Thursday, April 24, 2014

Updated on Monday, February 20th, 2012 at 11:29 am in Football.

Ferentz Hits the Mark with Hires

Ferentz Hits the Mark with Hires

I am of the opinion that Kirk Ferentz has done a terrific job with his staff changes thus far. He’s shuffled some of the old guard and brought in some new blood.

Continuity produces positive results in college football. Iowa’s football program has seen less turnover during the Ferentz era than just about any other program in the sport. I believe that helped the program put together one of the most successful decades in school history.

But as Kirk Ferentz said a few weeks back, the program had likely “cheated time” in regards to staff turnover.

Through the end of 2011, Ferentz had only hired 15 position coaches during his 13 years as Iowa’s head coach. You can see the names and the salaries at this link.

NCAA rules allow programs to have one head coach and nine assistant coaches. Ferentz hired nine coaches when he arrived in 1999, which means he only saw six coaches leave the program in 13 years. Joe Philbin, Ron Aiken and Pat Flaherty moved on to the NFL, and Philbin is now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

Bret Bielema was a position coach and Iowa and left the program to be the co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State. Carl Jackson retired in 2008 after being a part of Ferentz’s fist staff as well as a longtime Iowa assistant and coordinator under Hayden Fry.

Just one coach left Ferentz’s staff for anything like a lateral move, and that was Chuck Long. Long served as Iowa’s quarterbacks coach in 1999, Ferentz’s first year. He was then hired by Oklahoma and former Iowa teammate Bob Stoops following that season and filled the same role there for one season before becoming the Sooners’ offensive coordinator.

Through the 2011 regular season, every coach Ferentz hired to replace one of the six aforementioned coaches was still with Iowa. That level of stability is unheard of, it speaks highly of Ferentz as a leader and ‘manager’ and is also a great nod to Iowa City as a great place to live and raise a family. When you factor in the stability of the Hayden Fry era and look at the last 35 years of Iowa football on the macro, it’s even more impressive.

In early December of 2011, defensive line coach Rick Kaczenksi left the program to fill the same role at Nebraska. Then defensive coordinator Norm Parker announced his resignation, followed by offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe’s announcement in early February that he would be leaving the program to join his former player and colleague Joe Philbin with the Dolphins.

Let’s take a closer look at what Iowa has done thus far on the hiring front and the possible impact for the program down the line.

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR PHIL PARKER: Parker came to Iowa with Ferentz in 1999. He knows the drill, the lay of the land and understands the type of players Iowa is likely to recruit as he has been one of the program’s best recruiters. He’ll bring some new nuances to the Iowa defense, but I don’t expect much to change. As I have outlined several times this winter, that’s not a bad thing. On the one hand, Iowa makes a change at a position where they have been excellent. On the other hand, Parker isn’t likely to change things all that much. I think that will prove to be a good thing. The biggest ‘change’ I can see is Phil Parker may have a little more fire to him than Norm Parker did, but we’re not talking out of control emotions.

DEFENSIVE BACKS COACH DARRELL WILSON: Wilson has coached Iowa’s linebackers since 2002 and has also helped coordinate Iowa’s special teams. A change in responsibilities may help offset the disappointment over not getting the coordinator position. He’s a very good recruiter with east coast roots and someone Iowa really wants to keep on staff. He will be 54 in July, so he may be to the point where going somewhere else to be a coordinator is no longer a viable option as the sands of time are slipping away if he eventually wants to be a head coach at a FBS program; he’d likely have to be a coordinator first. He earned $244,080 last year as Iowa’s linebackers coach, which was over $18,000 more per year than he earned the previous season. My guess is he will have received another nice raise, pushing him north of $260,00 or $270,000 per year. That’s good money for he and his wife and four children, as is raising them in Iowa. I think he’ll stick around, which is good for Iowa football.

DEFENSIVE LINE COACH REESE MORGAN: At first blush, this was the most surprising of Ferentz’s moves. But after a day or so to digest the move and after hearing Ferentz talk about it at his press conference, it makes sense. Morgan is one of the favorite coaches on the staff from a player’s perspective. He has a more mellow demeanor and is a consummate teacher. The defensive line has seen more than its fair share of attrition as of late, something I feel is partly attributable to Kaczenski’s brash and vocal leadership style. Ferentz said this at the presser where he announced the Morgan move: “To me Reese is a builder, a guy that builds players up and helps develop in a positive way.” I think that quote had several meanings, one of them being that Reese’s leadership style will be beneficial for the DL position. The DL is in a rebuilding mode right now and Ferentz believes Morgan is the right teacher, the right builder for the job at this point in time.

This past Saturday, Ferentz announced two additions to the staff; Levar Woods as linebackers coach and Brian Ferentz as offensive line coach.

LINEBACKER COACH LEVAR WOODS: Woods played linebacker for Iowa and also spent seven years in the NFL as a player. He has been working in an administrative role the past few years, spending a great deal of time around recruits when they arrive on campus for visits. He relates well with young people and could give the program a boost on the recruiting trails. Woods has been giving back for years with his Levar Woods Football Academy camps, which I wrote about last summer. One more thing; never, ever underestimate the power of ‘The Shield’. Woods can tell a great Iowa story, that of an unheralded player out of Northwest Iowa, able to play at a high level at the University of Iowa under Fry and Ferentz and took the road less traveled to make it seven years in the league as an undrafted free agent. He’s also served time in the program as another ‘long shot’ to ascend to the linebacker’s coaching position. ‘I did it at Iowa. They gave me a chance and the rest was up to me, and it helped me get to the NFL. I loved it so much I came back and am now a coach here.’ That’s a powerful story and should play well when Woods is making in home visits. Don’t just take my word for it. After I posted this story, Mike Hlas of The Gazette posted an interview with former Hawkeye and current writer at the National Football Post Matt Bowen, who echoed several of these sentiments.

OFFENSIVE LINE COACH BRIAN FERENTZ: As the position announcements seemed to drag on, it led many of us to wonder if Kirk Ferentz was thinking about bringing in an NFL coach, someone whose season was still taking place in late January and early February. Once Ferentz announced that Reese Morgan was moving to the defensive line, Brian Ferentz as Iowa’s offensive line coach made too much sense to be ignored.

Brian has spent the last four years working in one of the best organizations in professional sports and working for the best football mind of his generation, Bill Belichick. He began his career there as a personal assistant, something his father has referred to as being a coffee fetcher. In 2010, his title changed to that of an offensive assistant coach who worked with the tight ends and then in 2011, he was officially named the tight ends coach. As the Pats were going to be needing a new offensive coordinator in 2012, Brian’s name had surfaced in numerous articles related to possible play calling duties for the Pats in 2012. Brian played center for Iowa and was part of two Big Ten championships. In 2004, after battling back from a staph infection that nearly cost him a leg, he helped lead the Hawkeyes to the 2004 Big Ten title. He started the last eight games of that season, all wins, after the Hawkeyes began that year 2-2.

Marc Morehouse of The Gazette tweeted this on Saturday related to the two newest additions:

I liked that comment as it rings true. Obviously, Brian is going to be a very loyal staff member, working for his father. Brian has also been an amazing communicator from a young age, always one of the best players to interview when he was at Iowa. He has always been very confident, bordering on the good kind of cockiness, born not from a sense of entitlement, but swagger. That is going to translate well on the recruiting trails. As I laid out above, Woods is also going to carry a great degree of loyalty for Kirk Ferentz.

Woods has always been in a position to have to prove himself. Most achievers who come from small towns carry that chip on their shoulder, and Woods has had it since being a teenager. Brian Ferentz may feel the need to ‘prove his worth’ on the Iowa staff, to send a message to some of the critics out there who wonder if he would have gotten this job if his last name were not Ferentz. Personally, I think such opinions are off base as his resume is worthy of the title he now holds. But Brian is not stupid and he knows some people have this notion in their head.

Both Woods and Ferentz bring a bit of new blood to the staff but they also have experience in the program. I am not sure if you could find a better combination if you are the head coach. It allows you to shake things up a bit without shaking things up, something that seems optimal in Kirk Ferentz’s world.

This leaves just one position yet to be filled, which is offensive coordinator. I am of the opinion that Ferentz would like to hire Tom Moore, longtime NFL staff member and University of Iowa football alum. He played quarterback for Mt. Pleasant and then for the Hawkeyes. He was also a GA for Iowa in 1961-1962.

Here are the programs/organizations for whom he has served as an offensive coordinator:
-Wake Forest
-Minnesota
-Pittsburgh Steelers
-Detroit Lions
-Indianapolis Colts

Moore is best known for his role with the Colts, as he was their OC between 1998-2008, covering the majority of the Peyton Manning years. He was the OC for the Colts Super Bowl title in 2007. He also helped groom Manning as a quarterback, as he was there from Peyton’s rookie season until he left the organization in 2010.

Whether or not Moore ends up as Iowa’s offensive coordinator remains to be seen. He is 74 years of age, something that will not likely factor into Ferentz’s decision. Ferentz has said publicly that he’d like for his coordinators to remain on campus, in an ideal world. Norm Parker didn’t go on recruiting trips in the latter part of his Iowa career and Ferentz said that he’d rather keep O’Keefe on campus, too. Moore wouldn’t likely be on the road all that much, if at all, instead focusing on Iowa’s offense and grooming the young quarterbacks.

Having an old pro like Moore on the staff, given his offensive play calling prowess and an ability to teach quarterbacks, would also be a boon to potentially groom Iowa’s next offensive coordinator from in house.

I doubt that Iowa’s offensive approach will change all that much regardless of the hire, which makes Moore seem like such a great fit; he would be allowed to bring in a few new wrinkles and Iowa would have fresh tendencies in the post-O’Keefe era. Moore could also help bring along a GA like former Iowa quarterback David Raih who is entering his second year as a GA. I think Ferentz is high on Raih and he may be in line for an offensive assistant position should one open up over the course of the next 12 months.

The coaches are on their annual Hawkeye cruise at the present time, as the boat left port on Sunday. That makes it seem less likely that Iowa will make an announcement for this position

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