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Hawkeye Football Position Previews: Coaches

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | AUGUST 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is now the longest-tenured football coach in the Big Ten.

But the departures of longtime coordinators Norm Parker and Ken O’Keefe, have changed much of the Iowa coaching staff this season. Phil Parker was promoted from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator. Greg Davis arrived from Texas to become Iowa’s new offensive coordinator.

Reese Morgan, who had coached the offensive line for nine seasons, switched to the defensive line, and Brian Ferentz — Kirk Ferentz’s son — was hired as the new offensive line coach.

It was a lot of change in one off-season. The new coaches, however, are prepared for the task.

Greg Davis — offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach

Davis is new to the Hawkeyes but not to the game, not by any standard. The offensive coordinator coached at Texas in the same position for 13 years, and at various universities since 1978.

“Anytime you’re 13 years into something you need to look at everything … certainly having three coaching changes made [freshening things up] a necessity,” Kirk Ferentz said during on the team’s media day on Aug. 6. “[Davis and I] have met in a lot of different areas, had a lot of different discussions, and just are really pleased with a lot of things that we’ve talked about. We’ll throw them up against the wall and see if they continue to stick, but so far, so good.”

Despite a thin running-back group, Davis said he’s not concerned with it “as much as others are.” He said he could get away with starting a freshman at running back.

Davis is pleased with the makings of Iowa’s offense, as well. He said the offensive line is “very solid” and the tight end position is deeper than any of the other teams he’s coached for.

And he had high praise for quarterback James Vandenberg.

“He’s got a chance to be an outstanding player. He’s got a chance to play beyond college. He’s bright, he’s 6-3, and he’s accurate. … I could not have asked for a better guy for me to come in here and for him to be sitting there as a senior. … To say I’m a fan would be an understatement.”

Brian Ferentz — offensive-line coach

Brian Ferentz bears the legendary name of his father, but he’s ready to make his own this season.

The former Hawkeye graduated in 2006 and then spent four years with the New England Patriots, coaching the team’s tight ends last season.

But now the head coach’s son has taken over Iowa’s offensive line, one of the stronger positions on the team.

“There’s no other way to get experience than to play when it counts,” he said.

Brian Ferentz spent time learning under now-Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien with the Patriots. He said O’Brien is one of his biggest influences and mentors.

From O’Brien he’s learned to prepare everyone, to keep the offensive line “always fluid” enough that any number of athletes could step in and play. Brian Ferentz doesn’t care who the five starters will be in the first game, only that there will be at least five linemen ready to play.

“In my time in the National Football League, we would go into a game with 46 guys who could actually enter the football game, which generally meant for us that we’d take seven linemen into the game … that meant you started five and then had two guys who could back them up.”

Brian Ferentz said it’d be “naïve” to think that five linemen are going to carry the team. He’s planning to get several of them ready to play.

“We just always need to be prepared to have our best five on the field, whoever they may be,” he said.

Reese Morgan — defensive-line coach

Morgan joined the Iowa coaching staff in 2000, and began coaching the offensive line in 2003. Now, nine years later, Morgan has jumped to the other side of the ball to lead the defensive line.

Many expect the line, returning only two starters, to struggle this year.

Morgan doesn’t believe that, however, despite the fact that he’s stepping into a brand new position where 13 players have only 48 games of experience combined.

“There will be a little bit of a bull’s-eye on our guys’ back, and people will be watching,” Morgan said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of NFL teams that are going to be watching practice and saying, ‘Wow look at these guys,’ but I do think that there’s going to be some great stories and surprises. And some guys that are, in time, going to be [stars].”

Morgan said that the change in position has been “invigorating,” despite the issues of experience with the defensive line.

“I loved working with the offensive line, the tight ends, [but] being on the other side of the ball is kind of a stimulating thing — it’s really been fun,” Morgan said. “I just hope Coach Ferentz and [defensive coordinator Phil] Parker are patient with us as we work through and develop these young men.”


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