Talking Offense with Ken O'Keefe

Iowa's offense ranked either last or next to last in the Big Ten in every major category last year. They experienced numerous injuries during the season and were also inexperienced at the offensive line and quarterback positions to start the season. The Hawks can only improve on last year's numbers, and Ken O'Keefe talked offense at Media Day

Q: What does Rick Stanzi bring to table?

Ken OKeefe: He has brought competition to the table, he has pushed Jake to the hilt especially coming out of spring ball, those guys were virtually neck and neck. Marvin McNutt has added to it as well, and a couple of freshmen will be trying to figure out what they are doing too. It's the competiti9on, I think at every position will help us improve the most at this stage. When you are being pushed and you are concerned about your job and doing as well as you can each rep and series in practice, that has a way of making you perform better.

Q: Did a lack of that competition one year ago at this time factor into things?

OKeefe: No. Not a bit. That was not an issue.

Q: Will Jake's confidence be helped with the entire offensive line coming back?

OKeefe: It's doing a lot for my confidence, too. Everyone, having those guys back. There are seven, eight guys that have a lot of experience up front. No one knows better than us here at Iowa what an offensive line means to an offense and what you can do with an offensive line that is good. We feel great about the progress those guys have made. Reese has done a great job with them from the beginning. A lot of young guys, without experience, were pushed into the lineup last year. They were trying to figure it out on the fly. Now, they have a better idea.

Q: What does Jake need to do better?

OKeefe: Execute. That is the bottom line. It's not just Jake, it's everyone that is in our offense, all 11 guys. That means doing our job the way it's supposed to be done, making the plays that are presented to us.

Q: You guys spread the field more last year. Is that a part of the game plan this year?

OKeefe: We are who we are. We will feature certain things and do certain things depending on the defense and what we see and what we think we can get them to do. You are not going to see wholesale changes by any means in how we are doing things.

Q: Are you surprised that a lot of offenses in this league are going to a spread look?

OKeefe: Not at all. Since the beginning of football, people have been looking for different ways to run the option, to use the run and shoot. There are a lot of different things that keep evolving. When you look back, and I think I have mentioned this before and I am not an expert on spreads, but it looks like when you saw it originally, everyone thought they were throwing offenses. That is not necessarily the case. Some schools have put together good zone run games out of it, similar to what we are doing but different. West Virginia is running almost a veer-option offense out of it. There are a lot of different things happening in the various ways. Florida's spread, and this is just one man's opinion, but looks more like what the single wing was way back when. How they involved their quarterback/halfback, back in that day. We talk about it all the time, things coming around in different cycle and you are seeing a lot of that right now in modern college football. I don't know if it will seep into the pro ranks at all. Another five years with quarterbacks all spread guys, maybe it will.

Q: If you could wave magic wand and bring in the right personnel, what kind of offense would you choose to run if you could start from scratch?

OKeefe: We are doing that. We are doing what we want to do. It's as simple as that. We are a pro-style attack, combination two back, one back, zone run game. We depend on being able to be efficient in the five step passing game, along with play action to be successful. We need to be a good play action team to move the ball the way that we have when we have been good.

Q: Will you use more two tight ends this year after the success of Brandon Myers?

OKeefe: Definitely. If you have seen us through the years, we have used more two tight end sets than most people. We always try to get tight ends on the field, because of the mismatches they cause because they force the defense to simplify what they are doing.

Q: How is Jake different now than he was at the end of last year?

OKeefe: Without playing in a game, I can't say. He is the same guy that he was; he works hard at what he does. He had a great summer. He became even a better leader during the off season than he had been previously. Now its competing and being consistent. Make the throws that are there, make them all the time. Consistency will be something he has to focus on. Without being consistent, its hard to execute.

Q: Jake went and worked out with Steve Deburg this spring. What do you think about that? Coach Ferentz said that you don't want too many guys teaching someone something.

OKeefe: I haven't thought a whole lot about it. I learn every day by turning on tape, talking to someone, read an article, visit with different people, whether they are high school coaches, pro coaches, other college coaches. You can learn from anyone. He is out trying to get better and improve himself and that only helps us.

Q: How much are mechanics addressed during the season when bullets are flying?

OKeefe: Mechanics, depending on where balls are going and how accurately we are throwing it, they do enter into things. We have been working hard on those things and always continue to do that. In teaching the passing game, you try to focus on the basic fundamentals as they are broken out individually. You can't coach everything, otherwise you end up paralyzing people. I just know that sometimes if you have too much information, or try to give someone too much information, they have a difficult time focusing on what they need to do better. When we are working on our drops, we are just working on our feet in hopes that that because automatic, something rhythmic that we can count on without even thinking about it. After we go from there, we may work on ball placement drills where all we are doing is throwing routes with just the receivers, not against DB's. Where is the ball supposed to be, the outside, or inside, those kinds of things. Then we will get to 7 on 7 or even before then, the reads. Then when you get ot the team, you are on the whole thing. Rarely would I coach all four things at one time

Q: This is Jake's 4th year in the program…he has to be thinking about mechanics when he goes to a quarterback camp

OKeefe: They all do. Every quarterback that I have ever known is concerned about becoming better mechanically. Part of that is because they are expected to do that. When you are in high school, you do what your coach tells you to do, exactly what you are told. Now you are a fourth year guy in college, you need to be thinking about things that you know yourself, that you have to work on and would like to improve upon as well, not just what I give them. They do what we want them to do, plus a guy like Jake, Stanzi, McNutt, they will do more. They are all looking for ways to gain an edge. They are in a competition during preseason and the opponent in season.

Q: Some programs have quarterbacks coaches, and offensive coordinator as different people. Does it work to do both jobs? Does Iowa need to have separation?

OKeefe: Are you asking me to coach a different position? I have been doing it for 10 years. I am comfortable with doing both. Is that the question? I am not sure where you are coming from. You can say what you want or ask what you want, but that has me confused a little bit there. I don't think we would be coaching a position if we didn't feel comfortable coaching it.

Q: When he goes to a camp, maybe he doesn't feel like he is getting enough of that, or feel good about it.

OKeefe: I guess you will have to ask him those kinds of things. I think it might be said a different way. You look into it way more than I have and probably that he has in a lot o ways. There are a lot of ways to describe it. One key thing with another set of eyes, might be something that is different. I am not the kind of guy that will analyze every inch of the whole thing. For a lot of guys, it is a paralyzing problem.


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