Iowa CITY, Iowa - Head coach Kirk Ferentz has stood behind his senior quarterback for the entire season. Tuesday, Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis joined counsel.
"I think we had five explosive runs in the game Saturday (a 31-13 win against Minnesota," Davis said of James Vandenberg. "Three of those were into run blitzes that he read correctly and got us into the proper play. He is playing, from my standpoint, extremely well even though, statistically.
"Is numbers are not where I thought they would be; I'm sure where he thought they would be. But I'm extremely excited about how he's running our football team."
Vandenberg enjoyed a strong statistical 2011 with 25 touchdown passes and 3,022 yards against seven interceptions. This September, he's tossed two touchdowns (projects to about five for regular season) with two picks.
Davis said a big reason why Vandenberg's number might be down is because he's a team-first player.
"In the red zone the other day, we probably had at least five passes that he checked off of and went to a run," Davis said. "Now, it takes a pretty mature quarterback to leave-- if your question was bothering him, it would take-- I mean, he had plenty of opportunities in the red zone to go to a pass, but he saw an advantage in the run, and he went to the run."
Vandenberg always has been known as a tireless worker in the film room. He needs to be with the responsibilities given to him by Davis.
"There's situations where we'll give him a package of plays in the huddle that he'll go to the line, look at the defense and make a decision, and there's situations that we talk about as advantage checks," Davis explained. "In other words, we're going to call a play that can be run against most anything, but versus certain blitzes, we have an advantage to do this. So both of those scenarios came up in the ballgame the other day where we had a play called, they were giving us a run blitz, he recognized it and put us in an advantage check."
Davis said Vandenberg does well with going through his progressions.
"The first thing that quarterbacks are taught to do is where is my protection problems because there's always an opportunity for them to be in a protection situation," said Davis, who also coaches the position. "After that, there's various kind of reads, whether or not we're full-field reading based on rotation or whether or not we're in a progression kind of read. I have not felt like James was locking onto someone through the first five ballgames."
Davis continued: "The one thing that happens with a guy like James is that he does so much study during the course of the week, a lot of times he's getting a pre-snap tip as to what he feels like the defense is going to do, and that pre-snap tip will, in some cases, eliminate progressions. So a lot of times he gets through his progressions pretty quick."
The Iowa coaches and players talked confidently about the offensive continuity during the preseason. That's because things looked good in practice.
Games are a different speed.
"We missed Kevonte on a breakoff route versus a blitz the other day," Davis said. "Again, it was the way the play was installed in spring training. But it's the first time it's come up live. We've continued to work it each week. It was just a matter of the rhythm of what you can do on that particular route."
Another Reece Moving: Last winter, Reese Morgan switched from coaching the offensive line to the defensive front. Recently, freshman Maurice Fleming moved from wide receiver to cornerback.
Fleming was recruited to Iowa as a defensive back. First-year defensive coordinator Phil Parker had a hand in that pursuit when he was coaching the position last season.
Parker watched as Fleming entered camp as a receiver. The Chicago product performed well at the spot in August.
"The kid just loves defense, and I think he just loves our side of the ball," Parker said.
Parker said he did not need to buy dinner for Davis or wash his car to get Fleming back on defense.
"Believe me, they're going to get something from us, there's no question about it," Parker joked. "I just don't know what they're going to get yet."
Medical Dept.: After Ferentz said on Saturday that B.J. Lowery might have been able to play on Saturday before sitting him out, Parker said he expected his starting CB back on Tuesday.
"It was good that we rested him last week, and he looks like he's doing pretty well, and he'll practice today a little bit to get some rust off a little bit," Parker said. "But it'll be nice to get him back."
Ferentz said on Saturday that Damon Bullock was ruled out medically before last week's game. the coach said, in general terms, that the running back needed to "go through some steps" before returning to the field. "He hasn't made it yet…I expect him back this week."
Davis couldn't shed much more light on Bullock's status on Tuesday.
"Well, I think Kirk will probably talk about that on Tuesday, but we certainly would be hopeful that he will be ( for Michigan State Oct. 13)."
Quick-Hitters: Davis said Mark Weisman will continue to take fullback reps and plans on using he and Bullock on the same backfield when the later returns...Parker said he is pleased with the progress of freshmen defensive linemen Faith Ekakitie and Jaleel Johnson but there needs to be patience with them...Parker said that James Morris is a coach on the field, positioning teammates in right spots and the unit in the right defenses.