Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz provides update on quarterbacks, Tyrone Tracy Jr.
Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz on Wednesday recalled two plays from last Saturday's game against Minnesota that illustrated the inconsistency in the Hawkeyes' rush offense this season.
On the first play of the game, the Hawkeyes perfectly executed a run play that sprung running back Tyler Goodson ahead for 12 yards. They came back to that play later on and, according to Ferentz, they were off "a quarter inch" in a few spots and the play netted only four yards.
Success on offense is about consistent execution. Ferentz said the most frustrating part about diagnosing the run game is there isn't one, constant problem. Each unit, from offensive line to the backfield to his own play-calling, haven't always been aligned. What's the remedy? More experience, better play-calling and better execution.
Ferentz shouldered the blamed for the lulls in the rush offense and overall lack of identity in games against Purdue and Wisconsin. Implementing more play-action and jet-sweep action has been an adjustment since, and it's worked well with now-starting quarterback Alex Padilla.
Despite only 71 rushing yards against Minnesota, the offense averaged its most yards per play in a game this season (5.7) and had several scoring drives that spanned the length of the field.
Iowa's offense will face another stiff challenge Saturday when Illinois comes to Kinnick Stadium. In seven conference games this season, the Fighting Illini rank third in scoring defense (17.6 points per game).
Here are four takeaways from Ferentz's conversations with reporters on Wednesday:
No decision at quarterback yet
On Tuesday, head coach Kirk Ferentz said quarterback Spencer Petras had a few strong days of practice and is nearing full health. Brian Ferentz doubled down on those sentiments and provided an update on where the situation stood as of Wednesday:
"It makes it challenging. Equity is important," Ferentz said. "But so is immediate production. When you're looking at the body of work and the immediacy, I think you have to go with what you're seeing right now. With that being said, no final decisions have been made. We'll probably talk about it this afternoon and finalize things as we move closer to Saturday. We feel confident in both of these guys."
Ferentz praised how Padilla has handled the offense since the Northwestern game and most important, the game planning between Padilla and Petras hasn't differed much. The Hawkeyes can still operate the way they want to.
"His command of the offense is very good," Brian Ferentz said of Padilla. "If you didn't have that going to the second (string) guy, then you have to make serious adjustments. When you're talking physically, certainly Alex moves a little better. He's definitely comfortable throwing on the run and I thought you saw that early in the last game."
What about Tyrone Tracy Jr.?
It's been a frustrating year for junior wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. A projected major piece in Iowa's offensive plans this year, Tracy has only 15 catches for 106 yards. He played his lowest number of snaps (16) against Minnesota and on Monday was listed as a second-team receiver for the first time this year.
Tracy voiced his frustration on Twitter on Sunday, tweeting, “Why have a Swiss Army knife and NOT use it to its full potential!!.” He later deleted the tweet.
Kirk Ferentz addressed the tweet on Tuesday: "I think that's a young guy who wants to help the football team. I think it's his way of expressing it. It's kind of the way people express things nowadays, I've been told. I'm not going to try to understand that part of it, but I'm not that interested in understanding it either."
Brian Ferentz echoed those comments on Wednesday. He kept the details of his conversations with Tracy Jr. private but said that more than anything he wants to express empathy for him right now.
"I think there's no question that Tyrone wants to help the football team," Ferentz said. "When I'm dealing with a player who's frustrated and rightfully so, I try to empathize and see where he's coming from. Do I take offense or am I upset? Absolutely not. Tyrone's been a valued member of this team for a long time and he's made a lot of plays and I expect that to continue. What transpires and spills out on social media has no consequence to me, to be honest."
Coaches can't take credit for Tyler Linderbaum
One constant on Iowa's offense this season has been center Tyler Linderbaum. The junior is receiving national acclaim weekly and appears to be a lock for All-America honors and numerous award selections.
Brian Ferentz has been around many great Hawkeye offensive linemen since joining the staff with 2012. And like the ones before Linderbaum, he won't take any credit.
"All credit belongs with Tyler and his family and how they raised him," Ferentz said. "He's absolutely in the (Brandon Scherff), (Robert Gallery) conversation. When you look at guys like that, it's not about the football talent and how they play, which is ferocious, or how they prepare. What puts Tyler in that category is the kind of teammate and person he is, he comes in every day with a humility and wanting to be great. That's the highest compliment you can pay any player."
Linderbaum won't participate in senior day activities on Saturday despite being a fourth-year player academically. He brushed off questions about the 2022 NFL Draft, where he's a projected high first-round pick, instead focusing on this Hawkeye team. That in itself is another reason why Brian Ferentz sees Linderbaum following in the footsteps of past great Hawkeye linemen who've had successful professional careers.
"The thing I appreciate about him is I don't think he's losing focus on improving and playing better Saturday against Illinois," Brian Ferentz said. "I really think that's where his focus lies all the time, which is a trick and harder than it looks."
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.