Iowa position preview: A closer look at the coaching staff

Iowa football is back. The Hawkeyes are in camp, and the season is approaching. Land of 10 is here to keep you informed and get you prepared for the season. In August, we are breaking down position groups. Here is the coaching staff.  

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Land of 10 will project Iowa’s depth chart for each position group before the Hawkeyes take the field Sept. 2 against Wyoming. There are no projections for the coaches, but here’s a look at the coaching staff:

Depth chart

Head coach — Kirk Ferentz, 19th year (135-92 at Iowa, 147-113 overall)

Offensive coordinator/running backs — Brian Ferentz, first year (6 years at Iowa; 2012-16 as offensive line coach)

Defensive coordinator/secondary — Phil Parker, sixth year (19 years at Iowa; 1999-2011 as secondary coach)

Quarterbacks — Ken O’Keefe, first year (14 years at Iowa; 1999-2011 as offensive coordinator)

Offensive line — Tim Polasek, first year (first year at Iowa; 2014-16 as North Dakota State offensive coordinator)

Wide receivers — Kelton Copeland, first year (first year at Iowa; 2016 as Northern Illinois wide receivers coach)

Tight ends/special teams — LeVar Woods, third year (10th year at Iowa; 2012-14 as linebackers coach, 2008-2011 as administrative assistant)

Defensive line — Reese Morgan, sixth year (18th year at Iowa; 2003-2011 as offensive line coach), 2000-02 as recruiting coordinator)

Linebackers/asst. defensive coordinator — Seth Wallace, first year (seventh year at Iowa; 2016 as linebackers coach, 2014-15 as recruiting coordinator, 2006-08 as graduate assistant)

Recruiting coordinator/asst. defensive line coach — Kelvin Bell, second year (sixth year at Iowa; 2012-15 as staff assistant)

Iowa-strength-coach-Chris Doyle
Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle supervises warmups before Iowa’s kids’ day practice on Aug. 12, 2017. (Scott Dochterman/Land of 10)

The King: Chris Doyle

Strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle was hired by Kirk Ferentz in time for Ferentz’s first season at Iowa and has remained with the program for all 19 of the head coach’s seasons. Doyle impacts every player in the program and is a major reason why Iowa has 37 draft picks the last 10 years, one shy of Michigan for second in the Big Ten over that span.

Iowa is perhaps college football’s most self-aware program. It knows what it is and what it wants to accomplish. The building season is all Doyle. The Hawkeyes are confident they can build 3-star prospects into All-Big Ten performers. That starts with Doyle’s strength and conditioning program.

“I think part of being successful is identifying what are our strengths,” Doyle said. “We can get 250-pound athletes in the Midwest who aren’t afraid to work and build them into lean 300-pound guys and do what we’re trying to do.

“We’re not necessarily looking to go out and bring guys in that are giants. We want athletes. We don’t play with fat guys. Turn the tape on. We feel like we can bring good-sized kids to the University of Iowa and develop them into functional, athletic players.”

Iowa-quarterbacks-coach-Ken O'Keefe
Iowa quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe answers questions at the team’s media day. (Scott Dochterman/Land of 10)

The wildcard: Ken O’Keefe

Ken O’Keefe ran Iowa’s offense during Kirk Ferentz’s first 12 seasons at Iowa. O’Keefe left after the 2011 season to become wide receivers coach with the Miami Dolphins. After five years in South Beach, O’Keefe returned to Iowa City last winter to instruct Iowa’s quarterbacks. Presumably, he’s also going to serve as Brian Ferentz’s consigliere.

Like many offensive coordinators, O’Keefe’s play-calling sometimes was predictable, but he knew how to churn out quarterbacks. Brad Banks finished second in Heisman Trophy voting in 2002. Ricky Stanzi won three bowl games and helped Iowa to a No. 7 finish in 2009, the program’s best since 1960. Drew Tate was an All-Big Ten quarterback in 2004. Plus, James Vandenberg threw 25 touchdowns as a junior in 2011 and only 7 in 2012.

“He’s seen the highs, the lows,” Kirk Ferentz said. “He understands what the challenges are certainly, and what our advantages are. So having that expertise, that wisdom, it’s tough to get that anywhere else. I mean, that’s insider information, if you will, that nobody else probably could have had.”

The newcomer: Kelton Copeland

No Iowa assistant has a greater task or a better opportunity than wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland. Iowa’s passing game was abysmal last fall and ranked 118th nationally. That was with a legitimate NFL quarterback in C.J. Beathard. Once starting wideout Matt VandeBerg broke his foot, the receiving corps flunked. In the final nine games, receivers other than Riley McCarron totaled 23 catches. In the final four games, they combined for 4 catches.

Iowa-receivers-coach-Kelton Copeland
Iowa wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland talks with receiver Matt Quarells before practice on Aug. 12. (Scott Dochterman/Land of 10)

This season, Iowa has a different passing system and several new receivers. The progress this group makes will shine upon Copeland and possibly determine the season’s level of success.

With so many new faces at receiver, it’s difficult to judge the position.

“It’s the chemistry and jelling of things,” Kirk Ferentz said. “It looks a lot better than it did in April. Clearly we weren’t there in April, and two weeks ago it was hit and miss, but we are gaining ground. Any time you have new players, you are going to have that.”

The post Iowa position preview: A closer look at the coaching staff appeared first on Land of 10.

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