Des Moines Register's Chad Leistikow and Rick Brown discuss Kirk Ferentz's weekly press conference and preview Saturday's game against North Texas.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — We’ve seen a different Kirk Ferentz this season. Just ask him.
“It’s a new me,” Iowa’s football coach said Tuesday.
Ferentz was responding to a question about last Saturday’s new wrinkle: Marshall Koehn’s rugby-style punt on Iowa’s opening possession of the 27-24 victory over Pittsburgh.
That’s just the latest example. Practices have been moved to the morning. Fake field goals are in vogue. So is a more aggressive offensive approach.
Ferentz said last season’s final home game, an overtime loss to Nebraska, opened the door to change.
“It’s a simple as this,” Ferentz said. “You just get back to everybody that left the stadium in November, everybody — players, coaches, every fan that we had, and we have the best fans in the world — left saying, ‘Really?’ And the bowl game wasn’t much fun, either. So you go back and you just look at everything … what can we do to be better?”
Iowa is 3-0 heading into Saturday’s final nonconference game against North Texas. But it’s the fan-friendly way Iowa has played the first three weeks that has garnered a lot of attention.
“I don’t think we look totally different right now as a football team, but if we could make some tweaks and little changes that were going to help us and be advantageous, we were going to be open to it,” Ferentz said.
Speaking of changes … The jury is still out on morning practices, Ferentz said, even though he’s seen a lot of positives come from the move.
“I said to (strength coach) Chris Doyle last Thursday, 'This seems like it’s going well,'” Ferentz said. “Now, what shoe is going to drop here in October and November? I’m still waiting, trying to see what the downside will be.”
Ferentz said an improved team mindset has had more of an impact than what time the team practices. He can’t remember one bad practice since the start of fall camp in August.
“That’s a credit to our players,” Ferentz said. “They’ve been working hard. We’ve seen leadership developing. That’s important. But we’re only a quarter through it right now.”
The Iowa coach shows an understanding of how outsiders are viewing him in 2015.
Duzey, Daniels and Ott: Tight end Jake Duzey was in uniform for the first time Saturday. He continues his comeback from April surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon.
“We knew he wasn’t going to play in the game, but we wanted to get him back in the routine of going through pregame, being in the hotel, all those types of things,” Ferentz said. “It was great having him out there and back in the swing of things. I doubt he’ll go this week, but we’re getting closer.”
Running back LeShun Daniels (ankle) and defensive end Drew Ott (elbow), both injured against Iowa State, got limited action against Pittsburgh. Ferentz said neither had a setback.
“I think we’re gaining ground there,” Ferentz said.
Krieger Coble steps up: One player who has stepped up to help fill Duzey’s void is senior Henry Krieger Coble. He’s had eight catches over the past two games.
“I’ve told pro scouts that over the past year nobody’s made more tough catches in practice than Henry,” Ferentz said. “With Jake out, that was a blow to us. But all of us were very confident that Henry would play very well. He’s done that.”
Senior tight end has 8 catches the last two games
The huddle is back: After using a no-huddle look much of last season, the Hawkeyes have returned to old-school ways when the offense is on the field. One bonus has been improved camaraderie.
“Last year, we tried going no-huddle, and I think we got away from being there as a team, hearing the call from the quarterback, from the leader of the offense, breaking the huddle together, and getting to the line of scrimmage.” quarterback C.J. Beathard said. “That’s a big thing coach Ferentz prides Iowa football in, is being together and being physical. And by breaking the huddle and being in there together, it kind of shows that.”
It’s been a motivating change for the offense.
“There are times in there when guys are frustrated with certain calls, or the way they missed a block,” Beathard said. “I’m frustrated if I miss a pass. But you’ve just got to brush that off and go on to the next play. We’re really positive for each other in the huddle and picking each other up.”