Newest hires find Iowa in a state of 4-8
Kennedy, Reid know it's a fixer upper, but see willing combatants
IOWA CITY -- There is no spinning Iowa's 4-8 from the 2012 season.
It was top-to-bottom bad.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz threw his hands up in the air and said as much in a postseason press conference. He compared 4-8 to the national debt and the country's inability to come to grips with 16 trillion. You get the point.
Ferentz fired two coaches and lost a third to Rutgers. Two of the new coaches, wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy and linebackers coach Jim Reid, met the media for the first time Wednesday.
They didn't try to paint 4-8 any differently. They do have a different way to look at it, however.
"It's probably not only the wide receivers but the group as a whole," Kennedy said, "they're probably a little embarrassed about last year, and what I've seen out of these guys thus far is that they want to fix it."
Reid said he hadn't heard the word "embarrassed." He understood it, but in talks with his players -- which is the inside linebackers with second-year assistant LeVar Woods handling the outside linebackers -- Reid senses the urgency to get past 4-8.
"One player said I'm glad that we weren't 6-6 but 4-8, because we have to do things better and we just can't almost get by," Reid said. "To me, I guess when I talk to [players], there just seems to be more of a focus and a determination, perhaps not to let it happen again."
Kennedy and Reid can relate. They didn't have great 2012 seasons, either. Kennedy was let go at Colorado in the wake of a coaching change. Virginia's defense finished 28th nationally in total defense, but the Cavaliers finished 4-8 and Reid was let go as defensive coordinator.
Kennedy said he struggled with the west coast offense Colorado had under former coach Jon Embree. He spent seven seasons with Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis when they were at Texas (2004-10).
"In the second year, being on the same page, they're more comfortable," Kennedy said. "They're playing faster because they understand the concepts better. I think you'll see a change."
When talking roster, Kennedy knows Iowa returns junior Kevonte Martin-Manley, who led the Hawkeyes with 52 receptions last season. Kennedy also talked sophomores Tevaun Smith and Jacob Hillyer, who are in competition at the "X" receiver, and seniors Jordan Cotton and Don Shumpert.
Both players had their first real taste of action last season. Cotton made a dent on special teams; Shumpert had a drop on a fourth down against Iowa State and fell out of the rotation. Kennedy kept them late after one of the first wide receivers meetings.
"I told them part of my job is to make sure you leave Iowa the right way and go out the right way," Kennedy said. "Part of my job is to make sure I coach them well and get them in the right positions, but what I want to do is make sure when the guys walk out of this program they feel good about what they've accomplished and they feel good about their experience at Iowa."
Reid said he will not tinker with the defense. He stated the chain of command and complimented second-year defensive coordinator Phil Parker. The wrinkle within the defense is Woods taking on more special teams responsibilities and Parker returning to coach the secondary.
This also was a chance to take in Reid's personality, which is an alligator with a chicken in reach. He was asked what needs fixing with the defense, which allowed big plays late in games last season. Five practices into spring, Reid talked about what needs to be there to make the improvement happen.
"There's a focus here that doesn't guarantee you success, but if you don't have the focus that we have right now, then you can't have success," he said. "Do you follow me? Did that make sense? If the focus wasn't great, I'd be talking about something else trying to skirt the issue."
And then the coach who was fired last season and who took a seat with a team that cratered at 4-8 kicked into the mode of someone who knows there's work to do.
"The reason why I don't want to do this right now [the interview] is I am totally focused on today's practices," he said. "There are two items of technique that can really help us that I'm really fired up to teach, and I'm fired up to get into the meeting and talk to them about it."And the other thing I'm fired up is they'll know and understand what I'm talking about, so that when you take care of all the details, then not giving up the big plays at the end -- I believe that we lost two games on the last play of the game last year -- those things will take care of themselves."