April 24, 2014
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There wasn’t time to emphasize statistics Wednesday when the University of Iowa offensive and defensive coordinators gathered with media inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex.
Instead, it was a day to discuss being the best, winning, and the ingredients that will help the Hawkeyes achieve both in 2014.
In a perfect world, UI offensive coordinator Greg Davis says the Hawkeye football team would run the ball 55 percent of the time and throw the other 45 percent.
But whether it’s 50-50, 60-40, or even 70-30, the task remains the same:
“Every game is different,” Davis said. “We’ll continue to try to be a team that as we grow, especially in the passing game, that can beat you either way.”
Of the eight victories last season, the Hawkeyes leaned most heavily on the ground game against Western Michigan (76.3 percent), and least against Northwestern and Michigan (60.3). Adding all 13 games together, Davis was close to receiving his wish: Iowa ran the ball 55.8 percent of the time and passed the other 44.2 percent.
“A lot of people used to worry about how many sacks or interceptions you get, how many of this, how many of that. It only matters if you win the game. If you play the game to win, that’s the most important thing. That’s the way this program has worked since 1999.”
UI defensive coordinator
“Regardless of what formation or personnel grouping we’re in, we just want the best receivers, whether or not it’s two of them out there or three of them out there; or if it’s two tight ends or one tight end, or three tight ends, we are going to try to continue to play to what we feel our strength is.”
On the other side of the ball, you can bag the numbers. UI defensive coordinator Phil Parker grades players on technique, effort, toughness, and intelligence.
“A lot of people used to worry about how many sacks or interceptions you get, how many of this, how many of that,” said Parker. “It only matters if you win the game. If you play the game to win, that’s the most important thing. That’s the way this program has worked since 1999.”
In 2013, the Hawkeyes won three games without recording an interception, and four times when they had less than two quarterback sacks. Conversely, one of the most elusive quarterbacks Iowa faced all season — Northwestern’s Kain Colter — was dumped five times behind the line of scrimmage.
Iowa’s play-to-win philosophy produced seven-or-more victories 10 times since 2001 and 10-or-more victories four times. The program is coming off its 11th bowl game in the last 13 seasons.
Davis and Parker shed light on the first 12 spring practices, as well the progress of several Most Improved Hawkeyes, many who have flown under the radar thus far in their careers. On offense, wide receivers Derrick Willies and Matt VandeBerg have had solid spring practices; the same goes for defensive backs Greg Mabin and Nico Law and defensive ends Mike Hardy and Nate Meier.
There has been one casualty in an otherwise healthy spring for the Hawkeyes. Redshirt freshman tight end Jon Wisnieski will have knee surgery and will not be available when fall camp opens in August.
“That’s the only bad thing that has taken place,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said of an otherwise optimistic spring.
The Hawkeyes practice Thursday and will conclude drills with the annual Coke Zero Spring Game on Saturday at 2 p.m. (CT). Gates to Kinnick Stadium open at 1 p.m.; an autograph session will be held from 1:15 to 1:35.
Davis adds pizzazz to his responses
Davis offered two of the more colorful rsponses at yesterday’s news conference. After being asked (once again) about the battle at quarterback between junior Jake Rudock and sophomore C.J. Beathard, Davis switched from football to another activity.
“C.J. is a little shiftier and if they played tag, C.J. would probably win.”
He followed that comment with:
“The No. 2 quarterback is the most popular guy on any campus or any NFL team in the country. We are very pleased with C.J. but at this point, Jake is the guy.”
Plenty of time was spent talking about a deep UI wide receiver group. Davis threw in a reference to the comic strip Peanuts when he said this about junior Jacob Hillyer, who caught 11 passes and scored two touchdowns last season:
“I feel like (Hillyer) is kind of Linus’s blanket, a real security. He will block, he attacks the ball with his hands, so we’re real pleased with where he is at.”