The big shakeup since the bowl is clearly at QB and for good reason. But the most interesting thing to me about Kirk Ferentz’s press conference from last week was the brief mention that Jonathan Parker is going to be tried out as a receiver during spring ball.
First, I think his talent is well suited for the position, assuming he can catch (he had 3 receptions for 42 yards last year). He’s shown some big play potential with his feet. His speed seems more than adequate. Also, even with Weisman and Bullock gone, I think Parker is still probably four men down on depth chart in terms of "standard" running back carries. He’s a similar mold to Akrum Wadley, but I think Wadley showed more potential as a RB. And with the position changes of Marcel Joly, who is also a smallish/quick-ish back, and Derrick Mitchell to RB, the need in the backfield isn’t as big as it is at WR.
But more than any of that, Parker to WR gives me a spark of hope that the offense is taking a step in the right direction with Brian Ferentz as the Running Game Coordinator. I LOVED the jet sweep last year. It was the perfect addition to Iowa’s run scheme. The first few games that it was inserted, it was very effective (minus the fumble thing). Against Indiana, Parker took one to the house. Against Purude, it was a constraint play that kept defenses a little more honest and when the sweep was faked, it opened up holes up the middle for the halfback. But it plateaued. Defense were hyper-aware of Parker’s presence on the field and were well prepared for the sweep and even the little wrinkles Iowa threw in there (play-action, etc…). The play, like almost everything else Iowa does on offense, was telegraphed.
If Parker can establish himself as a legitimate threat as a ball-catcher that more often than not runs a route instead of a sweep, then that will be a huge help. But more than that, Brian Ferentz and Greg Davis need to find more ways to run the jet sweep. Motion a running back out. Use any receiver (I’d love to see Tevaun Smith get the ball in his hands more, though I’m not sure how the coaches felt about his crazy reverse the whole field end-around he did last year). Use some more 2-RB sets. Hopefully moving Parker to receiver is just the first step in invigorating the offense.