IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis went on the defensive Wednesday when repeatedly asked about solutions to the Hawkeyes’ inconsistent offense.
Davis, in his fifth season at Iowa, is overseeing a unit that ranks 113th among FBS teams at 348.1 yards per game. The offense has been the biggest culprit in an up-and-down 5-3 season that began with the Hawkeyes ranked 15th in the nation.
Still, Davis said during his bye-week news conference that he doesn’t feel any additional burden to get things turned around in the season’s final four weeks, beginning Nov. 5 at Penn State.
“I feel pressure to do the best I can every day when I come to work,” Davis said. “Whether or not it’s this year or last year or whenever.”
In his 42nd season as a college coach, Davis projected an air of calm while he deflected suggestions that there are inherent issues with his offense. Here’s what he said on a range of topics:
C.J. Beathard’s senior season has not been as statistically strong as his junior year. Davis said he’s been every bit as good, however.
“I think it’s easy to look and just compare numbers. I think we all can be guilty of that, coaches as well,” Davis said. “A lot of times when we have explosive runs, he’s changed the play and got us into a better situation. I’m disappointed for him that his passing numbers are not greater because he is busting his tail and he’s studying and he’s trying to get us in the right play.”
His wide receivers
Davis mentioned more than once that Beathard’s play has suffered because of the graduation losses of wide receivers Tevaun Smith and Jacob Hillyer and tight end Henry Krieger-Coble, who combined for 83 catches last year. Of course, all of those departures should have been anticipated.
More damaging was the season-ending injury that top receiver Matt VandeBerg suffered in practice four weeks ago.
“We have not had as much production with the outside part as we need,” Davis said of sophomores Jerminic Smith and Jay Scheel, who have combined for 19 receptions and one touchdown. “How could we better help those guys either through motion, through stacks, through some things that may help the wide receivers get off the press better, get down the field?”
Davis refuted the charge that the coaching staff hasn’t done a good enough job developing wide receivers, pointing to Smith, VandeBerg, Hillyer and current senior Riley McCarron as examples.
“We’ve had some other guys that have not (developed) at every position,” he said. “Some guys find (adjusting to college football) more than they’re ready for.”
Playing an up-tempo offense
Davis acknowledged “there has been some spark” when Iowa has gone to a no-huddle offense at times.
“I think there’s some misconceptions about tempo, because a lot of times when you’re going tempo and you’re going ‘boom, boom, boom,’ the defense is not playing the way they would play in the whole ballgame, especially in the 2-minute world,” he said.
“But tempo will continue to be a part of every game plan. … We’re not going to become a tempo team, but we’ll look at it every week.”
Trying new things
Davis said the offense is spending the bye week looking at ways to generate more yards, especially big plays. Among the options may be playing tailbacks LeShun Daniels Jr. and Akrum Wadley at the same time or splitting freshman tight end Noah Fant out wide on occasion.
Wadley was the Hawkeyes’ leading receiver (seven catches, 72 yards) in Saturday’s 17-9 home loss to Wisconsin. But Davis said that result was more a function of the best way to get “gimme” plays against the Badger defense and not necessarily a philosophical shift.
“I wouldn’t look for him to be the leading receiver a bunch of different times,” Davis said of Wadley.
Who might help?
“Adrian Falconer is a guy … this week has really done a few things,” Davis said of the little-used sophomore wide receiver. “We’re hopeful that he’ll continue to step forward and give us some depth there.”
As for junior running back Derrick Mitchell Jr., a former wide receiver who has become Iowa’s third-down option in the backfield, Davis suggested his playing time may continue to be limited.
“There's some advantages to having a third-down guy. That's his role and that's what he prepares for,” Davis said. “But there's also some advantages to having the other two guys in there, too. LeShun is a big body. Akrum is a really good screen guy. We'll continue to look at that.”