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The walls are bare in Greg Davis’ office on the second floor of the Iowa football complex, but he’s been settling into his role as the Hawkeyes’ new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
For the first time in Kirk Ferentz’s tenure, he’ll have a new face in the press box calling plays. Ken O’Keefe left Iowa for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, and Davis brings to the job a wealth of experience and a national championship ring, which he won as the offensive coordinator at Texas in 2005.
New Faces in New Places
Greg Davis isn’t the only new face on the Iowa coaching staff. The Hawkeyes made several coaching changes this offseason.
Defensive coordinator— Phil Parker, previously coached Iowa’s defensive backs
Offensive line—Brian Ferentz, former Iowa player and the son of Kirk Ferentz coached the New England Patriots' tight ends last season
Defensive line—Reese Morgan, previously coached Iowa’s offensive line
Defensive backs — Darrell Wilson, previously coached Iowa’s linebackers
Linebackers—LeVar Woods, former Iowa player and administrative assistant was interim defensive line coach for the Insight Bowl
A Texas native, the 60-year-old Davis made coaching stops at Texas A&M, Tulane, Arkansas, Georgia, and North Carolina before running the Longhorns’ offense from 1998 to 2010. With Texas, he made three trips to the Rose Bowl—twice for BCS Championship games—and coached two of college football’s all-time great QBs in Vince Young and Colt McCoy.
Davis has no direct ties to Iowa, save for coaching against the Hawkeyes in the 2006 Alamo Bowl, which made enough of an impression that he knew Iowa City was a place he’d like to be.
With the Hawkeyes set to close out spring drills with an open practice Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, Davis sat down with Iowa Now to discuss how he came to Iowa and his vision for the future of the Hawkeyes’ offense.
What’s it like to come in as the new guy on a coaching staff that has had so much stability for the past 13 years?
Well, it’s been very easy. I kind of felt like I knew Kirk, even though I really didn’t. At the 2006 Alamo Bowl (when Texas played Iowa), there was a joint function between the coaching staffs where I did meet Kirk and was able to say hello. Many of the members of Iowa’s current staff were there at the time. The staff members have just opened their arms to me and been very inviting about my thoughts and ideas, and what we’ve tried to do is blend it all into what’s best for Iowa.
What was the appeal of working at Iowa and working with Coach Ferentz?
Kirk has an outstanding reputation for being a “ball guy.” His teams have an outstanding reputation for being well-coached overachievers. Having played in that bowl game (the 2006 Alamo Bowl against Iowa), I saw the outstanding fan support. We thought going to San Antonio it would be all Texas—it was probably half and half. There was the appeal of those things, the Big Ten, and the appeal of a college town. I spent two years at Arkansas and two years at Georgia, and those are very university-centered areas. That atmosphere is great.
What are fans going to notice that is different in a Greg Davis offense?
First of all, it’s an Iowa offense. It’s not a Greg Davis offense. There will be a lot of similarities. We will continue to be a team that is very good at running the ball. Kirk and I agree that is really important in order to be successful. We will do quite a bit of different things in the passing game, from schematics and the way we try to go about doing some things. And I think there will be some things that are different. We’ll slip no-huddle in and out of game plans. That could be just a no-huddle tempo, or it could be a very fast tempo. So, there will be some changes like that to try to make the defense be a little bit unaware of what we’re doing. And hopefully we’ll be a team that can win the game either by running the ball or by throwing the ball depending on that particular Saturday and what is necessary to be successful.
Last season was the first time since you were 6 years old you weren’t part of a team—what did you learn and why did you want to come back?
I learned that you miss the team. You miss a group of coaches and players pulling toward a common goal. I was not going to come back just anywhere, though. My wife and I have been empty nesters for a long time—my son is 40, and my daughter is 37. We enjoyed last season a great deal. But the opportunity to come back to this setting was what was attractive. Another thing that happens, other than missing being a part of a team, is you learn how much passion you have for something. I was too young to just ride off into the sunset.
You called the plays for the winning team in arguably the greatest college football game of all time—Texas’ 2006 Rose Bowl win over USC. What was that like?
You know, once you kick off, it’s like any other game. You don’t realize during the game that it is what it is, because you go into game mode, and you’re just focused on what’s happening. Immediately after the game, the first person I talked to on the phone was my son, and he said, “Dad, that’s the greatest game I’ve ever seen.” That night I watched it on ESPN, and it was a great game. It was a great game if you were a football fan. There were a lot of great players on the field and great coaching going on. It was an honor to be in that game. But during the game, it’s like Port Neches playing Nederland, which was my high school rivalry in Texas.
What’s different about coaching at a place like Iowa compared to a place like Texas?
There are more similarities than discrepancies. There’s the passion of being THE state school, and the fan support is phenomenal. Maybe one of the differences is not so much Texas and Iowa as it is the state of Texas and the state of Iowa. The state of Texas last year probably produced 350 Division I signees. The state of Iowa isn’t going to produce that many. So, the recruiting element is different. Most of the recruiting for Texas is going to be done instate. Here, obviously Iowa has to be the starting point, but then we have to branch out into the Midwest and other areas to be able to have the kind of team we want. But the fans are great at both places, as are the support, facilities, etc.
You’ve been around some great quarterbacks—Colt McCoy, Vince Young, Chris Simms, Major Applewhite, and Eric Zeier. What have you seen so far from James Vandenberg that you like?
I’m very impressed with James. The week the Iowa coaching staff went on its cruise, Kirk sent me the entire season of game film. So I was able to watch and get some ideas before I got here about the players and the style, and I was very impressed with James. Now having worked with him through half a spring, he is first and foremost very talented and extremely bright. He studies the game. He’s excited about some of the changes we’ve made, and he sees the opportunity to grow as a quarterback and as an offense. He’s got a chance to be an outstanding player.