Howe: Time for Change

Many Iowa fans have been crying for years that their football team alter its approach. Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said it's coming, but how different will it look? We'll have to wait and see.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - Many of the Iowa fans screaming throughout the years for Kirk Ferentz to change can be found puffing out their chests. They feel that their cries have been answered. The head coach has come to his senses.

"If 4-4 (Iowa's conference record the last two seasons) is the best we can be, that's fine," Ferentz said Tuesday. "But we're shooting for something higher than that, certainly, always have been. I think, again, the downside of continuity, stability, is sometimes you just kind of stay on that same path."

While Ferentz admits that change can be good and that coaching changes among the assistants open the door for it heading forward, don't expect to see a wholesale shift in philosophy. The Hawkeyes are unlikely to be running four-wide sets as a rule or be blitzing every other play on defense.

"I don't know that we're going to look a lot different as a team next year," Ferentz said. "We have to be better. That's the bottom line. We left the door open just a little too much.

"At the end of the day, I don't know how much different we'll look. It will be different, though."

So, will the average fan notice changes in how the Hawkeyes go about their business in 2012?

"At times. maybe…at times, but not all of the time, if that makes any sense," Ferentz said with a smile and his signature snort.

It's hard to know exactly what will be different about Iowa football going forward with new coordinators in place for the first time in Ferentz's 14 years as head coach. Norm Parker and Ken O'Keefe have their own ideas, but much of what happens with the Hawkeyes is a collaboration with the head coach.

Ferentz said that new offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who has experienced a lot of football in his 60 years on earth, will call the plays. He prefers to work around the strength of the talent on his roster.

"Our definition of balance is being able to win the game either way," said Davis, who worked 13 years as the Texas OC. "It's not that you run 35 (times) and you throw 35; it's that you can win the game, and whatever that day dictates, you'll be able to win the game."

The Longhorns won with star running back Ricky Williams and standout quarterbacks Vince Young, Chris Simms and Colt McCoy. He inherited an Iowa roster with a fifth-year senior at QB and a young stable of running backs.

It makes sense that Davis would utilize Vandenberg's talents as a passer this fall. But, again, if Iowa comes up against a porous run defense, the new guy might switch things up for that week.

"We'll try to size up the players over the next 15 days and really figure out what's the best thing to do with that group," Ferentz said. "Game to game we'll change things, too, obviously."

Despite popular public opinion, Iowa did tweak things from year to year on both sides of the ball during Ferentz's first 13 years as head coach. Listening to Ferentz, Davis and new defensive coordinator, Phil Parker, it sounded like they're going to become even more flexible going forward.

"With a new (offensive) coordinator, it really gave a chance to sort of start from scratch," Ferentz said. "The biggest change is in language, the way we call things. We melded a little bit, but for the most part we're going with what he's done. He's the guy calling plays, so it's got to come out fast.

"The last group to catch on to all of this is going to be the coaches. The players learn fast. We're just slow learners (laughs)." Ferentz said the changes will not lead Iowa to recruit differently. The Hawkeyes usually have seen more success landing higher ranked players on the lines, running back, tight end and linebacker and have struggled at wide receiver and cornerback. That's helped dictate the play calling in the past and very well could affect it going forward.

In the end, Iowa is Iowa. It picks in-state talent from the second smallest population base in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes aren't likely to start stealing talent from the SEC , Michigan or Ohio State any more now than they have in the past.

Iowa will need to continue beating down the bushes to uncover talent other programs miss or don't want. Coaches must keep with developing players to become more than what they look like on paper coming from the prep ranks.

It is refreshing to hear that the reigns might be loosened, however. Sometimes unpredictability can work well with strong execution.

"It's time to look at a lot of things," Ferentz said. "That's what we're trying to do right now. It's fun. It's invigorating."

The fan base agrees.

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