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When the Past is Prologue

  • I moved to Iowa in 2000 while the Hawkeyes were still enduring the painful throbbing of the post-Hayden Fry hangover (7-27 between Fry's last season and Kirk Ferentz's first two years) but better days were just over the horizon as the program began to turn the corner (7-5 in 2001, followed by 31-7/20-4 from 2002-04, #8 in the country all three years, one of the greatest 3-year stretches in Hawkeye history). By year 4 of Ferentz's reign, Iowa was on top of the Big 10 and in the conversation about NC contenders. But then the bottom seemed to fall out: 19-19/11-13 from 2005-07; then 20-6/11-5 from 2008-09; then the most recent slide--19-19/10-14 from 2010-12. It's been a roller coaster: 2-3 years on top of the wave, followed by 2-3 years in the trough. If history's any kind of predictor, aka the past is prologue, after the most recent 3-year slide, 2013 should start the climb back out again. Or will it?

    Given the solid foundation and the building blocks for success that seem to be there--top 15 in fan base, top 15 in financial value, top 25 stadium, rock solid academics, I'm curious as to what objective Hawkeye fans--and I appreciate that may be as much an oxymoron as "objective Buckeye fans" would be--would attribute the program's inability to sustain success for more than a couple years at a time. Given Ferentz's salary and buyout, I can't believe it's a lack of commitment by the administration, so is it lack of talent, the rash of RB issues, bad apples on the roster, poor coaching, poor/too conservative play calling, bad luck, poor senior leadership, the inability of underclassmen to step in and replace accomplished seniors, a killer schedule, lack of brand sex appeal to attract the best talent, has Ferentz become complacent and satisfied with mediocrity/has college football passed him by?

    Looking at the 2013 team, do you see it capable of rebounding from 4-8 and closing with six straight losses to have a 2001-type season (7-5 after 2000's 3-9) that could set the table for a championship-caliber 2014?

    This post was edited by iowabuckeyes 18 months ago

  • I think it has to do with multiple things. The running back issue has definitely hurt the Hawkeyes, but I think they have done a good job at that position with the next man in motto, better there than at most positions. The coaching takes some blame, but KF has won before so he deserves credit for that as well. I think the big thing, and this is my opinion, is that there isn't consistent recruiting. People hate that it is brought up, but Iowa does a great job at developing and I think sometimes that is their downfall, for some of the years they are struggling, they don't have any breakout stars but seem to have some players that might be right there in terms of breaking out, thus are still being developed.

    I definitely think that looking at this past season, the coaching is a big reason, two new coordinators isn't necessarily an excuse because other schools might go through that change and do well, but in Iowa's case, I think it made a big difference. And in my opinion, at least one of those coordinators is horrible.

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  • Great post, and I'm very interested to read everyone's thoughts on this issue. In my opinion, relative to many of its conference and geographic rivals, Iowa is more difficult (and in many cases much more difficult) to recruit to than those schools are. It really is amazing what Ferentz has been able to do in some of the successful years you mentioned. Because of the recruiting obstacles Iowa faces, I think, in order for the Hawkeyes to win 10 games in a season, they absolutely must hit on just about all of the "instant-impact" recruits, while also benefiting from a number of projects that developed way beyond what anyone thought they could do. With less margin for error, the negative impact of attrition, injuries or busts can really set Iowa back.

    I think a lot of people feel that it's nearly impossible for Iowa to win 10+ games every single year, but winning 10+ games once every 3-4 years is doable, and I agree with that notion. The coaching staff obviously isn't perfect - whether it's personnel decisions during the season, play calling, clock management, recruiting effectively, etc. All of those things play into Iowa's recent struggles. But I think the number one factor is just not having the talent and the depth to consistently play at a high level. Some of that is due to luck (injuries), some of it is due to attrition, and some of it is due to over-valuing recruits and/or losing key recruiting battles.

    While Kenney, Hill and Young were still in Iowa's 2013 class, I thought the Hawkeyes were slowly setting themselves up to peak once again when the 2011-13 classes become the core of the roster. That may still happen, but Iowa badly needs to finish strong in these next three weeks before Signing Day.

  • derHawkeye

    I've noticed this as well and said multiple times that our biggest problem is a lack of sustained success. Ferentz does a very good job of building teams that hit the bottom and is why I have no doubt that the team will come back in the next year or 2, but he doesn't do a good job of maintaining the success. If we do a good job of finishing off this class and can build a solid 2014 class around our in-state guys we may be able to avoid the downspin, but who knows.

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    Sine Missione -- Never be a spectator for unfairness or stupidity, argue for arguments sake; the grave will give plenty of time for silence.

  • As already stated, it's almost certainly a combination of things.

    Interestingly enough, in some ways Iowa is a victim of its own success. I've stated before that this coaching staff does an excellent job with player development, particularly on the OL and TE positions. The problem is, when a player leaves early for the NFL, or gets injured, or dismissed, etc., the backups may not have reached that level of development as of yet, and the team suffers. This lack of quality depth is generally what separates Iowa from the blue-chip programs that simply reload, and also is what makes sustaining success extremely difficult. Ironically, if the coaches were less gifted in this respect, more players would stay the full 4-5 years, and the program would have fewer peaks and valleys.

    In my mind, no other factor the last few seasons has been as important as attrition. That, and the underachieving 2010 squad, have set the program back immensely. Whether or not there is the talent level and coaching acumen to once again bring the program back remains to be seen, but to do so there is going to have to be better recruiting, plain and simple. We simply cannot constantly rely upon building players up over 2-3 seasons, hoping to get 1-2 good seasons out of them, not knowing if that will happen, or if they will even progress through the process. It's a constant gamble, and right now we are losing.

  • HawkiBrad55

  • fuisu

    City Boyz INC.... We lost a lot of talent in James Cleveland, Cedric Everson, & Dominique Douglas. Not only that but we lost of ability to recruit questionable athletes. Drugs, rape, & theft in one year put a black eye on the program and departures from two stud WR's & a sick CB really hurt to the point leading to our second rebuilding.

    Followed by any player getting in trouble afterwards we cut ties almost instantly. City Boyz INC limited our recruitment of inner city ballers. If Garmon would've got in trouble before signing day I don't think we would've gone after him. David Smiths flashy hair cut and questionable endzone tactics are my presonal beliefs on why we didnt pursue him. Heck I doubt we would've offer Noel Devine if he would've listed us as his clear favorite.

    McCall attitude. Gone. KF doesn't BS and runs a tight ship after City Boyz INC and it is what it is.

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  • To answer your question simply, no.

    I don't see a roster or a schedule that allows for Iowa to have anything better than a .500 record. I'm trying to be objective, so it pains me to even write this.

  • HawkiBrad55

    I respect that too it just sucks as we could be missing out on great players that may never get into trouble. I don't see us turn around big next year but I think our o line in the next year or 2 is going to be good enough to help us turn the corner.And I think we have enough talent on the d to be back to as good as we used to be (so long as they pan out)

  • Oh there's no one reason, its an interwoven web of futility that has at times neutered this team and ripped the hearts of Hawkeye fans everywhere.

    Even with KF's best teams, there were always "holes". 2004, Iowa had an outstanding DL, but our LBs, though talented, were relatively inexperienced. When our LBs become outstanding, the DL is wholly inexperienced. Then our DL once again becomes stout, and our LB core is once again, inexperienced. Now we have a solid LB core, and our DL is in a shambles. Just once, I would love to see Iowa field a team with talented and experienced Juniors and Seniors across the field, have a season with no key injuries and have decent back-ups. Its simply hasn't happened yet. And its been 14 years. 2009 was as close as we came to that dream. An injured Stanzi screwed the pooch on that one.

    I ran some numbers here recently. For the recruiting classes 2002-2008 (which is the 2005-2012 draft classes), 29% (14/48) of all 2☆ recruits KF had, hes put into the NFL. 3☆ was 25% (15/59), and 4☆ was 35% (7/20). He's 0 for 2 with the 5☆ in his career. (Now when I say "put into the NFL", that to me was either drafted or made the practice squad.)

    Anybody wonder why KF is so successful with the 2☆ & 3☆ recruits? I think it really as to do with the type of recruits the they tend to be. Kids that have not had everything handed to them, are gonna be more receptive to a coach when a coach gets in their grill. A kid like McCall? I guarantee that he saw the situation as he was being "disrespected", hence his whiny, immature facebook posts. I really think that if KF has a kid with maturity issues, he doesn't really know how to deal with them. Not his fault, but I don't think he helps the situation much. Give him a kid whose hungry to learn and be coached, and he's in his happy place. (I think this is why so many recruits leave or get asked to leave at Iowa...beyond the druggies and rapists.)

    But when you're getting commits from so many players that need time, you end up with the "holes" I was talking about. I for one would love to see a time when Iowa never has a redshirted player. "Oh, that guy got hurt? Lets throw that 4☆ sophomore in there. He missed his assignment? Where's that 5☆ freshman? Put him in there." - sadly that will never happen here. But that's how 'Bama does it. The flip side of that is of course the 2nd string, 5th year PK eating up a scholarship only cuz hes a "good guy, and has coffee with the coaches, and helps them design the special teams plays and throws the ball around with the WRs in warm ups". Thats what grad assistants and ball boys are for. That sh*t gotta stop.

    As for the play calling and the defensive schemes? Honestly, what KF preaches is what wins championships. Unfortunately, you need the horses up front to get the job done. Play a 4-3 D and want the DL to stuff the run AND apply the pressure on the QB? Then you better be recruiting at the minimum, 4☆ players with tons of talent, who can do what your scheme is designed to do. Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard? 4☆ recruits. Joe Gaglione and Dominic Alves? 2☆ recruits. Get the point? As for the Offense? Just shoot me.

    Do I think Iowa "isn't sexy" as much as KF preaches? Heck No. I think KF doesn't want the hassle of maybe having to learn how to deal with immature 18 year olds at this time in his life. He's tried it before, and CBI, Wegher, ARob, DJK, Coker, McCall and Lord knows who else, was the result. I think if he can get his pet projects, develop them to the NFL, be loved by all the coaches and GMs in the NFL, then hes perfectly content on whatever the scoreboard reads (I mean hell, its not like we can fire him). If he can find a 4☆ recruit here or there that doesn't think of himself as "da'bomb" and is willing to be coached, then KF will go after him.

    And you know what? There are other things that contribute, but its late and I am tired, so I am going to end my book here. rockon


    EDIT: Forgot the last part, about the upcoming season. All I'm gonna say is take a look at Oregon St. Went 3-9 in 2011...and then flipped the script in 2012 to go 9-3. Anything is possible. The offense could really click this year with a new QB, a new WR and a healthy OL and RB. Maybe the youth movement on the DL can provide some pass rush. New season, new slate, new chances. None of us would've predicted 4-8, so why bother predicting 2013? Just take it one game at a time and go from there.

    This post was edited by OhioHawk07 18 months ago

  • This.

    With Iowa's current lack of talent on the roster, Greg Davis' playbook, and the strength of schedule becoming much more challenging this upcoming season, I don't expect much improvement.

    Iowa's one handicap that they DO have control over each and every season, regardless of talent on the team, is the lack of creativity and willingness to take risks by the head coach.

    I truly believe that if the coaches had implemented more creativity with the playbook, Iowa's offense wouldn't have looked vanilla and unproductive. Sure, the offense didn't have the talent, but the staff did nothing in terms of becoming more creative with the plays in attempt to make up for it.

    I also don't believe that Ferentz and staff always go after top athletes. As posted, a team of developing players is, well... a team with developing players. One gets hurt, and the level of talent drops significantly because next man in isn't developed enough to play and make an impact.

    As pointed out, Iowa has bad years followed by good years, then bad, then good. It's a roller coaster. At some point, there needs to be a change of thinking at the top. I do support Ferentz and the staff, even though I criticize them a lot. The boss in charge of the program needs to learn to change some with each year and each team he has.

  • So is it fair to say it's not really one thing but several things but most specifically a combination of these three:

    1. Lack of quality depth
    2. Lack of innovation in playcalling/game management
    3. Ferentz's apparent unwillingness to change/adapt

  • HawkiBrad55

    BINGO. He is horrible at clock management and with our offense we need a healthy line and running back to make it work, he is kind of like a coach of mine in high school Dick Tighe, we ran the 27 belly 30 times a game but had the horses on the line and at backs to make it work, but if any of the combo wasn't there it would be shut down. In order for us with our vanilla playbook to have a passing game we need a strong run game in order to have a play action pass. We used to use tight ends a lot and that went to the wayside for whatever reason when we have NFL caliber talent.

  • PerkAslut

    I'm not going to comment, other than to say that iowabuckeyes makes some great posts.

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  • Horrible? That would entail that he had some grasp on what a clock is for. To him, it is something to be ignored.

  • It's not as hard to recruit to Iowa as some try to make out. Hayden Fry turned this program around over 30 years ago. You don't sustain success that long with a program being "that difficult" to recruit to. Is it on par with Alabama or Michigan or Ohio St.? Obviously not. However, I think it is right in the top 25 to 30 programs that you can recruit to well. Part of it is coaching staffs and recruiters. Kids nowadays will go a lot of places. Plus, if Nebraska can pull in talent, Iowa can as well.

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  • I'd say that Iowa is probably a top 30-35 program in terms of attractiveness on the recruiting trail. But if you think about it, a top 30-35 team is generally around 7-5 or 8-4, depending on who they played that year. So I do think it's fair to expect Iowa to be at least in that range every year. Fry obviously was the one to turn the program around in the first place, but I think it's probably even harder to win at that level at Iowa now than it was back then. The national media plays a much, much bigger role in the perception of fans and recruits these days than it did in Fry's era. Iowa is one of the least-hyped BCS schools among the media, so it's not the easiest sell. So when Iowa wins 7-8 games in a season, I'm not overly impressed, but anything more than that is very impressive, and Ferentz has been able to do that at times.

  • I have always thought superior coaching, leadership and chemistry can beat better talent. And that all circles back to coaching. Look at Texas, which has a roster full of 5-stars but for some reason, can't seem to put it together on the field. Or USC. Or Ohio State last year, which was a complete and total clusterf^ck. Tied a 114-year-old school record for losses in a season. PSU was in much the same place and did it with a depleted roster having lost Redd to USC, Brown to Oklahoma and Fera to Texas. Like Iowa, they lost two OOC games to inferior opponents that they could have/should have beaten. PSU and Iowa both came into their game with identical 4-2 records but PSU blew Iowa out. Their season ended 8-4 while Iowa's fell apart with six straight losses. They met at the same crossroads but went in completely separate directions.

    I always look at K-State as the poster child for teams in states that don't produce a lot of talent, which is interesting since Bill Snyder went there from Iowa. He built his program on JUCOs. Yes, you only have them for 2 years but they generally come in battle-tested against better competition and more physically mature. And if they don't pan out, you don't have to hang onto them for 2 more years.

    For whatever reason, the B1Gs have historically shied away from JUCOs but as the recruiting paradigm has changed, it seems to be becoming a viable option for filling in holes on a roster. And Iowa's JUCOs seem to be raising their profile. Iowa Western won the national championship. It's sending 14 players on to BCS schools--11 of them to B1G or Big 12 schools but not one of them is going to Iowa. I've heard Todd and other VOTH posters say Iowa needs a DE and Iowa Western's got two pretty good ones--one's going a K-State, the other to Iowa State. Neither got an offer from Iowa.

    Keep an eye on Iowa Western center Austin Stephens. He was named all-conference as a freshman. I watched him play for two years at WDM Valley (same program that produced Conor Boffelli). Named Elite all-state as a senior at 6-3/270; now he's listed at 6-3/290. He has a real nasty streak. I watched Valley play at Waukee his senior year and he drove his DL opponent out of the end zone. He was also a very good baseball player. He hit .392, which was 15th best in 4A, 14th best in hits, 1st in RBIs, and 1st in home runs with 14. He also went 6-0 with a 0.79 ERA, which was 1st in 4A, and 10th in strikeouts with 61 Ks in 53-1/3 innings for a 34-10 team. Named first team all-state in baseball. He's not super mobile but he's sneaky athletic. And he plays to the whistle.

  • derHawkeye

    I agree with the coaching being more important than pure talent. North Carolina, Texas, USC, Auburn, etc. are poster child's of success in recruiting but not putting it together on the field.

    Building a program on JUCO's is a dumb idea which requires a whole lot of luck and a lot of very good coaches to successfully do, but it's never something you want to rely on. It's a stop-gap rather than an answer. In some cases teams don't recruit JUCO's enough like in some circumstances Iowa has, but most are smart enough to know that building a program on JUCO players is for the most part a bad idea, which sometimes can lead to success (Kansas State last year, Auburn a few years ago), but it is an atypical situation.

    JUCO's have always been viable to fill holes, some older coaches don't like it, but as you see more dynamic coaches with more fluidity in their philosophies, going the JUCO route is less resisted. IWCC is a very good school for JUCO's, but again it's not something you want to rely on and so while Iowa in some cases should have a bigger presence, it's ultimately up to the coaches to make that decision. I'm not sure about the DE you're talking about who's going to Kansas State, but there *is* a reason why the other one's best offer was from State. Rodney Coe did for the record have an offer from Iowa though...2 years ago out of high a RB...who ballooned into a DE...and who screwed up his already slim chances of coming to Iowa by trashing them with social media.

    We took a recruit from Iowa Western last year. He was a Center as well and while it's not a total gimme that Center is his for the next 3 years, it is very much expected. It makes a lot more sense to recruit a high school Center in the 2014 class than go after the guy you mentioned, but I haven't seen him on tape and don't know how good he is or isn't. I also haven't seen how much Eric Simmons has progressed in his RS year though, so it's completely up to the coaches to determine if another JUCO Center is needed or not.

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    Sine Missione -- Never be a spectator for unfairness or stupidity, argue for arguments sake; the grave will give plenty of time for silence.

  • fuisu

    List em. Prestige, location, recent success, current state of affairs, conference...

    Alabama, ND, USC, Texas, Michigan - Top 5
    OSU, Tenn, LSU, Oregon, FSU - Top 10
    PSU, FLA, Clemson, TA&M, OU - Top 15
    Georgia, UCLA, Nebraska, Miami, VaTech - Top 20
    Pitt, Ark, Stanford, Auburn, Iowa - Top 25
    Colorado, BYU, Wisconsin, GT, Cal - Top 30
    Syracuse, Boise State, Washington, Ole Mis, MSU - Top 35
    ASU, AZ, BC, KSU, TCU - Top 40

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  • HawkiBrad55

    You have Alabama number 1? I would have never guessed that.

  • I think it's more about groups of 10 than groups of 5. But I agree with the Top 20 and, overall, I think it's a pretty good list. About as good as any given that it's one man's guess, i.e., I wouldn't have Colorado in the top 25.

    What's disconcerting is the lack of B1Gs in the top 40. With five BCS conferences, there should be 7-8 B1G teams in the top 40..

  • I agree with all of the schools you have ahead of Iowa, but IMO, Iowa is too high on your list. Again, I'm just trying to be objective in terms of what the average recruit and/or average college football fan thinks right now. I'd put Michigan State and Wisconsin both ahead of Iowa. Everyone you listed in the top 40, with the exceptions of Boise State (that one is close), Colorado, BYU and Boston College, would be ahead of Iowa on my list. I'd also add Mississippi State, West Virginia and Oklahoma State ahead of Iowa.

  • I agree it's generally not a good idea to build a program on JUCOs but they can be an band-aid. Most go that route because of academics, they were injured or overlooked in high school (Austin Stephens, Jake Waters), or they originally started at another school but didn't want to sit out a year or go FCS (Cam Newton, Zack Mettenberger).

    But virtually every BCS school's doing it because if a coach looks at his roster and says, "I'm losing two 3-year starters at linebacker and I don't have anyone on my roster or that I'm recruiting that I'm really confident is ready to step in and play to level I need them to," why not take a look at JUCOs? And with limited remaining eligibility, that's what the JUCOs want--a chance to play immediately.

  • If I had to rank them, mine would go something like this, and this is based on a longer period of time than just the last few seasons, so not as heavy on 'recent success' -- let's say the past 20 years.

    1. Alabama 2. Notre Dame 3. USC 4. Ohio St. 5. Florida 6. Texas 7. LSU 8. Michigan 9. Oregon 10. Oklahoma 11. Florida State 12. Georgia 13. UCLA 14. Miami 15. Auburn 16. Penn State 17. Clemson 18. Nebraska 19. Stanford 20. Tennessee 21. Texas A&M 22. South Carolina 23. Oklahoma State 24 Va Tech 25. Wisconsin. 26. Arkansas 27. Wisconsin 28. Iowa 29. Michigan State 30.Cal 31. West Virginia 32. Texas Tech 33. Ga Tech 34. Pitt 35. BYU 36. Arizona State 37. Mississipi State 38. Kansas State 39. Ole Miss 40. Boston College 40. Washington 41. Arizona.

  • For a list based on a longer time span, I think this is pretty similar to what I'd say. In terms of evaluating where the program is at today in relation to where it should be, though, it may make sense to narrow the focus a bit to just the past few years, as that's all a lot of recruits and/or fans really know/care about. I think the ever-evolving 24 hour news cycle and the emergence of social media have really changed the dynamics of college football, even as compared to just 4-5 years ago. Because of that, in certain ways, it's even more difficult to win consistently now at one of the less publicized programs.