Longest Offseason Ever Comes To An End For Iowa Football
By Marc Morehouse, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s been 91 days since Iowa’s season ended in a 4-8 quagmire.
The digging out started in December, when Iowa players began winter workouts. Some of those players went nearly two months without knowing who their position coach would be for the 2013 season. Not a big deal. Football coaches can’t conduct practices this time of year, anyway.
But that has been the big question for much of Iowa’s offseason. What would Kirk Ferentz’s staff look like in 2013?
Chris White, a special teams assistant for the Minnesota Vikings, was hired as running backs coach and special teams coordinator, Ferentz announced Friday. White is the third new coach Ferentz will have added since the Hawkeyes lost to Nebraska on Nov. 24 and stumbled to their worst season since 2000 under Ferentz.
White joins wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy and linebackers coach Jim Reid. The three coaches who left were secondary Darrell Wilson, who accepted the same position at Rutgers, running backs coach Lester Erb and wide receivers coach Erik Campbell. Erb and Campbell were let go. This week, Campbell was hired as WR coach for the Montreal Alouettes.
Iowa also hired new coordinators and another new coach after the 2011 season, but that was in the wake of defensive coordinator Norm Parker’s retirement and offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe’s move to the Miami Dolphins. In the case of Campbell and Erb, the harsh reality of 4-8 pushed them out.
“The conversations you have are conversations that are private and that’s probably the best place to keep them,” Ferentz said when asked about the decisions made. “It’s part of what we do, certainly.”
White, 45, sure feels as though he was hired for his special teams expertise. He’s never held a running backs assistant position, but he did spend four years with the Vikings in special teams. In nine years at Syracuse, White was wide receivers and tight ends coach, special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator.
Special teams duties have always been split during Ferentz’s 14 seasons at Iowa. Last year, Erb was in charge of kickers and punters, while coverage and return units went to Wilson, linebackers coach LeVar Woods and graduate assistant Kelvin Bell.
It’ll be split again next year, but White will call the shots and there will be plenty of eyes devoted to an element of the game that has hurt more than it’s helped Iowa the last few seasons.
This is the wall in the Hayden Fry Football Complex that had all of the pictures for Iowa's coaching staff. Obviously, this needed some renovation after three coaches left and three were hired this offseason.
“I see [White], LeVar and then Kelvin all having a real big role, major role, with special teams,” Ferentz said. “They’ll be supported by every coach on this staff outside of the D‑line coach. Traditionally, the offensive and defensive line coaches aren’t too involved outside of field goal, and field goal block.”
Iowa’s offensive staff remains the same, with Greg Davis as coordinator and QB coach and Brian Ferentz as O-line coach. White joins Kennedy as first-year coaches on Iowa’s staff. Graduate assistant DJ Hernandez will coach tight ends.
When Reid’s hiring was announced last week, Ferentz left his duties open-ended. Phil Parker will remain as defensive coordinator and assuming the secondary duties, a position he held for 13 years at Iowa before being promoted last season. The 62-year-old Reid will split linebacker duties with Woods, something Iowa has done in the past.
Reese Morgan will continue as D-line coach, with recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson again assisting with there.
“One of the things that’s attractive about Jim Reid is he has great experiences,” Ferentz said. ” He’s done a lot of different things during his career. He was actually a head coach at Massachusetts when I was at Maine going back 20 years ago. He’s been a coordinator at the collegiate level, coached at the NFL level, and I think the expertise and the wisdom that he brings to the room will be good for everybody, and, hopefully, make those jobs that much easier.”
Last year, circumstance dictated Iowa’s staff changes. After last season’s drop off, 4-8 dictated this round of change, which makes six new assistant coaches in the last two seasons.
“When you win four games, there’s ownership there,” Ferentz said. “We can’t say ‘a play here, play there.’ It’s not like two plays were the big difference. Now you’re 6‑6, and that’s not what we’re striving for.
“It does cause you to look at things and be introspective a little bit, but the big thing is to come up with a good plan and really work that plan well, and, hopefully, we can be a little bit better this time around.”
– Recruiting areas for Iowa assistants will go this way: LeVar Woods in Kansas City/Texas, Brian Ferentz in Ohio/Chicago, Phil Parker Ohio/Michigan, Chris White Maryland/Wash. DC, Bobby Kennedy and Greg Davis Texas, Eric Johnson Indiana/St. Louis/Minneapolis/St. Paul and Jim Reid Ohio/Chicago.
– Offensive tackle Brandon Scherff (broken fibula/dislocated ankle) will be healthy and ready for spring practice, which begins March 27. Guard Andrew Donnal (torn ACL) will be close to being ready for spring, Ferentz said.
– Defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat (shoulder) and O-lineman Nolan MacMillan will be out this spring, but should be healthy for summer workouts in June. MacMillan had surgery for an unspecified injury.
– Fullback Brad Rogers and linebacker Jim Poggi will take medical redshirts and won’t continue their football careers. Rogers had back surgery this offseason. Poggi has had a couple of shoulder surgeries.
– Ferentz said no major position changes, but there are a few.
– Ferentz said it sounds as though the Big Ten will go to a nine-game schedule for football. Officially, the league is debating the merits of nine or 10 games. A final decision is expected late spring/early summer.
“It does sound like we’re going to nine games,” Ferentz said. “It sounds like that train’s going down the track right now, too.”
Ferentz said his preference is nine rather than 10 Big Ten games.
“I’d say nine,” he said. “That would be my first instinct, and kind of go from there. Then obviously, the five-and-four [home games] thing is a tough equation. I don’t know if we’re ready for 10 yet or not. A lot of people weren’t ready for 12 [-game schedules], and we got that, too.”
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