Stay the Course

It seems like every year some Iowa fans build themselves up for some type of philosophy change they hope will come from the coaches. They set themselves up for disappointment.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - The pleading never really ends. Even during times of success, there will be arm chair quarterbacks questioning the coaches of their favorite football teams. It's the nature of the setup.

That certainly prevails at Iowa. Criticism often centers around predictability with the Hawkeyes system.

Coach Kirk Ferentz proudly admits he's set in his ways. Detractors call it stubbornness.

Iowa has changed things up during Ferentz's first 12 years. Hawkeye Defensive Coordinator Norm Parker came out of his base 4-3 enough to help his team beat pass happy Big 12 Teams Missouri and Texas Tech in bowl games.

Offensive Coordinator Ken O'Keefe, the target of much fan consternation during the last decade plus, opened things up for Drew Tate when injuries decimated the running back position in 2004.

Those were - for lack of a better term - aberrations. The hands O'Keefe (and Ferentz) were forced by health at a position. The head coach has been more open to letting Parker loose when there's a month or more to prepare for a bowl game. Other than that, not really.

This offseason, we've heard a lot about getting more athletic on defense with maybe more 3-4 looks and a 6-8 man rotation on the line. Call me skeptical, but I haven't bought it and will believe it when I see it.

This isn't the first time we've heard about a defensive linemen rotation. Watch the Northwestern film from last year or other games where the Hawkeyes ride their top guys to exhaustion. Perhaps this year will be different. Perhaps.

Before people either jump on my back or have my back, I've never called for a coaching change. Ferentz and company have produced a wonderful era in Hawkeye football with memories that will last a lifetime.

I have been critical however. I think it's OK when fans have questioned the coaches (within reason and respectfully). I haven't seen a staff above reproach. They've all made mistakes like all humans do in all professions.

We can dream of them switching things up at quarterback. Throw No. 2 A.J. Derby in for a series here or there where he uses his legs and athleticism, kind of like a Tim Tebow.

"I think right now we're going to give (starter) James (Vandenberg) his opportunity and see what happens, see how it goes from there," Ferentz said when asked Tuesday if there was a special package for Derby.

Not surprising. And really, I'm OK with that. I'm not a big fan of multiple quarterback systems. I also think it would be cool to see.

Ferentz did say they will play to Derby's strengths if and when he gets in a game.

"We can bend left or right depending on who we've got," Ferentz said. "We've tried to do that through the years.  Guys that can run around a little bit, you think about Drew Tate, certainly Brad Banks, they could move around a little bit back there.  Other guys haven't been quite as nimble.  I'm not saying he's Brad or Drew.  But he'll move around a little bit and move the ball around a little bit more than maybe some other guys would."

We're not talking Wildcat here. It's pro-style, under-center QB play with an opportunity run if things break down.

I think there's a chance to see some wrinkles with true freshman running back Jordan Canzeri. Ferentz likes him a lot, making quite a few Danny Woodhead comparisons.

"It's not like the quarterback thing," Ferentz said of running back. "We'll do what we have to.  If our best guy is a power runner, if it's Shonn Greene, we'll go with Shonn Greene's best runs, if it's Fred Russell, those guys have a different way of doing things.  You try to bend towards whatever a guy can do."

That leads me to believe we'll see Marcus Coker a lot. Jason White and the true freshman will be sprinkled in.

In summation, don't expect to witness much variation from what you've seen the last 12 years. I'd be shocked if there was an eight-man rotation in the defensive line, I might pass out if Derby went in there to run a Wildcat and I really don't anticipate a lot of 3-4 alignments or nickel and dime packages on D.

Could things like that work? Maybe. It's just not something Ferentz and his staff find comfortable.

That's OK. What they're doing is working.


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