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April 23, 2014

Greg Davis

GREG DAVIS:¬† Well, I think there's a couple of things you always want to get done in spring training and one is get your base offense in or defense or whatever.¬† The second thing is, you want to look at different things that you saw in the off‑season, things that you don't think may be appropriate to implement to what you do.¬† And the third thing is about spring training is you want to look at young kids.
So after 12 practices, we feel like we have got the base offense in.  We feel like we have looked at a few things that were slightly different than what we did in the past and we have got a good look at some of the young guys.
So we feel like it's been a good spring.  We've stayed healthy.  Kids have worked hard, so I feel like if we get through the next three days healthy, we'll get a lot accomplished this spring.

Q.  Is C.J. closer to Jake now than he was at this time last year or could you even make that comparison?
GREG DAVIS:  We are real pleased with C.J.  He's doing a good job.  But we are real pleased with Jake, too.  Jake is an extremely bright guy, is gifted.  He's healthy again.  He's running around, making plays.  So you know, I just feel fortunate that we have two quarterbacks that we feel like can go in and play.

Q.  So your idea as far as running quarterback with these guys, is still enough to aggravate the defense; am I right on that?
GREG DAVIS:  Sure.  We would like for those guys to be in big skin (ph) plays.  We would like those guys to be able to run some quarterback draw.  We have the zone read as part of our big package but it's not something that we focus on.
But we do want them to be able to, you know, break, contain and go make plays with their feet because those are plays that the defense can't account for.

Q.  Does one distinguish himself over the other in that regard?  I think they are both similar.
GREG DAVIS:¬† Yeah, they are.¬† C.J. is probably a little quicker right‑to‑left.¬† If you ran him in a 40, they would probably run pretty close to the same time.
When Jake was healthy, the Michigan‑‑ there's a Michigan play that comes to mind on third down, he breaks out and makes 20 yards, and you know, he was able to give us all those things.¬† C.J. is a little shiftier and you know, if they played tag, C.J. would probably win.

Q.  Is there enough there to give C.J. a series here and there in games?
GREG DAVIS:  It's something that we have discussed as an offensive staff.  You know, we will continue to look at as to is that something we want to implement next year.

Q.¬† Are you still determined to run more plays?¬† You increased the number last year from the year before.¬† Where is that on your to‑do list?
GREG DAVIS:  It's something that we want to continue to get better at.  I think we jumped last year about eight plays a ballgame or somewhere in that area.  We can function totally without a huddle now, even though we can huddle if we choose to.  And we have picked the tempo up.
It's been a little bit of a process because we play with so many different personnel groupings.  When you play with one personnel grouping a lot, it's real easy to play tempo football.
So we have tried to modify it to fit 21 personnel, 12 personnel, 22, to fit a bunch of different personnel groupings.  At the same time we don't want to get away from allowing our quarterback some time at the line of scrimmage to get us in and out of good plays.
There's an advantage to playing tempo that everybody is aware of, but there's also a disadvantage into sometimes you run plays into looks that you probably wouldn't if your quarterback was up there making decisions at the line of scrimmage for you.

Q.  Last season, the big question was, quarterback slot, and now that seems pretty settled and you have a couple guys with experience.  What's the big question now going into next season offensively?
GREG DAVIS:  The offensive line is an area where we lost, you know, two really good players, Brett Van Sloten and Connor Bofelli.  So the depth there is a concern.  I think the first group has come along pretty well this spring.  But we are real concerned about the depth and the offensive line.

Q.¬† Last year you look at the incoming wide receivers and all their talent and the times you want to use it but you decided to redshirt them.¬† What have you seen out of them since they have taken‑‑ since now they have been able to compete for playing time?
GREG DAVIS:  Two guys have really kind of stepped closer to the fray, if you will.  Not that we are not pleased with some of the progress that all of them have made.
But Derrick Willies has really had a good spring.  He's getting more confidence.  He had a big day down at Valley and that really kind of carried over to since we left there and so he's playing with a lot more confidence.  So we're very pleased with what he's done.
Matt VandeBerg will be the other, although he did play some as a true freshman, he has really stepped up and he's a guy that‑‑ Matt is a guy that can play more than one spot.¬† When you're playing with tempo, and for the receivers to play in the run and the pass game, the way you want, you have to rotate some players in there.
Andre Harris has flashed and done some things, as well as Derrick Mitchell and hopefully with the next three days and then fall camp, they may be in a position, but Derrick has been a real‑‑ has had a really good spring for us.

Q.¬† So the competition is much greater than when you walked into‑‑
GREG DAVIS:  Much greater.

Q.¬† Do you feel that the holdover guys like Jacob Hillyer and Tevaun Smith ‑‑ do you feel like they have taken similar strides?
GREG DAVIS:¬† Yeah, well, Bobby Kennedy, first of all has done a great job.¬† He's come in and he's kind of re‑energized that group, and he's brought the young kids along.¬† Tevaun Smith has had a really good spring and is playing at a very high level.¬† Kevonte, everybody, you kind of know what he's going to be, and even though he hasn't practiced the last couple days with a groin, it's not a big deal.¬† I mean, he'll be there.
Jacob Hillyer is kind of like a‑‑ I feel like him, kind of Linus's blanket, a real security.¬† He will block‑‑ he attacks the ball with his hands and so we're real pleased with where he's at.
And I didn't mention Damond Powell.  Damond is a guy that has gotten better and is learning, is continuing to learn and hopefully he'll be able to play a little bigger role next year.

Q.  Last season you ran the ball about 60 percent of the time, as it worked out, you do have pretty good depth at running back, how do you fit that in with trying to work in all these new receivers to get in the offensive game?
GREG DAVIS:  We also have good tight ends.  So, you know, from a philosophical standpoint, if it was a perfect number at the end of the year, it would probably be somewhere around 55 run, 45 pass.  Every game is different.  You know, we'll continue to try to be a team that as we grow, especially in the passing game, that can beat you either way.
But back to the original question is, you know, regardless of what formation or personnel grouping we're in, we just want the best receivers, whether or not it's two of them out there or three of them out there; or if it's two tight ends or one tight end or three tight ends, we are just going to try to continue to play to what we feel like our strength is at.

Q.  Can you talk about some of the new wrinkles you put in?
GREG DAVIS:  Well, I mean, we were looking at a few things in the run game.  We have been and Iowa has always been a team that could run the zone real well, the inside zone and outside zone.  We have implemented a little more gap speed into the zone and the slant play.
So that was an area that we wanted to look into.  We are doing a few different things in the passing game in terms of route concepts and things like that.  Spent a lot of time in the red zone this spring.  We feel like that was an area that we had nine first and goals at three or less, we scored nine touchdowns.  We had nine first and goals at the seven to the nine, and we scored five touchdowns, and that's not good enough.
We spent a lot of time, first down at the seven, eight or nine this spring working on the best possible way to get the ball in the end zone.

Q.  You talked about how C.J. might differentiate himself from Jake as far as running and playing tag and that kind of thing.  What keeps Jake No.1 right now?
GREG DAVIS:  Well, first of all, he has a great understanding of everything that's going on.  Nothing rattles him.  He handles himself like a quarterback.  And he could make all the throws.  He's just got more experience.
And so, you know, the No. 2 quarterback is the most popular guy on any campus, or any NFL team in the country.  And we are very pleased with C.J.  But, you know, we feel like at this point, Jake is definitely the guy.

Q.¬† With the tight end group now, do you still envision yourself using more of the 13 personnel and if so how would you describe‑‑ inaudible‑‑
GREG DAVIS:  Yeah, the 13 personnel is something that we feel like gives the defense some problems in terms of lining up where pass strength is, where run strength is.  And last year, we felt very comfortable putting that personnel grouping on the field.  And we have still got it and we are still using it some.
And then it will kind of come in and out, depending on what you're doing.  The good thing that we could do last year, we could put 13 personnel on the field, and be an empty formation.  And we felt like that was one of the things that we probably should have done more of quite honestly is to put that grouping on the field and play empty formation out of it.  The more things that the tight ends can do and feel comfortable doing, the more that personnel grouping can be a part.
You mentioned Henry has done a really good job.¬† Henry has great ball skills and is, you know, comfortable moving around in motion, inserting himself.¬† George is still‑‑ lacks some strength.¬† It's an area that he has to improve on but he can stretch the field more than most tight ends in the country.¬† So there's a place for all of those guys to get in there.

Q.¬† How much fullback did you use guys in Texas?¬† Did Mel come around ‑‑ it's come around a lot of places, the fullback is back.¬† He's in the mix as far as personnel goes.¬† Did you guys use a lot of fullback?
GREG DAVIS:  We did.  We had a fullback named Ahmard Hall that may still be playing.  He was with the Titans for a long time.
When we first got to Texas in¬† '98, we had a tailback that was named Ricky Williams, you may have heard of, and so we played a lot of two‑backs that year.
We kind of got a way from the fullback shortly after he left and then Ahmard Hall showed up and we went back, especially Vince's first couple of years, we went back and used quite a bit.
We have two fullbacks here that we are really pleased with in Adam Cox and Macon Plewa.¬† They both catch the ball out of the backfield and they both really enjoy the role.¬† So it will be‑‑ 21 personnel will continue to be a part, and a lot of people don't play 21 anymore, even though I do see a little more of it coming back.
So, you know, what you'd like to be able to play 21, 12, 11, you'd like‑‑ and then in the course of a ballgame, there's a place for all of them.

Q.  Iowa versus Texas, the recruiting, dealing with people outside of the personnel department and athletic department, how different is it?
GREG DAVIS:  To me the biggest challenge is purely numbers.  I would venture to say that there were probably 330 Division I players signed out of the State of Texas last year; that's not the case in the State of Iowa just because of population.
So it's very seldom that we left the state because there were just so many players.¬† And, you know, we have to leave the state here, because even though everything starts in‑state in recruiting and to me that's probably the biggest difference.

Q.¬† You had Greg, Eric Johnson, player personnel‑‑ outside of the staff itself, is it better or easier to deal with when you have one assistant coach that handles that or is it more difficult or challenging when you have more people outside or is it easier because they are handling?
GREG DAVIS:  Every university does that a little bit differently.  The way we did it there was very similar to the way we did it here.  I mean, our recruiting coordinate for coached a position, went on the road, had an area.  I've also been places where the recruiting coordinator did not have an area.
So he spotted all over, and he would come back and he would say, hey, here's quarterbacks that are worthy and make sure that you see and that's kind of what Kirk alluded to earlier.  There's some different ways of manning those spots that he's looking at and trying to decide what's best for us.

Q.¬† Looking back at the end of the season, mark became a bit of a short yardage guy and Jordan did his thing‑‑ inaudible‑‑ can you really do much in the spring to see what kind of roles‑‑ inaudible‑‑ just happened at camp and organically happens from there?
GREG DAVIS:  I think any time you play live, any time you practice live and you can't do that every day, that's when you really get to evaluate backs as to, you know, who moved the ball from the first down; who broke the tackle in the open field; who didn't break the tackle in the open field; who took care of the ball; you know, who stepped up on a blitz pick up.  They are easier to evaluate when you're playing live.  All of our guys were basically back, other than the young guys.
So there's kind of roles that are being defined.¬† Mark is‑‑ we have found over two years that when Mark is healthy, he is really productive.¬† We want to be conscious of the number of carries, because he's not a guy that's going to jump sideways very often.¬† He's going to attack the tackler.
So as the season wears on, then his production suffers somewhat and that's what Jordan was able to step in last year.  Damond is an outstanding receiver, coming bought of the backfield, does a great job in blitz.  So a little more third-down specialist, if you will.  LeShun Daniels is kind of a mixture, has some Mark in him, so we have been able to look at that.
You know better than I that you need a bunch of backs at Iowa.  So we are kind of pleased with that.  Akrum Wadley is a guy that has done some really good things this spring but he's been hurt and you know, whether or not he can get in the mix, we'll have to see in camp along with Jonathan Parker.

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