Iowa offense ready for next step


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It seems as if Greg Davis has talked about explosive plays for most of his coaching career. As the offensive coordinator at Texas, he continually emphasized the importance of such plays — either a 12-yard run or a 16-yard pass — and admitted to getting creative at times in order to manufacture them.

On Monday, during Iowa football’s media day, Davis, again, talked about the need for explosiveness on offense.

“I always want to see more production,” he said, noting that the unit should improve if only because “they’re much more comfortable [with the system].”

Davis, now in his third year as the Hawkeyes’ offensive coordinator, has put explosive plays at the top of his to-do list for the 2014 season. Those kinds of plays, he said, keeps opposing defenses on their heels, which allows the offense to work more freely.

The offense, on the whole, is expected to do big things this season. It’s a unit that will lean on experience — 22 lettermen from a year ago return.

Even more importantly, perhaps, is that it’s the third year in Davis’s system, which means most every key player in the offense should know the playbook extremely well.

Davis’s third year at Texas — the 2000 college football season — was the most successful of the first three. The Longhorn offense scored 37.9 points per game that year, seventh in the country out of 112 teams. It was an uptick from the 32.1 it scored per game in 1999.

The passing game improved dramatically, too; the Longhorns, led by quarterback Major Applewhite, threw for nearly 300 yards and more than 2 touchdowns per game in 2000. In Davis’s first year, 1998, the passing attack wasn’t nearly as potent, averaging just 244 yards and 1.6 touchdowns per game.

Those numbers don’t show everything, of course. It would be foolhardy to ignore that Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams was the crux of the 1998 Texas offense. His 28 touchdowns and 2,386 yards from scrimmage paved the way to a 9-3 season.

But, for all his athletic prowess, the Williams-led offense averaged just 63 plays per game that year. In 2000, the offense clicked to the tune of 73 plays per game, an increase that shows a unit’s comfort and confidence in a given system.

Last year, Davis’s second at Iowa, saw improvement. During the abysmal 2012 campaign, Iowa scored just 19.3 points per game, which ranked 113th in the country out of 124 teams. The unit averaged just 66 plays a game and scored aerially just seven times.

In 2013, Iowa scored nearly a touchdown more (23.6 points) per game and three times reached the 80-play plateau on its way to averaging 71 per contest.

“You hope [improvement] happens, that’s the biggest thing,” starting quarterback Jake Rudock said. “We have a lot of guys coming back, which I think is helpful. And I think it allows for the ability to potentially do more.”

In addition to all those returning, Rudock is blessed with a fleet of younger receivers who showed impressive ability during the spring season.

Derrick Willies, who flashed arguably the most potential during spring ball, was a major talking point on Monday. During the spring game, the redshirt freshman caught 5 passes for roughly 140 yards — including a 42-yard touchdown catch from backup quarterback C.J. Beathard.

His explosiveness excited fans who caught a glimpse of the Hawkeyes in the spring. Iowa’s head coach Kirk Ferentz acknowledged as much, saying that Willies, along with the other receivers and playmakers, have steadily improved since the end of last season.

“When you have more depth, that gives competition, which I think makes all of them better certainly,” Ferentz said. “So keep our fingers crossed there.”

Follow @dipregame on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis of the Iowa football team.

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