad would concede that after the departure of longtime coordinator Ken O’Keefe, Iowa’s offense was going to struggle.

The first and second years of the Greg Davis era on offense were a strangely compelling clash of styles on the gridiron. The 2012 disaster campaign saw a James-Vandenberg-led offense overuse Mark Weisman to dictate possession and dink and dunk the ball down the field in order to establish a rhythmic passing game, only to see opposing defenses prey on the predictability of the first-year coordinator’s play calling.

Last season however, saw major improvements in Year Two of the Davis project, with Iowa’s offense making noticeable improvements in points per game, yards per game, and touchdowns scored, thanks largely in part to Iowa’s receivers and running game.

LeShun Daniels ‘explosive, faster’

Since Shonn Greene’s Doak-Walker-Award-winning season in 2008, Iowa’s running-back position has been a revolving door of player transfers, unfortunate injuries, and untimely suspensions.

That is not the case heading into 2014, with nine running backs on scholarship and a total of 2065 yards and 11 touchdowns returning in the form of Mark Weisman, Jordan Canzeri, Damon Bullock, and LeShun Daniels.

“We’ve got great competition.  Our guys are really driven,” said assistant coach Chris White. “They’re hungry, and I think that we just want to take it the next step forward.”

Of Iowa’s four returning backs with game experience, Daniels is perhaps the most intriguing. The 6-1, 215-pound back showed glimpses of game-changing ability last season, and White expects the true freshman to continue making strides during his sophomore season.

“From the way he came in and how he picked everything up and how he approached his business this off‑season, he’s kind of transformed his body a little bit,” said White. “He’s very muscular, as you know, but he’s really worked on trying to be more flexible in the upper body and lower body, and I think it’s really helped him out, and you can see it on the field.  He’s explosive, he’s faster, and he’s making better cuts.”

Martin-Manley to lead

With a solid mixture of returning playmakers, talented veterans and potentially game-changing underclassman at the receiver position, Iowa’s ability to make plays on the outside coupled with a consistent running game could be the key to challenging for a Big Ten Western Division crown in 2014.

Bobby Kennedy’s group will be led by senior Kevonte Martin-Manley, who found the end zone as many times in 2013 (five) as he did in his previous two seasons with the Black and Gold.

“He’s a great leader for our group,” Kennedy said. “I talked to the younger guys about you should watch the way that guy works, watch the way that guy competes, and not only does he work, but he’s a great competitor, too.”

Kennedy also acknowledged the importance of familiarity with the Iowa offense heading into 2014, with Jake Rudock seemingly comfortable under center going into his second year as the starting quarterback for the Hawkeyes.  

“You know, I kind of said this last year when I first got here, one of the things I was really impressed with more than probably any place that I’ve been is the time that the guys are away from us that they work on football, that they’re really they like to throw with each other,” said Kennedy. “They like to be out on the grass.”

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