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With Ferentz, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt

Mike Hlas, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa –

IOWA CITY — Last month, Florida head coach Will Muschamp hired Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease to take the same job with the Gators.

Let’s say Pease hadn’t taken that job. Would he be likely to apply for the open offensive coordinator job at Iowa?

Not likely. It’s not Florida, it’s Iowa.

“Brent Pease wanted to get into the fast lane back in that SEC and double his salary,” Boise State Coach Chris Petersen said.

But, had Pease still been at Boise State, would Kirk Ferentz have him to replace offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe though Pease had no known ties to Ferentz or Iowa?

Not likely. It’s not Florida, it’s Iowa.

“I’ve always said I would never hire a guy from a name-brand school,” Ferentz said Wednesday. “Take a guy (four-year Iowa receivers coach Erik Campbell) from Michigan? What was I doing?

“But he did the hard work at Ball State, he was at Navy, he was at Syracuse as a young guy. He paid his dues, and he was also a 13 year veteran, I believe, at Michigan, so he wasn’t a vagabond guy knocking on every door and trying to get to the next bus stop.”

Ferentz likes to lean on familiarity, and on personal and professional characteristics he knows and relates to rather than a snazzy resume.

Which is like a lot of bosses, actually.

So if you know someone in Hawkeyeland who hopes Ferentz will bring in a hot shot from the outside who vows to transform Iowa’s offense into a likeness of the hyperaggressive, warp-speed attacks of a Baylor or Oklahoma State? Try to guide them back into reality.

Since Tuesday’s announcement about Ferentz promoting defensive backs coach Phil Parker to defensive coordinator, I’ve heard disappointment and even disgust from some Iowa fans. They want change after two straight seasons they found unsatisfying, any kind of change.

Yet, does anything about this move really seem wrong? Phil Parker isn’t Norm Parker, who announced his retirement as the defensive coordinator in December. He’ll be strongly influenced by the examples Norm set and the principles he leaves behind, of course.

But who ascends into a position of greater authority and morphs into an identical twin of the person they’re replacing? Driven people believe in themselves, believe in their own beliefs.

Plus, Phil Parker’s been a pretty good coach at Iowa for 13 years, right? He’s gotten a lot of endorsements from quality players he coached, right?

“With Phil I wasn’t looking for a carbon copy of Norm,” Ferentz said. “I don’t think that was the criteria, and certainly it’s the same way with Ken’s seat, too. But there are traits that we are looking for, not necessarily schematic things but traits, and I think that’s probably the most important thing.”

Ferentz took his sweet time replacing Norm Parker because a) he could, and b) that’s how he does things.

“I just wanted to kind of sift through it, and I’m really glad that I did because my mind was in a couple different places,” he said.

“I’ve been all over the place in terms of thoughts, and I think I owe that to the program and our team to make sure that we try to be as thorough as we can be.”

So now the offensive coordinator’s position has been open for almost a week, and wouldn’t you love to know who from beyond Iowa City is applying for that job?

Is any current Iowa offensive coach the favorite? We don’t know. Maybe Ferentz doesn’t. He’s a mull-it-around man. But I’d put my money on, say, Campbell over any outsider when push comes to shove.

It is clear Ferentz has an offensive line candidate in mind to come in from somewhere else. That’s why he moved Reese Morgan, a 12-year coach at Iowa who has spent the last nine with the offensive line, to the defensive line.

It wasn’t like Morgan proposed the change to give Iowa’s young D-line an older, less-mercurial leader than predecessor Rick Kaczenski, though that’s Ferentz’s desired result.

“Fair to say he was a little surprised on that one,” Ferentz said. “But I guess I’ve got some executive privilege. I exercised it.

“We wouldn’t have done that if we didn’t feel like we had options, options that might work out,”

It’s widely assumed one such option is Brian Ferentz, the coach’s son and a former Hawkeye player who is the tight ends coach of the New England Patriots. Asked about that possibility, Kirk Ferentz said this:

“You know, we’re open to anything right now, anybody that’s out there that has a chance to really help our football team.”

But somehow, you suspect “anything” and “anybody” will turn out to be people who have either played for Iowa, are currently in Ferentz’s organization, or both.

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