The Book of Ferentz, Chapter 17: Will changes reap dividends?

Rick Brown
Naming quarterback C.J. Beathard the starter one of many offseason changes made by Iowa headc oach Kirk Ferentz.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Kirk Ferentz conducted his first media day as Iowa's football coach in August of 1999. C.J. Beathard was 5 years old.

Ferentz will hold his 17th media day Saturday afternoon, and Beathard is his starting quarterback. Beathard got the nod over incumbent Jake Rudock, who started 25-of-26 games over the previous two seasons, in early January.

A lot of changes have taken place around the program since 2014 ended with dismal losses to Nebraska and Tennessee. The head coaching position is not one of them, but the court of public opinion is running out of patience after a 19-19 record the past three seasons.

Before we look ahead, we go back to 1999. Ferentz inherited a 3-8 team from Hayden Fry that had an impossible number of holes to fill. A 19-19 record his first three seasons would have been a dream achievement.

The Ferentz era got off to a 1-15 start. And it was 2-18 after a 13-7 home loss to Wisconsin. A double-overtime victory followed at Penn State, leading to this memorable headline in the Centre Daily Times newspaper of State College, Pa., the next day:


A season later, Iowa went to the first of its 12 bowl games under Ferentz. The year after that the Hawkeyes played Southern California in the Orange Bowl. Fortunes can change in a hurry. Maybe the changes Ferentz made in the offseason can lead to some positive momentum as well.

Iowa opens a new chapter against Illinois State on Sept. 5 at Kinnick Stadium. When we last left the home of Hawkeye football, Nebraska was celebrating a 37-34 overtime victory that never, ever should have happened.

Special teams, once a strength of Ferentz-coached teams, had an epic meltdown against the Cornhuskers that day. There were offensive miscues in the red zone, too. And the defense gave up too many big plays.

"We'll be lucky to be .500 if we play like that," Ferentz said.

And .500 just doesn't cut it around here anymore. Forget the 17 consecutive non-winning seasons Fry inherited in 1979. Forget the program Ferentz inherited in 1999.

Look at the schedule. There will trouble in River City if this is a .500 football team in 2015.

We mentioned all the changes that have been taking place, starting with Iowa's first-class football operations center. LeVar Woods will now coach tight ends instead of linebackers. Offensive line coach Brian Ferentz will take on run-game coordinator duties. Recruiting coordinator Seth Wallace will now coach in the secondary. The head coach stayed in the office more, a move to solidify relationships with players and staff. The Hawkeyes will practice in the morning a lot.

"I think every year you go through self examination," Ferentz said.

The to-do list is long heading into the Book of Ferentz, Chapter 17. How will the new offensive tackles do? How about the new interior of the defensive line? Can the linebackers do a better job of stopping opponents outside the ends? Will the running game return to prominence? Will Beathard give the stagnant offense a spark as Iowa's best run-pass threat since Brad Banks in 2002? Can this team sidestep the injury bug at several key positions? Is there anybody in the program who can punt consistently?

That's a lot on the plate. And Sept. 5 will be here before you know it.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.