IOWA CITY — Offensive line coach Brian Ferentz took over as Iowa’s run game coordinator this offseason, and Iowa’s players rave about its efficiency.
“It’s just smoother, a better transition,” running back LeShun Daniels said. “I feel like it’s just easier for the offensive line to make the simple stuff so we can go out and make plays.”
The players wouldn’t give away any secrets, and they describe the changes as subtle. Mostly, it’s each position becoming more aware of what the other is thinking and observing.
“We just put a lot of emphasis on everybody knowing more than one thing, not just focusing on your own position,” running back Jordan Canzeri said. “On running backs, we’re not focusing on just the fact of who we’re reading in the hole, we want to know what the defense is running, the front that they have, how those safeties are rotating. ... Just that you have the whole spectrum of what’s going on rather than being single-minded and focusing on one thing.”
“I think getting guys to understand the big picture and not to be tunnel vision, understanding what we’re thinking as offensive linemen and what they’re thinking as running backs,” center Austin Blythe said. “It’s been nice, it’s been good. We definitely see a change.”
In the spring, head coach Kirk Ferentz characterized the move as nothing more than a title change. But Brian Ferentz was a captain for the football team that twice ran for more than 4.8 yards per carry. Over the last six years, three times Iowa has averaged fewer than 4.0 yards per attempt. Running with more efficiency is vital toward Iowa’s success.
Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday the goal of adding a run game coordinator was to provide more clarity for everyone involved in the running game. That seems to be the case.
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“I think definitely for the running backs knowing where certain holes are going to be, blocking schemes of certain running plays so they’re not just running blindly looking for holes and they know where cutbacks are going to be,” quarterback C.J. Beathard said.
“It helps us as running backs if we know what the offensive line is doing plus with our reads and stuff like that,” Daniels said. “It can allow us to make bigger runs and convert the tough yards.”
At least two true freshmen are slated to play this Saturday against Illinois State, Kirk Ferentz said. Wide receiver Jerminic Smith, who hails from Garland, Texas, is listed as a second-team split end behind Tevaun Smith. Guard James Daniels, brother of LeShun Daniels, is a second-team left guard behind sophomore Sean Welsh.
Ferentz said a few more could play as well.
“A lot of the guys have been here, most of the guys have been here since June and had a chance to watch them train, but that’s not really like playing football,” Ferentz said. “(Daniels has) really just kind of handled the transition with ease, if you will.”
James Daniels was a dean’s list student during the spring semester, when he enrolled early at Iowa.
“He’s a real good kid,” LeShun Daniels said. “Obviously with him being my brother I’ve tried to show him the ropes of being prepared in the classroom and on the football field. But he’s done a real good job to set himself up to have a successful career here.”
Former Iowa linebacker Reggie Spearman transferred following the TaxSlayer Bowl and coincidentally ended up at Illinois State, the Hawkeyes’ opponent this Saturday. Spearman lists as a second-team strongside linebacker.
“He’s behind a little bit from the structural standpoint,” Illinois State Coach Brock Spack said. “He’s starting to learn our system, and the guys in front of him have a real good understanding. They’ve been here three years, which is a huge advantage.
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“Reggie’s doing a good job. We’re playing him at several positions, a little bit different from where they were playing him at Iowa. We’re cross-training him as a pass rusher as well. He has nice length and is a good athlete and a smart guy.”
Spearman started seven games and played in 11 games last year. He registered 39 tackles, including two for loss and one sack. Spearman had 10 tackles as a true freshman in 2013.
“We were pretty close while he was here,” LeShun Daniels said. “Obviously since he transferred I haven’t talked to him as much. We were good buddies here and stuff and I’m excited to see what he does on the field.”
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