IOWA CITY, Iowa - George Barnett wanted to coach at Iowa because of the program’s reputation of producing top offensive linemen.
Ladell Betts wanted to be back in the program where he played.
The Hawkeyes’ two newest assistant coaches — Barnett is the offensive line coach, and Betts is the running backs coach — were drawn to their respective jobs for different reasons, but they also knew they were going to a place where they would be comfortable.
“Coaching football, when I’m on the field, it feels like home for me. It’s what comes naturally for me,” said Betts, who replaced Derrick Foster. “At the end of the day, it’s football. Football doesn’t change. It’s hitting, it’s tackling, running, catching, passing the football. It doesn’t change, no matter what level you’re at.”
“You always keep your eye on jobs that would be a good fit for you,” said Barnett, who replaced Tim Polasek. “And as an offensive line coach, it comes down to how do they value the offensive line positions schematically, (and) fundamentally how do they teach, and who the head coach is. All of those are a fit. You always have a little list of schools you would like to someday try out. Iowa’s always been one that I’ve kept my eye on, for sure. Too many things match up.”
What both coaches appreciate is the Hawkeyes’ consistency.
Betts rushed for 3,686 yards in his career at Iowa from 1998-2001, second-most in program history. He was a part of three Ferentz teams, going through those early struggles as Ferentz tried to build the program.
Iowa’s running game, Betts said, “hasn’t changed much,” something offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz told him during the interview process.
“Honestly, there aren’t a lot of different ways to run the football,” said Betts, who has been coaching at the high school level after a nine-season NFL career.
“You have zone schemes, you have gap schemes, and you have lead schemes. And we do all three. Everything that they’re doing now is the same stuff they were doing when I was here. Outside zone, inside zone, a few lead concepts, gap concepts. Football, it’s changed, but at the end of the day the running game is the running game.”
Barnett has more than 20 seasons of coaching at the college level. He was at Miami (Ohio) from 2014-2020, and had been on the job as Tulane’s offensive line coach for just a few months before the Iowa job came open.
It was an opportunity he couldn’t pass. And, like Betts, he found consistency with the Hawkeyes’ approach.
“They keep the same fundamentals, the same teachings,” Barnett said. “That was the intrigue I had with Iowa — they lean on certain things.
“What strikes you is the knowledge base. What strikes you is how humble they are, and how they know their business. And it makes you want to be a part of it.”
Iowa was so important to Barnett, he didn’t have to do much convincing with his family before making the decision to make the move.
“They knew,” he said. “They knew.”
Both coaches have work to do with their respective position groups. Both have stars — Betts has Tyler Goodson, who has led the Hawkeyes in rushing the last two seasons, and Barnett has All-American center Tyler Linderbaum. But both have questions to answer — Betts has to find depth, and Barnett has to fit some inexperienced pieces.
And there is the usual offseason whirlwind that comes with a new position.
They both know why they made their choices.
“As far as football, and the fundamentals, the leadership in the organization, that hasn’t changed,” Betts said. “Coach Ferentz has been around here for 22 years plus, and he’s done a great job.”
“When you get here, the excitement is going through the roof,” Barnett said. “You’re on Cloud 9. … I don’t even know what day it is.
“Coach Ferentz, Iowa football — that’s pretty high. That’s pretty top-shelf.”