Iowa adds North Dakota State, Northern Illinois assistants
Iowa's coaching staff just got a lot younger.
North Dakota State offensive coordinator Tim Polasek, 37, and Northern Illinois assistant Kelton Copeland, 36, have joined the Hawkeye football program.
Polasek will operate the Hawkeyes' offensive line, and Copeland will coach the wide receivers. The university announced their hirings Tuesday afternoon, confirming reports earlier in the day by the Register and others.
In Polasek, Iowa is getting someone groomed by one of college football's winningest cultures who has already experienced groundbreaking success at Kinnick Stadium. He should also provide the Hawkeyes a new angle in recruiting, too.
Polasek has spent much of his post-college career in Fargo, N.D. He worked his way up from being a North Dakota State graduate assistant in 2006 before leaving for one season, in 2013, to become an assistant at Northern Illinois, which went 12-2 that year, with Polasek at the helm of both the tight ends' and fullbacks' squads.
He returned to North Dakota State as offensive coordinator in 2014, and he’s spent the past three years in that role — including presiding over No. 2 overall 2016 NFL Draft pick Carson Wentz, now a quarterback with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bison have ranked in the upper third of FCS in total offense, rushing offense and scoring offense in every year under Polasek's direction and won two FCS national championships.
Of course, Polasek’s tenure at NDSU also includes a recent accomplishment in Iowa City: The Bison rushed for 239 yards while stunning the Hawkeyes, 23-21, on Sept. 17 at Kinnick Stadium, behind a power attack. That marked Iowa's first loss to an FCS school.
"They've had a lot of good players. Again, the jerseys change, but they just keep playing well," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said in mid-September. "... We might have to start recruiting North Dakota because they have a lot of guys in-state that play well for them."
In his new role, Polasek inherits a unit from Brian Ferentz, who in January was promoted to offensive coordinator; the line won the Joe Moore Award in 2016 as best in the nation.
Polasek became the second known addition to fill three vacancies on the Hawkeyes' coaching staff that were created by the retirement of offensive coordinator Greg Davis, 65, and firings of assistants Bobby Kennedy, 50, and Chris White, 49. Iowa named former longtime offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe, 63, as its quarterbacks coach on Feb. 3.
Copeland, who coached for four seasons at Northern Illinois, became the final piece to the puzzle. Copeland coached the Huskies' receivers and special teams last season after serving the previous three years in DeKalb, Ill., as running backs coach. Northern Illinois ranked third in the Mid-American Conference last fall in total offense, at 463.8 yards per game.
Copeland is originally from Miami, Fla., and he could be a recruiting asset in the talent-rich state.
Interestingly, Polasek and Copeland coached together in that 2013 season, when the Huskies knocked off Iowa, 30-27, in the season opener at Kinnick Stadium.
“We are excited to add two extremely successful individuals who have worked in highly competitive programs to our staff,” Kirk Ferentz said in a statement released Tuesday. “Tim has been involved in programs that have won at a very high level, earning a reputation as a great teacher and as an individual who has established great relationships with his co-workers and players.
“Kelton, much like Tim, has been an assistant coach who has played a key role in the success of the programs he has been involved with. His players and special teams units have posted great accomplishments, and he is very well respected as an up-and-coming assistant coach. Both Tim and Kelton add vibrant personalities to our staff."
The coaching-staff shuffle that basically lasted a little more than five weeks likely means Brian Ferentz, 33, will preside over the running backs while in his first year as offensive coordinator. Ferentz was Iowa's run-game coordinator the past two seasons.
The NCAA should approve a 10th full-time assistant coach in college football later this spring. Look for Iowa to hire a defensive coach when that happens.
With Polasek and Copeland now in the fold to work under Brian Ferentz, the Hawkeyes certainly have assembled multiple sharp young minds when it comes to moving the football.
Iowa's full-time assistants:
Offensive coordinator: Brian Ferentz
Quarterbacks: Ken O'Keefe
Offensive line: Tim Polasek
Wide receivers: Kelton Copeland
Tight ends: LeVar Woods
Defensive coordinator/defensive backs: Phil Parker
Defensive line: Reese Morgan
Linebackers: Seth Wallace
Recruiting coordinator/defensive line: Kelvin Bell