Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz told the media and fans Wednesday that he admits certain things need to change for his football program to turn things back in the right direction.
However, in true Ferentz fashion, drastic changes won’t be done. And the long-time coach believes the Hawkeyes are not very far away from success and he still thinks his style of play can work.
“It is not like we are climbing Mount Everest here,” Ferentz said. “We are not that far away. I don’t want to look at this as an impossible task by any stretch.”
You have to give some credit to Ferentz. He is who he is and doesn’t waiver. He doesn’t jump off a cliff when things are bad and he doesn’t pat himself on the back when things are great. He is as even keel as it gets.
But if things don’t change, and change in a hurry, the Iowa fans may push him off a cliff. And the athletic department may eventually have to make a decision to go a different direction.
Here are five reasons why things in Iowa City will get better next year. I will follow this up tomorrow with five reasons why the program won’t improve next season.
While key seniors will be lost due to graduation – and some other players may be lost due to attrition – most of the players who played significant snaps will be back next season. They did not have a lot of experience this season but gained valuable playing time in 2012. I would expect guys like Mark Weisman, Damon Bullock, Jordan Cotton, Darian Cooper, Riley McMinn and Nico Law to continue to improve next season.
Nine Starters back on Defense
This could be looked at as a good thing or a bad thing, but the defense had great moments in 2012. Most of the 4-8 can be put on the offense and several key defensive pieces return, including all three starting linebackers, three secondary members and a young defensive line which should take another step in the right direction.
Having James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey back should help immensely and it is not far-fetched to think that another year of development will help defensive lineman like Dominic Alvis, Carl Davis, Cooper and others next season. The second will feature B.J. Lowery and Law, but Tanner Miller will have to be much better in 2013 or risk losing his starting job.
A Healthy Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal
It is no coincidence that Iowa’s six-game slide started with a game that saw both Scherff and Donnal leave the game early due to season-ending injuries. Scherff was the team’s best lineman and Donnal had taken large steps from game one to game seven. Having those guys back along with guys like Connor Boffeli and Austin Blythe should help improve a struggling offense. Boffeli will likely take over for Ferentz at center giving Iowa a starting lineup of Scherff (LT), Brett Van Sloten (RT), Blythe (RG), Donnal (LG) and Boffeli (C).
Another year in the System
I know the offensive system left a ton to be desired. But it was bound to struggle in its first season anyway because the passing game was quite different from what we saw with Ken O’Keefe calling the shots. A few tweaks here and there and the development of wide receivers like Cotton, Kevonte Martin-Manley, Tevaun Smith and Don Shumpert should at least give Iowa a fighting chance. It will help if the OL and running backs can stay healthy throughout the season as well.
It was apparent that the wide receivers were not on the same page with James Vandenberg most of the season. Hopefully that gets cleaned up with another offseason of learning and development.
Plenty of talent at RB
The running game was great up until Scherff and Donnal went out with injuries. I know the Iowa running backs don’t have a solid track record of staying healthy and some may not even be back in Iowa City (based on past attrition numbers), but having plenty of options like Weisman, Bullock, Greg Garmon, Andre Dawson, Michael Malloy and a healthy Barkley Hill should help if one or a few backs do go down with injuries.