There is more change going in to this Iowa football season than there has been since Kirk Ferentz was originally hired. New coordinators, faster recruiting pace, blitzing, iPads, etc... And the latest example is the second open practice that's going to be held this weekend. What has me most interested though, is the new Hawkeye offense under Greg Davis.
We've had a couple of glimpses of the offense, and to my untrained eye it hasn't looked all that different. It's a lot of the same formations, and the running game is practically identical. There were a couple of things I haven't seen before, or in a long time...a jet sweep by Keenan Davis shown in the BTN special, and a reverse by Jordan Cotton that came off of a zone read look on Kids Day. Other than that it is mostly the routes and the reads in the passing game that are different (and I'm not savvy enough to notice).
What I think is particularly interesting though, is the way Iowa may try to create mismatches this year. I think it is going to be done using some of the versatile players on offense, and moving them around the field. I've written about this already with Brad Rogers being capable of playing fullback or running back (and it looks like Mark Weisman can do the same). Iowa has done this sort of thing before and we saw it a little last year. In the bowl game Iowa used a formation where the TEs lined up wide and the receivers were in the slot. And, throughout the year Iowa had a 5-wide formation that used a TE and RB in either slot.
I saw more of that on Saturday. Damon Bullock lined up out wide a number of times. Mark Wiesman played both fullback and running back. And the tight ends were used in the slot fairly often. The first team ran 5-wide a few times and both Bullock and Fiedorowicz were in there.
The versatility should allow Iowa to run a lot of different formations with the same personnel. Iowa could have 2 TEs, a FB, a RB, and a WR. With this group they could easily switch between a power running formation with both TE in tight and the FB a lead blocker to a passing formation with Bullock out wide, the TEs in the slow and the FB as the lone back.
This should go hand and hand with the faster tempo that Greg Davis has been talking about, especially if Iowa uses more no-huddle. Iowa could go between their multiple looks from the same personnel and not allow the defense time to substitute. And the no-huddle is not that unrealistic. Greg Davis has mentioned it multiple times and it was one of the things that he and Ferentz talked about during the interview process. Brian Ferentz has also been hinting at it on Twitter. Plus we've seen it practiced quite a bit in each of the open practices. It's not going to be all no-huddle all he time, but it's going to be there.
An article posted on MGoBlog yesterday got me thinking even more the potential for mismatches using Iowa's versatile personnel. From the post:
Defensive coaches tend to match their personnel to the types of players on the field for the offense, NOT the formation. In general the number of backs and tight ends will be matched by linebackers, and the more that come out for receivers the more DBs the defense will send out.
I wish I had these number for the Hawkeyes, but it'll suffice to use Michigan's since most of the opponents are the same. If you look at the Michigan's B1G opponents, most of them stayed right around an average of 4 DBs per play. Nebraska and Ohio State were a little more likely to go with a nickel.
So Iowa can stay with its 2 TEs and keep the defensive in it's base 4-3, but then run 3 and 4 WR type formations. It'll be especially fun if Iowa can get some 5-9, 180 lb. DB trying to cover C.J. Fiedorowicz. As Greg Davis said in the spring, sometimes he's open even when he's covered.
Or if they choose to err on the other side and go to a nickel, then Iowa should be able to pound the ball.
It seems perfect, right? Yeah. Of course though, defenses have a lot of versatile players too. Hybrid players are all the rage these days...linebackers who are more like safeties, defensive ends who are more like linebackers, etc...
Maybe this Saturday we'll get an even better picture of how the offense plans to create mismatches, but we probably won't know for sure until the B1G season comes around and the offense is fully installed. But like I said, I'm really interested to see how it goes.