IOWA CITY — Funny. Last off-season brought plenty of happy talk from Iowa football fans because the team had changed offensive coordinators.
After 13 years of Ken O’Keefe, many fans felt they and Iowa’s opponents had seen what there was to see. O’Keefe left for the NFL and Kirk Ferentz hired Greg Davis. It was assumed Davis would change it up, spread it out, open it up.
Predictability was about to go the way of the BCS and the 12-member Big Ten. Iowa was joining college football’s Age of Enlightenment.
Uh, no. The Hawkeyes’ output dropped by 62 yards and 8.2 points per game from 2011, though the starting quarterback was the same in James Vandenberg.
Funny. This off-season has brought plenty of muted talk from Iowa football fans because of that offensive drop-off and Iowa’s 4-8 record.
But there is probably more reason for August optimism this time around. The offensive and defensive lines have more potential for success than they did at this time a year ago, and that’s where success always starts.
Plus, Davis should fully know by now what he has (and doesn’t have) to work with on offense, and what Iowa’s opponents have (and don’t have) to work with on defense.
And, Phil Parker not only has a year under his belt as the defensive coordinator, but has a former college head coach and defensive coordinator to help him in Jim Reid.
Former Hawkeye quarterback and assistant coach Chuck Long has been a head coach at San Diego State, an offensive coordinator at Kansas, and a co-OC at Oklahoma. He’ll be the analyst for the Big Ten Network’s telecast of Saturday’s Northern Illinois-Iowa game.
To hear my podcast with Long, which covers the Hawkeyes, the Big Ten, and his inclusion in the Kinnick Stadium Wall of Honor, click here.
He thinks the change in coordinators had much to do with Iowa tailing off last season, and that wasn’t a knock on either.
“Greg Davis is used to that Texas speed,” Long said. “It took Greg to understand the culture of the Big Ten. You don’t quite have the speed you do like you had at Texas.
“I didn’t think Greg and Kirk were on the same page last year in terms of what they really wanted. I think they’re going to have a much-better year this year, and the same philosophy in where they’re trying to go.
“On the other side, I think Phil Parker, just being a new coordinator — it’s a lot different when you’re in that coordinator’s seat as opposed to being an assistant coach.
“I’m not sure he had the experience that he needed in his defensive staff from last year. He had Reese Morgan, who was a brand-new D-line coach. (Linebackers coach) LeVar Woods was brand-new. He had a couple other coaches that were switched around from other positions.”
Enter old salt Reid, who was Virginia’s defensive coordinator the last three years.
“I know as a coordinator I always wanted one more guy in the room to help me game-plan,” Long said. “Everybody else can leave and go do their work, then you can close the door with that other coach and you can really hone in your game plan.
Plus, Parker has also gone back to coaching the defensive backs, which he had done successfully for 13 years here.
So, things may be on the upswing here quicker than some are ready to forecast. Coaches generally know what they’ve got, and the word I’ve heard is that Ferentz likes this team.
“I think it’s safe to say I think we’re in a lot of areas a lot more veteran right now and a little further down the road,” Ferentz said Tuesday.
“I’m really pleased with our leadership, and our older guys, not just seniors but older guys have done a good job of showing other guys how to do things.”
Asked if he were more confident now than he was a year ago this week, Ferentz said “About certain things I do, certainly, yeah. Probably more things than not. But again, you just never know how things are going to unfold.”
There’s the rub. Northern Illinois isn’t coming here Saturday just for the sun tans.