April 22, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa football team was at Pittsburgh on Sept. 20 and trailed, 20-17, entering the fourth quarter. It was third-and-7 for the Hawkeyes and the Panthers called a blitz against young and inexperienced backup quarterback C.J. Beathard.
Beathard’s first receiver was covered, forcing him to hold the football, knowing a hit was imminent. The result of the play was a 10-yard completion to tight end Ray Hamilton. The Hawkeyes found the end zone 10 plays later and won, 24-20.
“Talent play” is how UI offensive coordinator Greg Davis described it.
Davis held a news conference Wednesday in the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center where the unofficial motto for the Hawkeye offense in the fall is Take More Shots.
“He is going to take more shots,” Davis said of Beathard. “We’ve encouraged him to do that.”
Beathard is no longer a young, inexperienced backup. When Iowa opens the season Sept. 5 against Illinois State, he will be a junior starter. Last season Beathard completed 56.5 percent of his 92 pass attempts for 645 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Against Tennessee in the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl, Beathard threw for 145 yards and two touchdowns and ran eight times for 82 yards.
Iowa averaged 400 yards of offense per game last season — 56 yards more per game than its opponents. With Beathard behind center, Davis said the Hawkeyes will still emphasize the inside zone and slant plays that have been a staple of head coach Kirk Ferentz‘s teams.
“We have done a few things different in the passing game that we think fit C.J. in terms of trying to stretch the field,” Davis said. “We will incorporate a little bit using his legs because he has the ability to run.”
The Hawkeyes averaged 163.1 yards per game on the ground and 4.1 yards per rushing attempt in 2014. Davis says that in his four seasons as offensive coordinator here, this is the deepest the Hawkeyes have been in terms of running backs who can “go in and play.”
Davis called sophomore Derrick Mitchell Jr. the biggest surprise of the spring. Mitchell was moved from wide receiver to running back, where Davis envisions him as a third down back.
“(Daniels) doesn’t even look like the same guy. He’s much more fluid in his cuts and he’s running with confidence. Jordan Canzeni is back and healthy. Akrum Wadley has continued to get stronger and has done a good job in spring training protecting the ball. He has the unique ability to jump sideways and make a five-yard play into a 15-yard play.”
UI Offensive Coordinator
“You never know how a wide receiver is going to react when he sees a blitz,” Davis said. “Derrick did not shy away the first time. I think there’s a possibility that he could be the third-down back. Anytime you have a guy like that, that also creates matchup problems.”
Mitchell joins a group of talented backs that includes senior Jordan Canzeri (494 rushing yards, nine receptions in 2014), junior LeShun Daniels Jr. (49 rushing yards), and sophomore Akrum Wadley (186 rushing yards).
“(Daniels) doesn’t even look like the same guy. He’s much more fluid in his cuts and he’s running with confidence,” Davis said. “Jordan Canzeni is back and healthy. Akrum Wadley has continued to get stronger and has done a good job in spring training protecting the ball. He has the unique ability to jump sideways and make a five-yard play into a 15-yard play.”
“We are doing a few things formationally,” Davis said. “We have tight ends that we feel like can be tough in mismatches, so we’re doing things with tight ends and detached formations a little bit more than we have in the past.”
“We have done some things that we feel will give (Smith) some opportunities to get more advantageous coverages,” Davis said.
“Those are three guys that we feel really comfortable with on the field,” Davis said. “Whatever the call is, we don’t worry about it.”
The departure of Jake Rudock, who started 25 games at quarterback for Iowa, means redshirt freshman Tyler Wiegers inherits to backup position. Wiegers received the offensive Team Leader Award last season.
“He got thrown into the deep end,” Davis said. “Typically this would be a spring where he would be running with the (third unit), but he started paddling the minute he got in there. He’s extremely bright and he’s done a really good job.”
Sophomore John Kenny, who filled in at fullback midway through the 2014 season, has moved back to linebacker.
For information on Saturday’s final spring practice inside Kinnick Stadium HERE.