A little constructive chatter could carry Hawkeyes

Andrew Logue

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Cohesiveness starts with a conversation.

And that may be the untold strength of an Iowa football team with eight returning starters on offense and a veteran defensive line.

"They really expect us to be alternative coaches out there, seeing things and understanding concepts," receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. "And when we communicate things, they trust it."

Trust will come into play Saturday, when the Hawkeyes kick off a new season at 11 a.m. against Northern Iowa.

"You've got to communicate to win," running back Damon Bullock said. "That's pretty much every game."

A year ago, there was plenty of chatter about Iowa's quarterbacks, but nobody knew how starter Jake Rudock or backup C.J. Beathard would respond to their new roles.

Now they're expected to have more input.

"It's probably more two‑way than one‑way," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Those guys can both give us good information.

"I think when players are more experienced, they're more capable of telling you here's what I feel good about and why. You try to build that with every player at every position, but it takes time."

Rudock settled in quickly last season, completing 59 percent of his passes for 2,383 yards and 18 touchdowns.

He'll be counted on to increase those numbers this fall as the Hawkeyes contend for the Big Ten's West Division title.

"Jake has got a real good feel for what's going on," Ferentz said. "What he told (offensive coordinator) Greg Davis coming off the sideline usually matched up with the film, and that's a good sign.

"That's one of the reasons we felt good about him."

Rudock should have even more freedom this fall.

"Coach Davis does a good job of telling us straight up, 'Hey, what do you like? What don't you like? What are you seeing?''' Rudock explained. "You get more comfortable being with a coach for a number of years. You can come off and say, 'I'm seeing this coverage. I don't like the way that's looking.'

"And then we try to figure out the best way to attack it."

Rudock will be supported by four returning running backs: Bullock, Mark Weisman, Jordan Canzeri and LeShun Daniels.

"As soon as you come off (the field), you see your (position) coach," Bullock said. "Then, you sit next to the O-linemen and coach Brian Ferentz comes over, shows what we need to do for the next drive."

The talks are typically brief.

"We have to hurry up, because you never know what time we'll get back on the field," Bullock said. "It could be in the next 10 seconds or the next 10 minutes."

The defense follows a similar formula, starting with line coach Reese Morgan and coordinator Phil Parker.

"I come to the sideline, let them know what I see out of the offensive line," defensive tackle Carl Davis said. "Certain plays, they might shift the backfield or if the running back is a certain depth, what play they might run.

"Coach Morgan will work me through my technique, and he'll probably relay that to coach Parker. Then we'll do something about it."

In a best-case scenario, the players take control.

"A lot of times, we don't even have to talk to coach Morgan," Davis said. "I talk to the rest of the defensive line about what I'm seeing.

"If we agree, we'll say, 'Let's do this.'''