Iowa takeaways: Ferentz adjusts staff, checks in with Wadley, despises media day

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has created a new title for one assistant and created a new position to bring in an NFL veteran to help his staff.

Ferentz told reporters Wednesday that linebackers coach Seth Wallace has added the title of assistant defensive coordinator, although his duties won’t change. Ferentz said it’s a way to acknowledge Wallace’s value to his staff.

“I’m certainly not pushing (defensive coordinator) Phil (Parker) out the door, and we’re not anointing Seth as the next guy, either,” Ferentz said. “But I think those two guys have really worked well together. Seth has been a coordinator (at Valdosta State in Georgia). He’s gone through that mental process. So I think the more you have resources within the building … just bouncing ideas around, that’s how you improve.”

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has created a new title for one assistant and brought on board another to help with special teams.

Ferentz hired Kevin Spencer last month to serve as a quality control assistant working primarily with special teams. LeVar Woods is in his first year leading that unit. Ferentz worked with Spencer in 1993-94 with the Cleveland Browns and called his availability an “unexpected development.” The 63-year-old most recently coached special teams with the San Diego Chargers and won a Super Bowl while on the staff of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002.

“I thought that was a little bit of a void in our program. I was looking for a younger guy, maybe somebody coming up the ladder a little bit,” Ferentz said of his initial plans. “Kevin’s a wealth of knowledge special teams-wise. He’s going to be a great resource for LeVar.”

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A conversation with Wadley

Ferentz said he made a point to speak with senior tailback Akrum Wadley before bringing graduate transfer James Butler into the program. Wadley was a 1,000-yard rusher for the Hawkeyes a year ago who entered the season as a clear No. 1 option out of the backfield. Butler also rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons at Nevada. He has one year of eligibility left and arrived on campus Monday.

“I sure did tell Akrum that it was something we were considering if we had that opportunity,” Ferentz said. “My first obligation is to try to make our team better. From everything I’ve been able to learn about James, I think he’s going to bring a maturity that’s going to help us. I spoke with Akrum about it just to tell him, ‘Our idea is to help you, actually.’ That’s my sole motivation. Our plan’s not going to change a lot for him. As long as he’s able to go, he’s going to be going.”

True freshmen in the mix?

Ferentz said true freshman quarterback Peyton Mansell will have a chance to work his way into the conversation to be the starter, but admitted it’s a long shot. The competition appears to be between junior Tyler Wiegers and sophomore Nathan Stanley, neither of whom have started a college game. Ryan Boyle is third on the depth chart.

That doesn’t mean Mansell is an automatic redshirt candidate, though.

“Not if he’s the best guy,” Ferentz said. “He’s climbing a little steeper hill than the others. But if he emerges as the guy, we’ve got an open mind at every position right now. I don’t know if it’s realistic, but we’ll let it play out on the field.”

That’s also true of highly touted offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs of Mount Vernon. The Hawkeyes appear set there, with seniors Ike Boettger and Boone Myers.

“We’re going to let him compete,” Ferentz said of Wirfs, who weighed in at 315 pounds. “And then if we have a decision to make, that would be great.”

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Media day dilemma

Deciding which three players to bring to Big Ten Conference media days in Chicago was difficult, Ferentz acknowledged. It’s also not an occasion that he enjoys.

Iowa is sending seniors Josey Jewell, Matt VandeBerg and Sean Welsh to the annual gathering Monday and Tuesday. Wadley said last week that he would have liked to go but that he accepted the decision.

Ferentz said he makes his choices based on the accomplishments, seniority and leadership of his players. He scoffed at those who question such things.

“I hate these things anyway, these two days. The best moment of my year, other than being on the practice field or the game field, is driving out of Chicago on that Tuesday,” Ferentz said. “Now we’re getting critiqued on who to take to the Chicago media days? … One more thing to get a coach in trouble now, right?”