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Archive for February, 2015

Shaking things up

Thursday, February 12th, 2015
Nobody brought any tar or feathers. No one found their bags packed by the side of the railroad tracks that run beside Kinnick Stadium. As promised, the offseason realignment of the Iowa football coaching staff is a byproduct of several weeks of thought and study by coach Kirk Ferentz. The Hawkeye coach said last week that he anticipated that several seats might change on the Iowa staff, but he didn't see any of the faces changing. That proved to be the case, with offensive line coach Brian Ferentz gaining an expanded role in the newly-created run-game coordinator position, linebackers coach LeVar Woods becoming Iowa's tight ends coach and Seth Wallace moving from a role in assisting Reese Morgan with the defensive line to working with cornerbacks and nickel backs, joining defensive coordinator Phil Parker in coaching players in the Hawkeye secondary. Ferentz did not outline responsibilities Brian Ferentz will have beyond continuing to coach Iowa's offensive line, but it can be assumed he will work alongside offensive coordinator Greg Davis. The run-game coordinator title is one that is fairly common anymore in college football, moving all aspects of the running game under the watch of one coach in hopes of developing greater cohesion. That certainly would not hurt that segment of an Iowa offense which sputtered on the ground during its 7-6 2014 season. Injuries at the running back position and fullback played a role in that, but the Hawkeyes' rushing attack was not what his has been in recent seasons. Despite the criticism of Davis from fans -- offensive coordinators tend to be a lightning rod for critics whether the last name is Davis or O'Keefe -- Iowa's offense showed statistical growth last season. The Hawkeyes averaged better than 400 yards for the first time since 2005 and averaged 28.2 points per game. By assigning Brian Ferentz to his new role and by moving a full-time assistant in Woods to tight end, a renewed emphasis on the offense is apparent in the changes Kirk Ferentz made. In shifting Wallace to the secondary, a position he coached at Iowa as a graduate assistant and as an assistant at Valdosta State for four years, he is providing defensive coordinator Phil Parker with a greater chance to oversee that side of the ball while allowing him to continue to coach safeties after working with the secondary a year ago. Wallace, who remains the head of Iowa's recruiting staff, will coach cornerbacks and nickel backs after working with Morgan a year ago. Jim Reid will have responsibility for coaching all of Iowa's linebackers after sharing those duties with Woods the past two seasons. Kirk Ferentz said the moves will add efficiency and productivity to his staff. He, as well as those involved, should have a handle on just how much of a difference it will make. The changes, while not the major overhaul some fans have been seeking, do allow Iowa to build on one of the strengths of its staff. The group's experience as teachers with a reputation for developing talent is beneficial at a time when Ferentz and even the grumpiest of Hawkeye fans can agree on one thing. The Hawkeyes must perform at a higher level with greater consistency if they hope to achieve the success that everyone from coaches to players to those fans on the outside looking in desire for the Iowa program. That starts with what they learn on the practice field, long before fans are lining up for a $7 hot chocolate on a chilly November game day.

A different look

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
The impact of the restructuring of Iowa's football recruiting staff headed by Seth Wallace won't likely be fully known until some point down the road, but there are signs that Hawkeye recruiting is taking on a different look. Wallace has been on the job in Iowa City since last June, jumping in at midstream of what has really become a year-round endeavor. Coach Kirk Ferentz said Wallace has brought new perspective to the table, ideas and methodology which will benefit the Hawkeyes as they work toward 2016 and beyond. "It's a lot like the (impact of Iowa's) new facility, I think the impact is going to be better judged down the road a little bit but I thought we covered a lot of ground, covered a lot of prospects,'' Ferentz said. He believes Iowa coaches are working more efficiently as they recruit and he wants to see continued progress in that area under Wallace's watch. "Seth is a guy who took charge, he's a go getter, very aggressive guy and he's used to giving directive,'' Ferentz said. "I think, and I thought, he did a really good job of giving us direction and I thought the guy did a great job of working during the (recent January recruiting) period.'' Wallace has Iowa coaches looking in different directions, and understanding the continuing changing culture of the recruiting business. The Hawkeyes knocked on a few more doors this year of players who had verbally committed elsewhere, gauging interest and pursuing opportunities when they were there. That approach led Iowa to land Anthony Nelson of Waukee, the son of former Hawkeye Jeff Nelson and initially an Iowa State commitment. Iowa was interested in offering Nelson dating to last summer, but an early ISU commitment slowed the process. "We just never had an opportunity really to present the offer the way we wanted to and present the campus and the university to him the way we wanted to,'' Ferentz said. ".. We're just very appreciative that we got the opportunity to do that later on and obviously, we're excited that he chose to come here.'' A former Iowa grad assistant and Grinnell, Iowa, native, Wallace returned to Iowa from a coaching position in Georgia. He has helped the Hawkeyes become more active participants in recruiting the talent-rich southeast portion of the country and is working to re-establish historical ties with Texas. Iowa signed four Texas preps today, something Ferentz wants to see more of in the future while continuing to search for talent close to home. Ferentz said assistants Bobby Kennedy and LeVar Woods have invested a number of man hours in searching for Texas talent that can help the Hawkeyes, particularly adding quickness to the roster. "Every time I go down there I think it becomes more obvious that we'd be foolish not to invest time there because it seems like there is a new high school in every neighborhood,'' Ferentz said. "It's a state that's growing for a lot of different reasons, but with that the football has always been very good there, the coaching is outstanding and now you've got a population that is growing. I think it makes sense for us.'' Ferentz said it also makes sense for the Hawkeyes to look forward. Iowa already has two players committed to its 2016 recruiting class and has a verbal for 2017 as well. The Hawkeyes are offering more players and offering scholarships earlier than they ever have in the past. "I feel like if you're not doing that, you're probably going to get left behind,'' Ferentz said. "We still do it fairly conservatively, I guess you'd say, but I think in this day and age if you're not throwing your name in, you run the risk of getting left behind. It's a calculated risk.'' And at the end of the day, Ferentz believes that bringing recruits to campus still presents Iowa with its best chance to land a prospect. "I tell every prospect we recruit that it's all about them finding the right thing for them and being happy with their decision,'' Ferentz said. "To me, all we can ask is that they come look at our place, examine every possible aspect that they can, get to know the people as well as they can and really get a good feel for what their experience is going to be like. After that, they've got to do what is best for them.''