Iowa opens spring ball with new coaching staff
By LUKE MEREDITH
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) One of the hallmarks of the Iowa program under coach Kirk Ferentz has been staff continuity. Players came and went, but the assistant coaches never seemed to change.
This season, nearly everything is different in Iowa City.
For the first time since Ferentz took over before the 1999 season, the Hawkeyes enter spring ball with two new coordinators; Phil Parker on defense and Greg Davis on offense. Ferentz's son, Brian, left the New England Patriots to coach the offensive line, a spot that came open when Reese Morgan shifted over to the defensive line. Levar Woods was promoted from administrative assistant to linebackers coach, the position Darrell Wilson left behind to coach the defensive backs.
It was a dizzying array of moves for the Hawkeyes, who pride themselves on stability. But Ferentz said Tuesday on the eve of spring practice that, after back-to-back 4-4 finishes in the Big Ten, it was time to shake things up.
Iowa's spring practice runs through April 14, when the Hawkeyes host their annual open scrimmage in Kinnick Stadium.
"We really needed to just take things apart here a little bit and look a little closer," Ferentz said. "It's given us a chance really to go back and examine everything we're doing on both sides of the football."
The new-look staff will be working with a team that's very young nearly everywhere but quarterback.
Iowa will break in three new starters on the offensive line, and running back is wide open after star Marcus Coker and promising freshman Mika'il McCall left the program.
Sophomore Damon Bullock will work exclusively at running back after shifting between there and wide receiver as a true freshman in 2011, Ferentz said. Bullock is listed as a second-teamer behind sophomore Jordan Canzeri in spring ball, though both will have to hold off incoming freshmen Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill.
"We'll play with what we have, as long as they're effective," Ferentz said. "If they set the bar high, it's going to be tough on the freshmen. But we've got an open mind to all of those guys, and that is a position where younger guys can play."
Senior quarterback James Vandenberg's main task will be learning to work with Davis. Vandenberg is one of the few veterans Iowa knows it can count on in 2012.
Redshirt freshman Jake Rudock has moved up to second-team quarterback for spring practice, while senior John Wienke's move from signal-caller to punter appears to be complete. That would seem to put Rudock in a prime position to take over for Vandenberg in 2013.
"Rudock's got a lot less to forget than Vandenberg does," Ferentz said. "He'll be in the thick of things."
The Hawkeyes have just five starters back on defense, and promising lineman Dominic Alvis is working his way back from a knee injury he suffered last fall. He and tackle Carl Davis will miss spring practices with knee injuries but are expected to be ready by August.
Parker likely won't change things nearly as much as Davis, who ran a series of differing styles in a highly successful stint with Texas that ended in 2010. Ferentz didn't give many hints about what changes Davis may have in store for Iowa's offense, but it's clear that the Hawkeyes are as open as they've ever been to a new way of thinking.
"Even the old dogs are trying to learn some new tricks," Ferentz said. `The bottom line is, we want to move forward. If 4-4 is the best we can be, that's fine. But we shooting for something higher than that, certainly, always have been."
Updated March 21, 2012