Hawkeyes shake things up
IOWA CITY, Ia. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz doesn't mind if people think the Hawkeyes are boring. He is not willing to accept the perception that Iowa has become an average team.
The Hawkeyes have gone stale over the past two seasons, with a 4-4 record in the Big Ten, 15-11 overall and a pair of trips to the Insight Bowl. The departure of two top coordinators led to the most turbulent offseason of Ferentz's 13-year tenure.
A little turmoil might be just what the Hawkeyes need to return to the Big Ten's upper tier in 2012.
"If you do something for 13 years there's a good chance something is going to change. And based on the national average I think we certainly outlived what the norms are," Ferentz said. "But it gave us an opportunity to bring some really good people in, and I think that's what we've done."
The defense shouldn't look much different under new coordinator Phil Parker, who moved from the secondary to the top spot to replace retired coordinator Norm Parker. The Hawkeyes might be more aggressive with their blitzes and coverage schemes, but that's probably about it.
That won't be the case on offense.
Longtime Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis was brought in to overhaul an offense that had grown painfully predictable by the time it combined for just 21 points in losses to Nebraska and Oklahoma to end last season.
Davis won with a variety of schemes and a ton of talent while with the Longhorns. After a year off, he vowed to bring a fresh set of ideas to Iowa City.
He won't have the team speed he was used to at Texas, but he will have a talented senior quarterback in James Vandenberg.
Vandenberg threw for 25 touchdowns against just seven interceptions a year ago. He is arguably more comfortable out of the shotgun than under center, so Iowa may line up there much more than they have in the past.
The Hawkeyes are going to need Vandenberg because of question marks in the running game. The departure of promising freshman Mika'il McCall and star Marcus Coker was followed by a season-ending knee injury to sophomore Jordan Canzeri and the dismissal of De'Andre Johnson earlier this summer.
Sophomore Damon Bullock and junior Brad Rogers—who had just 13 carries between them in 2011—sit atop the depth chart ahead of true freshmen Barkley Hill and Greg Garmon.
"I'm not sure how it's going to play out yet. It's going to be decided here in the next couple months, and we'll just see how it goes," Ferentz said. "We certainly have enough talent out there, and hopefully we can bridge the experience gap."
Iowa's defensive line, once the anchor of the unit under Norm Parker, is also a question mark for the second year in a row.
The linebacker corps looks solid and the secondary should be in good shape with veterans Micah Hyde and Tanner Miller alongside a pair of talented but inexperienced backs in B.J. Lowery and Nico Law.
The Hawkeyes open the season Sept. 1 with what could be a difficult matchup against Northern Illinois at Chicago's Soldier Field. That's followed by four straight home games.
Most believe the Hawkeyes will still finish with 7-8 wins, around .500 in the Big Ten and with a trip to a minor bowl in late December. Ferentz is fed up with such finishes, and he's trying to move past mediocrity by embracing change more than he ever has.
"It's been a different offseason certainly, and it's been enjoyable," Ferentz said. "Now we're doing what we really like to do."