Mad Town: Iowa's Offensive Philosophy

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RetroHawk's picture

Even when we run against good teams with good defenses we end up having to pass more than KF likes.....sooooo, why not just run less and pass more?  I'm tired of small margin victories in low scoring defensive struggles (although I would have taken at least one this year).  Also, what four star kid coming out of high school wants to play for a team that averages 13.7 points per game?

RetroHawk

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Chuck Long Duk Dong's picture

what four star kid coming out of high school wants to play for a team that averages 13.7 points per game?

NFL prospects should, in theory, want to play in a pro-style offense. 

no more yankey Chuck's wankey

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Hammerfield's picture

I would counter that what Iowa runs is no longer a pro-style offense. Though it might still be called "pro-style," watch some NFL this weekend and tell me it looks the same as what Iowa runs. More and more NFL teams are going the RPO route, or at least the pro-spread. Unfortunately Kirk continues to live in the past, bury his head in the sand and depend on his defense to a ridiculous degree, even with more talented skill position players this year. God help us if/when Phil Parker decides to move on.

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HoustonHawkeye's picture

It's not really a pro-style offense, and when you're having such weekly/annually low outputs of production/points, there's not much to showcase outside of OL and TE's.

I strongly prefer winning over losing.

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StretchLeft's picture

Exactly. And this is why the NFL is full of Iowa OL and TE. Other offensive players.......not so much

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Hammerfield's picture

This comment got me interested in the actual breakdown of current Hawks on NFL rosters (http://www.espn.com/nfl/college/_/letter/i):

Offense: QB-1 / C-3 / G-3 / OT-3 / TE-3 / Total of 13 Offensive players

Defense: DE-1 / DT-2 / LB-5 / S-3 / CB-3 / Total of 14 Defensive players

Special Teams: LS-1

Pretty surprising there are currently zero RB's in the NFL for a run-first team like Iowa. Not surprising there are no WR's.

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StretchLeft's picture

I'm generally surprised by the 5 LBs. I think all most of those guys have had to fight to stay in the league. Who was even the highest draft pick among that group? Hitchens and Kirksey have been solid NFL'ers since they showed up and were generally expected to. Jewel and Nieman have had to earn their spot every week. Who is the 5th? Does Anthony Nelson count as a LB?

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John Dumb Blog's picture

Iowa's not a run heavy team. They are generally a balanced offense.
I think the failures in the run game are multifactorial. The blocking hasn't been good enough but the talent at RB has often been marginal. There are times where the line is effective and too often the RBs only get what the line blocked for. Iowa has faced a number of big time NFL caliber backs in the last decade without having one of their own. I honestly think Wadley could make a roster but he isn't Saquon Barkley, or Tevin Coleman, or LeVeon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, David Montgomery, Monte Ball. Iowa's running backs simply aren't as good as a lot of other big 10 teams.

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HoustonHawkeye's picture

Nicely done.  But until KF's done, nothing will change in Iowa City.

I strongly prefer winning over losing.

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RetroHawk's picture

And when BF takes over? Whatever is to become of our offense (and Defense too as my guess is that PP bolts).....

RetroHawk

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Vanilla Gorilla's picture

We are all pawns in Kirk’s ball position game.  

Celebrating horizontal football since 2011

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rosko-p's picture

Speak for yourself. Let's not get off on time of possession puns.

Wiscillinowa Native

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imadirtyoldman's picture

I posted this very same theory. Ferentz is today's Bobby Knight. Wonderful coach who's theories have passed him by. Move on before the program itself dies, like Indiana basketball.

But what if you know a Stacy, and her Mom's a fucking troll?

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ncthawk's picture

That is a great analogy. In Knight's last three years at Indiana he got bounced out of the first round of the tourney each year.

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Koralakers's picture

Well said!  Been saying that for years and years myself. Sadly, that old dog ain’t capable of new tricks. 

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Hayden High Kick's picture

The thing is, everybody pretty much runs the same plays. There’s only so many different routes a receiver can run, etc. It’s all about how you disguise what you’re going to run before the snap. He doesn’t need to throw the ball 45 times/game. He can still run a balanced slow tempo offense if he wants. But he needs to disguise what the next play is to give the offense a chance to be more efficient. And he needs to put his foot on the gas anytime the O is inside the opponent’s 40 yard line. 

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houksyndrome's picture

1Ferentz's strategy would work if (IF!) we excelled at running the ball.  Wisconsin has been making a very similar strategy (if anything their passing game is even worse than ours, most years) work for a very long time.  How are they able to do this?  A consistently outstanding running game.  Despite how much our coaching staff loves offensive line play and how much they and the media talk about our offensive line play, we rarely have an excellent running game.

Neil Peart stands alone

Here, have some of these smelling salts.

Chuck Long Duk Dong's picture

so what does Wisconsin do differently, besides get much better backs?

no more yankey Chuck's wankey

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chitownhawkeye's picture

Much better line play, and more coherent play calling

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FUBAR's picture

Uhm, coach the offensive linemen properly. Compared to Wisconsin, OSU and Penn State, our o-lines have looked weak, confused and downright below average for some time in the run game. Pass pro has been ok. You don't need great running backs to get 4-5 yds a tote. Emmitt Smith is the all-time yardage leader in the pros. He should be - his o-lines were awesome. He's a solid RB but nothing special. Barry Sanders with Emmit's line.... he woulda cracked 20,000 yds sleepwalking. We've been shit since 2009 because our run game sucks and that is what is needed in this system to be successful. We could win with this system just like UW, we have, but our run blocking is atrocious.

F.erentz U.B.er Alles, R.ight?

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Beltway Hawk's picture

rec for Emmitt hate. Payton forever!

"There is no reason in the world why we shouldn't fight for the preservation of a chance to live freely, no reason why we shouldn't suffer to uphold that which we want to endure." -Nile Kinnick

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ChiHawki's picture

Edit: page was stale
Huge OL with a less complicated blocking scheme vs athletic OL with a scheme that can be solid with all the right pieces and experience but exposed to more risk due to those dependencies.

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houksyndrome's picture

Thank you for saying this!  For years I have been under the suspicion that the zone is a very hard blocking scheme to properly execute.

Neil Peart stands alone

Here, have some of these smelling salts.

IowaPharmer's picture

Doc and Mas Casa have said this is the case as well. Seems to make sense to me as well. When not done properly, it leads to disaster. Which is what we’ve seen for a few years now, I’d say. Nonetheless this is the line Iowa recruits for and Doylizes. I think the line either needs better coaching or better execution and I think they’re one in the same. You decide where it begins. 

"I know what I'm suggesting." -therealCatnuts

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ChiHawki's picture

Or help through looks, or a new scheme.

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HoustonHawkeye's picture

Yes, zone blocking has to be done fairly perfectly every time for it to hopefully be successful, as RB's still have to make the correct reads and cuts.  However, it only takes one defender to blow up a zone-blocked play, while often takes multiple players/breakdowns to blow up a power-driven scheme. 

When KF talks about execution, he ain't kidding - but depending upon a system shown to be ineffective for so long is foolhardy and would be questioned hard and repeatedly at many other schools - just not Iowa.

I strongly prefer winning over losing.

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StretchLeft's picture

Injuries and inexperience seem to affect the interior more than the tackles in Iowa's scheme to my untrained eye. Does that make sense to anyone who knows Xs and Os?

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rockyh's picture

The difference is in S&C philosophy, itself derived from offensive philosophy.

Iowa, because of its dedication to zone running, prefers to keep its linemen on the "lighter" side.  Doyle emphasizes explosive strength, and maintaining a balance of speed, power, and size.  The average Iowa starting lineman is going to be in the 6'5" 290# range.  A note from draftniks on almost every single one of our OL who have been drafted: "Has room to put on weight."  Our linemen consistently perform near the bottom of the NFL combine bench test (how many times can you lift two plates), because they do not emphasize muscular endurance in the Iowa S&C program, but rather explosive strength and quick-twitch fiber recruitment.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, has an absolute dedication to running, with zone included, but primarily focused on traditional gap blocking.  Their S&C program is geared towards packing on weight and maximization of any muscle that can be worked, quick-twitch or otherwise, in addition to not caring as much about body composition.  It is rare to have a Badger starting lineman under 310 lbs, and more often than not they are in the 320-330# range.  The difference in strength and how it is expressed is slight but present (Wisconsin linemen usually get out 20+ bench reps at the combine whereas Iowa linemen usually cap out in the high teens), but more notable is that opposing defensive linemen have more difficulty moving the LoS and breaking blocks, simply because of the additional mass of their opponent.  While Wisconsin OL may not be as mobile as Iowa linemen, their immobility also helps them better establish position and make room for a running back in a traditional blocking scheme

Add to that the fact that Wisconsin always has a stable of great running backs and you have a recipe for success on the ground.

TL;DR: it's because we are so damned focused on zone running and Chris Doyle's S&C program reflects that, while Wisconsin develops their guys to be as beefy as possible, and Wisconsin recruits RBs better (chicken/egg).

"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull." - W.C. Fields

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RetroHawk's picture

We really haven't had an excellent running game since Shon Greene.  There have been some good running tandems since them but, Greene was money when you handed him the ball.

RetroHawk

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DonnyDonovan's picture

Based on what Iowa does, just the idea of adding a truly mobile QB would work wonders.  It would give the defense something else they have to take into account.  Part of Stanley's issue is that he is an absolute statue.  2015 Beathard, especially pre-injury, could really move.  Stanzi could move a bit.  Banks obviously had that aspect to his game.  Tate scrambled around a lot and made plays on 3rd down.  Modern football is different with mobile QBs.  Lamar Jackson is tearing up the NFL (I'm not suggesting Iowa could get the next LJ, just an example).  The idea of the pure drop-back pocket passer isn't always so effective but like so many things, KF can't get past his idea of the one way QB should be played.    

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ChiHawki's picture

Love this point but...

What if Brian is chasing a Brady? And mobile is out.

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scratch where it itches's picture

Everything old becomes new again. If we fans can hang on through KF’s next 2-3 contract extensions, football will come back around stylistically to what KF does best and Iowa will stand out for a decade or so. Hopefully by 2035 or so Iowa will be back on top of the B1G West when the spread/RPO have become passé. 

Pig shit you say? Smells like $7 Billion to me.

Also, fire Gary Barta.

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Hawkeye82's picture

If KF ever does change his ways on offense, I have to admit I am gonna miss fullbacks.  On the bright side, hell will have frozen over.

Just scratchin' where it itches

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FUBAR's picture

Yeah, FBs kick ass. I still shake my head thinking back to the 16 Rose Bowl and how we went away from utilizing them. Dance with the one that brung ya!

F.erentz U.B.er Alles, R.ight?

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Hammerfield's picture

I don't think improperly utilizing the FB's was the difference in the 2016 Rose Bowl...

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rockyh's picture

I miss having fullbacks who were as athletic as all the other guys on the field.  I don't mind the mini-OL guys developed from walk-on linebackers, but where are all the Jeremy Allen types?

The 2001 offense was absolutely dynamic, one of the best in the KF era, and a big part of that was because we didn't completely waste one entire backfield position.  Allen was constantly receiving in the flat, getting handoffs and pitches and screens, etc. in addition to being a great lead blocker.  Sometimes he was the only running back in the formation, and was great in pass pro and decent running.

It was why I was so adamant that Mark Weisman would have made a better "fullback"... in that mould... than he did being utilized as if he were a pure running back.  He could have done all the things he did from the RB position, getting handoffs and screens and short-yardage calls, but was also a talented blocker who could have led the way for Jordan Canzeri or Greg Garmon or Barkley Hill or Damon Bullock or Akrum Wadley or Leshun Daniels or Jonathan Parker or Mikall McCall any of the other guys who warmed the bench and/or transferred out while waiting in line, rather than putting... someone?... out there lead blocking for Weisman.  He should have been used more like Mike Alstott... put Warrick Dunn in there too, rather than giving a good running back 10 snaps a game.  We did alright with guys like Tom Busch and Edgar Cervantes, who were productive on offense.  But if we're going to use a fullback, they need to be capable of contributing touches and yards, and our schemes need to use them as such, not just as an extra blocker, is what I'm saying.

"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull." - W.C. Fields

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ChiHawki's picture

This is my frequent jealous of Wis post - they actually properly utilize the FB beyond blocking, a true constraint on the D schemes. Well said.

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chitownhawkeye's picture

I don't remember if I said this here or another site, but I'm constantly frustrated by Kirk's defense (Norm and Phil) working on the philosophy that you keep the offense in front you you, and at this level, most teams can't string together a 12-15 play drive to march down the field.

And then he turns around and asks the offense to do just that.

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HoyaGoon's picture

TBF, apparently we are not actually asking the offense to score, just run 12-15 plays.

Just another garbage commenter spreading my *sshole all over the internet.

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John Dumb Blog's picture

I think Iowa is trying to be too many things. A lot of the most successful offenses in college football are deceptively simple. Teams run the same plays over and over again. The key is that they change the look and the plays key off one another.
To me Iowa feels like they are trying to do a little bit of everything. Some weeks Iowa runs jet sweep action. Sometimes they don't.
In this Wisconsin game Iowa seemed to have a plan to run Young early and it was moderately effective, but then they abandoned that plan. They ran a bootleg early that worked but I don't think they went back to that the rest of the game. Against Purdue they seemed enamored with these short passes to the WRs. Against Michigan they kept running empty sets. I liked the adjustment of putting TEs in the backfield that they used against Purdue but that didn't seem to carry over to Wisconsin. The screen game seems very sporadic.
I think things should be simpler.

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