Hybrid offensive players has kind of been a pet topic for me over the last year. It's not really something Iowa has done a lot with in the Kirk Ferentz era, especially lately. Fullbacks only block and never carry the ball. Tight ends never slide out in the slot. Two talented running backs are never on the field at the same time. Receivers only run deep crossing routes. That was pretty much the way it was the last few Ken O'Keefe years.
However, the coaches keep mentioning the versatility of some of the players on offense and the different ways they plan on using them. So I'm hopeful and I'm bringing it up again. I'm not naive though, like last year. So this is a I'll believe it when I see it type of deal.
The Flexible Tight End
For only the first time I can remember, the Iowa depth chart does not include a fullback. In its place is the Y-back. As Marc Morehouse explains it, I think this is the position that Greg Davis dubbed the B-back and is basically an H-back.
The position is be Davis' definition a "move" position and is about as hybrid as it gets. The second tight end can line up as a fullback, a TE, in the slot, or even out wide. We saw the second tight end split out wide a lot off of motion at the beginning of the year. Not much ever really came of that, though it should in theory create some favorable mismatches. And, actually towards the end of the year, Jake Duzey and Henry Krieger-Coble had a few nice games working out of this position.
Perhaps an even more applicable this year though, is the versatility of C.J. Fiedorwicz. The coaching staff finally figure out that he works well out of the slot and his production jumped up quite a bit at the end of the season. I expect more of that this year and for CJF to continue to improve blocking.
More than anything, though, Iowa has a bunch of talented tight ends and with Brad Rogers out, very little going on a fullback.
The Flexible Big Running Back
I once thought Rogers was going to be this guy...a fullback/running back hybrid that could run, block, catch...do it all. Then health/injuries and Mark Weisman happened. Ferentz has mentioned wanting to get Weisman and Damon Bullock on the field at the same time more times than I can remember. He wants it to happen. I want it to happen. It's going to happen.
[W]e wanted to use both Weisman and Bullock in there at the same time, didn't have that chance. That's something still that we're interested in...
No fullback huh? Looks like #45 is lined up there to me. (from yesterday's practice) twitter.com/PlannedSickDay…— PlannedSickDays (@PlannedSickDays) March 28, 2013
So in the one practice pic that showed an offensive formation Weisman is clearly lined up a fullback. Nothing says though that the next play with the same personel couldn't have featured Weisman at RB, Bullock out wide and maybe CJF in the slot...a completely different look. That's what Weisman can help bring.
The other flexible running back position is the smaller, shiftier, more slot receiver like running...a.k.a Damon Bullock. Even last year, Bullock lined up as a receiver from time to time. And he finished the season with 18 receptions, 4th on the team, in just 6 games. So we'll see how this run/catch tole will expand.
It is clear that this is a position Iowa wants to develop and use based on the 2013 recruiting class which featured Akrum Wadley, plus a handful of receivers that could maybe take on this role.
Honestly, I don't have much confidence much will change. Kirk Ferentz said himself about the offense,
It's not going to be radically different. But I do think Weisman will see the field quite a bit as a fullback with Bullock or Jordan Canzeri lined up behind him. And, he'll probably get carries on short yardage situations. And I'm confident that CJF will see more time in the slot and be utilized like he was late last year. And who knows, maybe we'll see a quarterback move around a little more that opens even more doors to flexibility on offense. Really though, I'd take anything better than last year.