IOWA CITY — Conventional thinking in these parts is that Brian Ferentz swooped back into the Iowa football program last February and got his dad to wake up to some newer thinking.
Head Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz made assistant coaches a little more available to the media in March and April. The staff seemed to quickly have more of a presence on social media, where high school and college kids do a lot of nesting.
And, Iowa seemed to be working at recruiting even harder than ever, landing way more early-commitments than ever before.
Brian, who turned 29 in March, and fellow first-year assistant coach LeVar Woods, sent a jolt through the Hawkeye complex, many assumed.
Who’s to know how much that’s the case, especially in recruiting? Brian’s certainly not about to take credit, and it isn’t as if the rest of Iowa’s staff isn’t extremely familiar with TSA agents and rental-car counter clerks.
But if any young assistant coach can feel safe expressing opinions to a veteran head coach, wouldn’t it the head man’s son? Especially if that son was coming off a stint on the coaching staff of the AFC champion New England Patriots.
Still, when you suggest to Iowa’s new offensive line coach that the Hawkeyes may have needed an injection of something to get them back to the kind of success they once had, he sort of bristles.
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“I would preface that by saying to think this program needs anything or needs to get back to anywhere,” Brian Ferentz said Monday at Iowa’s Media Day, “I think it’s very easy to forget past history.
“We’ve beaten Michigan three years in a row. They won the Sugar Bowl last year.
“We beat Michigan State two of the last three. They were in the Big Ten championship game.
“We beat Wisconsin two of the last three times we played them, and obviously, the last game we lost, let’s be honest. It was pretty much our fault. And they won the Big Ten championship game last year.”
Of course, he didn’t mention Iowa has lost to Minnesota the last two years. Or that it got handled by Nebraska and Oklahoma in last season’s final two games. Or that it has gone 4-4 in the Big Ten, 7-5 in the regular-season in each of the last two years.
My guess is No. 1 Son Ferentz had a few private discussions with Pops Ferentz with some opinionated observations about how to improve on those things, but the son is way too smart to go public with any of that.
Iowa finished the 2009 season ranked seventh in the nation. But in last week’s coaches’ preseason Top 25 poll, the Hawkeyes didn’t get a single vote.
The difference between now and then, or now and when Brian played on Iowa’s offensive line from 2002 to 2005, isn’t as great as the previous paragraph suggests according to the new O-line coach.
“I don’t think we’re that far away,” Brian said. “I don’t. And I don’t think that much has changed since I’ve been here (as a player). I really think this is a continuation of whatever has gone on.
“I think what we’re trying to do is what we’ve done here, and find just a little better way to do it, maybe.”
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Brian was on the Hawkeye outdoor practice field Monday answering questions long after his colleagues returned to the sanctuary of their offices.
Iowa’s staff isn’t much different from nearly every other college football staff. Which means, it isn’t chatty. At least not around cameras and microphones.
But this Ferentz hasn’t been asked the same questions a dozen or two dozen straight summers, so he happily plays the Q-and-A game. Plus, he seems to understand the need to promote the program even when ticket sales are strong. You never know which prospect will read or hear a comment that hits home with him.
“We’re doing what we’ve always done, which is go find guys who fit here, guys who are Iowa football players,” he said. “We’re not looking for the most-talented guys every time, we’re looking for the right guys.
“I think this is the same program that it’s always been. I think we’ve been doing it since 1999. There’s no one else in our conference that can say that.
“What we’re going to look to do is do it better than we’ve ever done. It’s no different from it was in 2002 or 3 or 4 or 5, try to do it better than we’ve ever done before. That will never change.”
The difference is in the details. Maybe an iota more of vigilance or innovation, perhaps one more spark in the right recruit’s living room.
This program, whether the head coach or offensive line coach will publicly admit it, needed a shove forward. It just may have found it.