February 16, 2013

Winds of change for Iowa Football

For many years one of the selling points used by the Iowa Football program on the recruiting trail was stability within the coaching staff.

It was a fair pitch to make. While the rest of the college football world seemed to change like the weather, in Iowa City, you knew what you were getting as far as coaches. The man who recruited your son to the University of Iowa would be there for entirety of his career and there was comfort in that for many parents.

The Iowa Football program staved off being like the rest of college football until the end of the 2011 season, then Norm Parker retired, Rick Kaczenski moved on to Nebraska, and Ken O'Keefe took his talents to South Beach where he was reunited with former Hawkeye assistant Joe Philbin as the Miami Dolphins wide receiver coach.

With subtraction comes addition. Greg Davis was hired to direct the Iowa offense. Phil Parker was promoted to lead the Hawkeye defense. LeVar Woods was promoted to linebackers coach and Darrell Wilson moved to defensive backs. Brian Ferentz came back home and took over the offensive line and Reese Morgan moved from offense to defensive line.

That was a lot of change, especially for a program that hasn't experienced much change in the last decade. Hawkeye fans who clamored for change for many years, you got your wish.

As Iowa fans know all too well, the results accompanying the changes weren't very good. The Hawkeyes finished the season 4-8 and the offense struggled all season long. Sometimes change takes time to fully reach its potential and it's certainly not fair to pin all of the struggles from the 2012 season on coaching changes.

The winds of change were still blowing after a disappointing season. In the past few weeks we have seen the departure of wide receivers coach Erik Campbell, running backs coach Lester Erb, and defensive backs coach Darrell Wilson. Campbell and Erb are still seeking opportunities elsewhere and Wilson was announced as the defensive backs coach at Rutgers earlier this week.

Put that all together and what you have is 6 of the 9 assistant coaches that started the 2011 season with the Hawkeyes are no longer on the Iowa coaching staff.

That amounts to Extreme Makeover - Hawkeye Edition.

Late this week, Kirk Ferentz announced that he had hired former Texas and Colorado assist Bobby Kennedy as the new wide receivers coach and former Virginia defensive coordinator Jim Reid as a defensive assistant with a yet to be defined role. Both Kennedy and Reid were rumored names for quite a while and footballscoop.com reported late last week that these hires were expected.

Where does this leave the Hawkeye coaching staff?

Ferentz still has to hire a running backs coach and you would expect that to happen sooner rather than later. The annual cruise with the Iowa Football coaches is set to take place starting February 24th, so you would expect that Ferentz would like to have his staff completed before he sets sail in the Caribbean.

The roles for the assistant coaches are somewhat defined. Davis will direct the offense and coach quarterbacks. Kennedy will be with the wide receivers. Brian Ferentz will be working with the offensive line and new graduate assistant D.J. Hernandez will coach the tight ends. On defense, Reese Morgan will continue with the defensive line and LeVar Woods will stick at linebacker. I expect Phil Parker to add coaching defensive back to his coordinator duties.

In addition to not knowing who the running backs coach is at this point, we also don't know what Reid's role will be on defense. Kirk Ferentz has said in the past that he's not big on titles or co-coordinators, so I'm not sure that we will see him become a co-coordinator of the defense. Perhaps he will be sort of a czar of the defense.

One other thing we don't know is who will coach Iowa's special teams. Will that fall to assistant coach Eric Johnson, who is also Iowa's recruiting coordinator and helped Morgan coach defensive line last year? Will it be divided up between two coaches, like it has been for several years when Erb and Wilson shared those duties? Again, it will be interesting to see what happens and it will be important because Iowa's most successful teams exhibited high level special teams play.

The last piece of the puzzle will be recruiting territories and how those will be divided up. For many years, Lester Erb has been a strong recruiter in the Chicago area and Darrell Wilson did a very good job luring prospects from New Jersey and Maryland to Iowa City. Those shoes will be tough to replace.

With Bobby Kennedy's ties to the state of Texas, he seems like a natural fit to recruit the Lone Star State. LeVar Woods has recruited Texas since last year. Will he be the coach who takes over the Chicago area? He got his feet wet in Chicago in the final weeks of the recruitment of Reggie Spearman. Jim Reid's ties are on the east coast. Will he take over for Wilson and can he allow Iowa to create a presence in Virginia?

Right now there are a lot more questions than answers when it comes to the Iowa Football coaching staff. We know most of the names and what most of their roles will be, but recruiting is still a question mark. Hopefully we will get more answers in the next week.

Then the larger question of can this group of coaches get more wins and improve upon last season's 4-8 record? We will get those answers in the fall, but it sure makes for another interesting spring coming up for the Iowa Football team.



 

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