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Surprise departure

It's a rare day when Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz gets surprised by something happening within his program. The Hawkeye coach said today in Rock Island that long-time assistant Eric Johnson caught him off guard last week when he reached a decision to leave the Iowa program. "That one caught me a bit by surprise,'' Ferentz said. Johnson, the Hawkeyes' recruiting coordinator for the past decade and an assistant defensive line coach the past two years, is leaving coaching to operate a Culver's restaurant in suburban Nashville. A member of Ferentz's original Iowa staff who came to Iowa at the recommendation of defensive coordinator Norm Parker, Johnson cited a desire to have more family time as his young twin daughters become more involved in activities. "Eric has done a tremendous job with us and I understand his reasoning,'' Ferentz said. "I don't want to speak for him, but I sensed he felt he was at a point in his life where he wanted to review where he was at and where he was headed and he opted to make a change. I respect that.'' Ferentz said Parker's recommendation to hire Johnson was one of many positive ways Parker impacted the Hawkeye program during his time on the Iowa staff. The Hawkeyes conclude spring practices on Saturday with a 2 p.m. spring game at Kinnick Stadium and Ferentz said he has already thought about both the short-term and long-term answers for the position Johnson filled. "I feel like we're close to having things covered in the short team and we'll continue to work toward the long-term answer as well,'' Ferentz said. "It's an important role and we'll consider our options and go from there.''

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