A Bevy of Offensive Weapons is at Brian Ferentz’ Disposal

October 14, 2020

Written by Rick Brown

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Iowa’s offensive DNA starts with establishing the running game.
That won’t change any time soon.

Brian Ferentz, in his fourth season as the Hawkeyes’ offensive coordinator, left no
doubt about that when he met with the media last week.

“For us, it’s always going to start with the running game and getting that
established,” Ferentz said.

Iowa’s won a program-record 47 games over the past five seasons. The Hawkeyes
have rushed for at least 100 yards in 45 of those victories. They are 2-15 in the
games where they don’t reach the century mark on the ground.

But this won’t be ground and pound football this season. Ferentz has more
experienced cards to play entering the 2020 season.

His receivers, headlined by seniors Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith, are
valuable weapons in the offense. So are Tyrone Tracy, Jr., and Nico Ragaini. Both
stepped up when Smith missed seven games to injury last season and did a lot of
positive things.

“This is the first time I’ve ever sat in front of you guys and told you this is probably
our deepest and most veteran group, which is exciting,” Ferentz said of the
receivers. “It starts with Brandon and Ihmir. Look at the progress those guys have
made over 31/2 years.”

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Iowa’s pool of skill players at the receiver position has altered Ferentz’s offensive
mindset. The Hawkeyes’ 49-24 victory over No. 22 USC in the Holiday Bowl was a
game changer. Smith-Marsette was effective as a ballcarrier and receiver. So was
Tracy. That threat on the perimeter, along with Smith’s presence as a playmaking
receiver, helped open up the running game.

“Those were always secondary plays in my mind,” Ferentz said. “They protect the
inside. That’s how I envisioned it my entire career. I’m not sure I see it the same way
anymore. I think we have very capable ballhandlers who can make plays in space
like that. The most important thing you can do is put them in those positions. I do
think that needs to be a bigger part of our offense moving forward, the ability to
stretch the field very quickly on the snap.”

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That threat should open up space inside for running back Tyler Goodson, who is also
a threat as a pass catcher, as well as Mekhi Sargent and Ivory Kelly-Martin.
“It should help the runs between the tackles,” Ferentz said. “I think my thought
process has been shifted.”

Ferentz replaced Greg Davis as the offensive coordinator following the 2016 season.
Sophomore Nate Stanley replaced C.J. Beathard as quarterback that season. Ferentz
and Stanley, who started 39 games over the previous three seasons and won 27
games, learned from each other.

“I hope that I’m a better coach now than I was in January of 2017 when we got that
thing started with Nate,” Ferentz said. “A lot of the reason I’m a better coach is
because of the ability to work with Nate for three years. I learned a lot from Nate.”
Stanley left as the school’s second-ranked quarterback all time with 68 passing
touchdowns, 8,302 passing yards, 673 completions and 1,155 pass attempts.
The next man in is Spencer Petras. Seeing Iowa’s offense match its potential rests on
the shoulders of Ferentz and Petras moving forward.

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Petras will have more weapons at his disposal than Stanley did. And Ferentz can use
more of the field to move the ball. Finding the right balance will be his challenge.
“That’s a good problem to have, right?” Ferentz said. “When you have to target
certain players and make sure guys are touching the ball. You’re not going to hear
me complain about that. The goal has always been to make the defense defend the
entire field, whether it’s the running game or the throwing game. You can be the
best coach in the world and have the best schemes in the world. But without
personnel, you won’t be very good.”

Keeping defenses on their heels is the goal. That’s why having receivers who can
keep opponents guessing is the ultimate chess match.

“I’m hoping we’re getting to that point,” Ferentz said. “The other part of the question
is without a guy distributing the ball to all those guys, none of that is going to work.
That’s all going to be contingent on Spencer and what he can do.”

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