The Register's Chad Leistikow and Mark Emmert give their thoughts after Brian Ferentz was promoted to offensive coordinator for the Hawkeyes.
IOWA CITY, Ia. – The overhaul of Iowa’s football coaching staff continued Thursday with word that two offensive assistants will not be retained.
Bobby Kennedy, who coached wide receivers, and Chris White, who was in charge of running backs, are out after four years on Kirk Ferentz’s staff, the university announced in a news release.
That means that new offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, Kirk’s son, will be able to create his own staff. Brian Ferentz was promoted from his role as offensive line coach Monday. Former offensive coordinator Greg Davis announced his retirement last Friday.
The week’s worth of shuffling leaves three spots for the Ferentzes to fill – with the likelihood of a fourth opening in April once the NCAA approves the addition of a 10th coaching position for football teams.
The offseason movement – unusual for a Ferentz program accustomed to stability in its coaching staff – comes after the Hawkeye offense underperformed for much of 2016, ranking 121st in FBS in yards per game. Iowa finished 8-5, with a 30-3 loss to Florida in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2.
“We didn’t execute to the standard that we hoped to this year at all times,” Brian Ferentz said Monday at the announcement of his promotion. “There was some good mixed in with the bad. I think it’s hard to win eight games with all bad.”
The good came primarily from the running game. It was Kennedy’s wide receiver group that struggled the most, particularly after Matt VandeBerg went down with an injury after Week 4.
Iowa gained just 1,991 yards through the air – 627 fewer than it allowed – in 2016. Only four wide receivers other than VandeBerg caught a pass, and they netted a mere 901 yards.
Kennedy, 50, spent four years on Ferentz’s staff. He previously coached wide receivers at Washington, Texas and Colorado.
White, 49, saw his tailback duo of LeShun Daniels Jr. and Akrum Wadley each eclipse 1,000 yards on the ground this season, the first time that had happened in Hawkeye history. In addition, he coached Iowa’s specialists, with punter Ron Coluzzi and freshman place-kicker Keith Duncan each turning in strong years.
White also had just completed his fourth year with the Hawkeyes, after previous stops with Syracuse and the Minnesota Vikings.
Iowa’s news release did not offer reasons for not renewing the coaches’ contracts, terming it a "reorganizational effort." Kennedy was paid $340,000 for the past season while White had a base salary of $315,000.
"I want to thank coach Kennedy and coach White for their efforts and contributions to the University of Iowa and our Hawkeye football program," Kirk Ferentz said in the university release. "I wish Bobby and Chris the very best as they move forward in their coaching careers."
But it’s noteworthy that Kennedy was Iowa’s key contact in the ill-fated recruitment of Texas high school running back Eno Benjamin. White was also involved in that recruiting process.
Benjamin, a four-star talent, initially committed to the Hawkeyes in April, only to fall out of favor with the coaching staff when he later decided to take other official visits. Benjamin eventually de-committed from Iowa and recently announced he would be playing at Arizona State.
Fellow Texas recruits Gavin Holmes and Beau Corrales followed Benjamin in cutting ties with Iowa.
In an open letter, Benjamin professed confusion about Iowa’s policy on not taking official visits after a verbal commitment, saying he had told two coaches of his intentions. He didn’t name the coaches, writing:
“When it all blew up publicly, those coaches never stood up for me to have my back. They didn’t say they knew about the visit beforehand and that they told me they were OK with it as long as it didn’t get out.”
There was no immediate announcement of replacements for Kennedy or White, with the news release saying a national search was underway. In addition to hiring or reassigning someone to coach wide receivers and running backs, the Ferentzes also must name a quarterbacks coach. That role had been part of Davis’ duties and Brian Ferentz said Monday he “would have almost zero comfort” handling those duties at the present time. Brian Ferentz has also been the team's running game coordinator the past two seasons.
“Whatever you end up doing, you seek out good people and you seek good counsel and you learn. We’re all students,” the 33-year-old Brian Ferentz said Monday. “That’s the exciting part of the challenge to me, too. I’m going to be doing a lot of things that I’ve never done. But that’s how you learn to do them. You seek out good people that have done it in the past and done it well.
“Luckily, I know a few of those people.”