February 20, 2012

One more hire to be made

If Iowa fans haven't figured it out in the past 13 years, Kirk Ferentz is a pretty deliberate man when it comes to making coaching hires.

While other head coaches are quick to fill openings on their coaching staff when they occur, Ferentz is just the opposite. He takes his time and thus far he hasn't missed the mark.

The news release on Saturday morning shouldn't have come as a big surprise to anyone since one was logical and the other was pretty much assumed based on the previous staffing changes announced when Phil Parker was named defensive coordinator.

Ferentz announced that LeVar Woods, who has been with the Iowa program for four years following the end of his NFL career, would be the new linebackers coach for the Hawkeyes. He also announced that his son, Brian, would be joining his staff as the offensive line coach.

While you hate to put the cart before the horse when it comes to coaching success, both appear to be home run hires for Kirk Ferentz. Both grew up in the state of Iowa, played high school football in the state, had successful college careers, and have NFL on their resume. But, that's half the story and leaves out the best part.

Both are world class individuals that have always represented the University of Iowa at the highest level possible. Both will be coaching the position they played at Iowa, so they know the system inside and out and have plenty of talent to work with in the coming years. When it comes to recruiting, I expect both to be very successful. Look at it this way; they have that extra heartbeat when it comes to Hawkeye Football, so the selling to recruits and their parents will never been seen as manufactured. They also have the type of resumes that will attract recruits. Woods played in the NFL after having played linebacker at Iowa. He knows the path to the promise land. Brian Ferentz just finished up a stint in the NFL with the New England Patriots coaching tight ends. One of his players at that position basically re-wrote the record book and oh by the way, he was also a very successful offensive lineman at Iowa.

On aspect of recruiting that will be interesting is where Woods and Ferentz will be assigned as far as a territory. Woods has been very active in Iowa's on campus recruiting efforts the past four years. He also got his feet wet on the road last month as the interim defensive line coach. Woods has also been hosting a football clinic in his home turf in northwest Iowa the past few years, including a 7 on 7 tournament that included many high school teams in the state of Iowa, so he will have name recognition within the state of Iowa. Reese Morgan has been an outstanding recruiter in the state of Iowa and when he decides to retire, which I don't expect to happen anytime soon, Woods would be a logical in-state choice. Until that day, I expect Woods will be hitting the state of Florida and perhaps one of the states in the Midwest.

As far as Brian Ferentz and a recruiting territory, the best guess right now would be the northeast. That was the area of former offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe, so there will be a need. Add in the fact that Ferentz probably holds a bit of name recognition in the area thanks to his success with the Pats, it appears to be a natural fit.

Now the question that remains is who will be the offensive coordinator and as of now, it doesn't have a firm answer. Late last week the rumor mill was churning pretty strong that former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, Tom Moore, was in town and had worked out the Hawkeye quarterbacks.

Moore is a former Hawkeye and has one of the more impressive NFL resumes that you will find. He's also approaching 74 years old and you have to wonder how many more years he wants to coach. Moore calls himself a "coaching lifer", but even that has its limits. We know from the perspective of Kirk Ferentz, age isn't an issue. When Ferentz arrived at Iowa, he approached is former coach and mentor Joe Moore (no relation to Tom Moore) about being the offensive line coach. Joe Moore turned him down and Ferentz turned his attention to Joe Philbin and that has worked out pretty well. Ferentz was also very supportive of Norm Parker prior to his retirement.

If it is Moore, odds are he won't have an off campus recruiting territory, much like Norm Parker in his final years as Iowa's defensive coordinator. But, that doesn't mean he wouldn't have a role. He could simply hold up a sign that says, "Hey, I have a few Super Bowl rings and I was the position coach for Peyton Manning and ran the Colts offense," and I think that would leave a pretty big impression.

Bottom line, Moore would fill the role Iowa needs, which is not only offensive coordinator, but quarterback coach. In this day and age, you have to have a coach for the most important position on the field. My sense is the decision is now in Moore's court. He grew up in Iowa, played for the Hawkeyes, and now he has a chance to come full circle and likely close out his coaching career where it all started for him. It might be a short term decision, but it would be a very good hire even if it is only for a few years.

However, it doesn't mean that Moore is the only candidate remaining. Nor does it mean he wants to continue coaching on a full-time basis. One thing we know about Kirk Ferentz is that he will take his time before making any decision.

He will certainly continue to evaluate internal candidates like Erik Campbell and Lester Erb, though in their current positions, neither would be able to continue in those roles based on what Ferentz said earlier this month that he could only see an offensive coordinator coaching either quarterbacks or tight ends. That doesn't mean either Campbell or Erb couldn't move to one of those positions, but it would seem to rule out either coaching quarterbacks based on their lack of experience in that area. However, both could certainly coach tight ends and that would open the door to hire a quarterbacks only coach. You have to think current graduate assistant David Raih would fit that position very well.

One thing is for sure and that is Ferentz will likely make a decision in the next few weeks simply because the clock is ticking. Spring football begins on March 19th, once Iowa students return from spring break and then we will begin to see what the staff changes will hold for the future of Hawkeye Football.

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