Howe: No-Huddle Muddle

One of the main topics coming out of spring practice was Iowa's no-huddle look on offense. There seems to be some confusion as to how much of it we will see. The head coach is not thrilled with it. The coordinator thinks it's a must. Are they on the same page?

Iowa CITY, Iowa - Kirk Ferentz would have fit in well when players wore leather helmets. He longs for a simpler time.

Iowa's coach knows the good old days are gone, however. He's accepting change.

"I do bristle at the notion that we are archaic or that our head coach is," Iowa Offensive Line Coach Brian Ferentz recently said of his father, Kirk, the head honcho. "He's got an iPhone and he's got an iPad."

This is a man who not long ago made fun of texting. He's continued cracking jokes about Twitter and that's unlikely to change.

"(Social Media is) unique to every person," Brian said. "I really think if you saw our head coach on Twitter or doing those kinds of things, those aren't in his personality."

While it's easy to understand Kirk's preference of speaking with someone instead of sending a text, it's comforting to see him connecting with the younger generation (recruits and his players) in the ways that they operate. There's something to the statement that you can't fight progress, even if you don't believe that it is an improvement.

Kirk also is transitioning on the field. With six new assistants joining the program in the last two off-seasons, fresh ideas are floating around and some are showing up in practice.

Iowa looked different during its end of April spring game. The defense utilized blitzes, rotated more linemen and employed extra defensive backs on passing downs more than it had in the past. Those changes were a few years in the making.

The biggest departure from the Kirk philosophy showed up on offense, though. The Hawkeyes ran a no-huddle attack almost exclusively. It excited the fans and the players before the head coach applied the brakes to the euphoria in his post-game press conference.

"We may use more of it, we may not," Kirk said. "We'll see what it looks like. There have been times this spring where we said no way. It looks terrible. But we kind of anticipated that going in."

The coach did not sound like a man ready to abandon the huddle and a deliberate pace.

"At the end of the day, hopefully after 15 (spring practices) we're better for it," Kirk said. "Although, again, there have been times when it doesn't look so good. I have to be honest with you there. In fact, it looked awful at times. But at least I think we're getting better."

Those comments became more interesting less than a week later. Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis said at an I-Club event on Wednesday that the no-huddle approach would be prominent this season. He told Hawk Central that there's an ability to huddle up "at times."

It sure doesn't seem like the head coach and his coordinator are on the same page. And that's a bit scary after last year's train wreck produced a Big-Ten low 22 touchdowns.

Perhaps semantics are playing a role in their views. Kirk isn't saying the no-huddle is out. Davis isn't implying it will be exclusive. And maybe they're both exaggerating their thoughts. Perhaps they're running a verbal shell game, keeping the opponents guessing until the first snap.

Unlikely.

What we saw at the spring game is what Davis likes to do. It's a fast-tempo attack designed to wear out a defense and get it on its heals.

That's great. But it better work. Otherwise, you're speeding up your three-and-outs and debilitating your own defense.

Davis would be asking a first-year starting quarterback to run the no-huddle. One might wonder if that's wise after seeing how the offense boggled the mind and bogged down senior James Vandenberg a year ago.

"I don't know if (the no-huddle) helps the quarterbacks," Ferentz said. "It maybe puts more pressure on them even."

Davis feels that the potential for mistakes in the hurry-up attack by a new quarterback is worth the tradeoff of having more opportunities to succeed.

"One of the things we felt, after evaluating all kinds of things in the offseason, was we needed more snaps," Hawk Central reported Davis saying at the I-club function.

A chance at more plays can be a good thing provided you capitalize. It makes sense that Davis wants to gamble on that happening. For Ferentz, he's got to consider two other phases of the game and how it might affect them.

All of these off-season ideas add intrigue to an already interesting upcoming campaign. In many ways, Kirk is coaching for his legacy with Davis sharing the controls.

It's hard to imagine Kirk stepping aside and allowing Davis complete autonomy based on last fall's results. The head coach must figure out how much to loosen the reigns on his coordinator, who could end up feeling his hands are tied, at least to a point.

A power struggle could surface. They usually don't end well.

The Ferentz-Davis honeymoon finished last season. They must find a way to make this marriage work. If not, it could be another frustrating fall in Iowa City.


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