IOWA CITY, Iowa — A good portion of Iowa fans got what they wanted.
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis is gone. He retired on Friday.
But they may not be getting what they truly want in his replacement. The Hawkeyes won’t change much of their offense regardless of who becomes the next offensive coordinator. Iowa is still going to be the same kind of offensive team as long as Kirk Ferentz is the head coach.
The Hawkeyes will be a run-first group emphasizing the offensive line, wearing down opponents and relying on their running backs to move the chains.
There is nothing wrong with that. The Hawkeyes won plenty of games over the years using that formula, but a new offensive coordinator gives Iowa a chance to address the biggest issue with Davis’ tenure — the passing game. Davis’ quick-strike, short passing attack never really meshed with the Hawkeyes like it did at Texas, where he was the offensive coordinator on the 2005 national championship team.
There was only one truly strong passing year for Iowa under Davis.
Things bottomed out this season. The Hawkeyes finished near the bottom of the nation in most passing categories.
2016 Iowa passing stats
|Pass Yds Per Completion||11.38||100th|
Iowa needs a reset on its aerial attack. The fact Matt VandeBerg’s injury basically killed the passing game is an indictment of the Hawkeyes’ ability to develop talent and the lack of receiving options down the depth chart.
Trying to spread the field horizontally didn’t work with this offense. It’s something that needs to be a component of the next Iowa offense. Davis’ passing game didn’t mesh with the skill set of Iowa receivers that historically tend to be taller, lankier and seem to make plays down the field, be it deep on a post or vertical route or an intermediate route like a 15-yard in.
Iowa is in a position to breathe new life into the passing attack. Don’t expect the result to be a full embrace of a spread offense with Nathan Stanley chucking the football 45 times a game.
But Iowa does need to take advantage of this opportunity. The passing game has always come off as a little awkward in the Ferentz tenure. Some years it works, some years it doesn’t, and there isn’t always consistency to it.
Iowa can use this time to re-imagine how it throws the football in the way it wants to be, from the type of receivers it recruits, to the basic tenants of the passing scheme to the concepts it relies on come game day.
Offensive line coach/run game coordinator Brian Ferentz is the most likely in-house candidate to be promoted. The growth of the offensive line and running game this season speaks volumes about his ability as a teacher. Becoming a coordinator — here or elsewhere — is the next logical step.
Whether or not Brian Ferentz lands the offensive coordinator job, Iowa will be looking to bring in someone for their passing knowledge. Brian Ferentz already oversees the running game. At a minimum, the Hawkeyes need a passing game coordinator (regardless if the offensive coordinator title comes with it).
Green Bay assistant offensive line coach David Raih seems like a logical choice. He knows the Iowa way. Raih was a former Hawkeyes quarterback and graduate assistant, where he worked with the quarterbacks, tight ends and offensive line.
He spent five combined years at UCLA and Texas Tech, working alongside Norm Chow and Kliff Kingsbury. He’s been exposed to different offenses and could identity concepts from past stops, especially from the in vogue Air Raid offense, that would work with Iowa.
Raih may not be the hire, but he’s what Iowa needs to find. The Hawkeyes won’t change who they are. They do need someone, though, who can renovate the passing game and get the receivers making plays in space.
A more modern look could really help the Kinnick Stadium end zones stand out.