Coaching Search

Kirk Ferentz is searching for a new member of his coaching staff with the weekend news that long-time staffer Eric Johnson was leaving the program. Hawkeye Insider Publisher Rob Howe takes a look at some possible candidates for the position.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Surprising news emerged from the Iowa football office during the weekend when Coach Kirk Ferentz announced that long-time assistant Eric Johnson was leaving the program.

Johnson joined the Hawkeye staff when Ferentz took over the team in 1999. He coached linebackers, tight ends and the defensive line at various times. He was best known for his role as recruiting coordinator, which he held for 10 years.

The Wisconsin native and Vanderbilt graduate tweeted on Saturday that he and his family would be moving to Nashville and opening a fast food restaurant. It left Iowa searching for a full-time assistant at an unusual time of the year.

It's likely that Johnson kept Ferentz abreast of his situation. While the news of his departure surprised outsiders, the head coach probably at least knew there was a chance he'd be conducting assistant interviews.

The well-organized Ferentz probably has candidates in mind. We are unlikely to hear any names from him or the school before the hiring is made. Per school rules, the job will be advertised for a period of time prior to interviews.

Johnson was assisting Reese Morgan with the defensive line at the time of his exit. Ferentz could find someone to fill that identical job description or he could shuffle assignments. The new hire could help out at another position along with recruiting coordinator duties or someone already on staff could take over the coordination of recruiting. A lot of possibilities exist.

While the new coach must be qualified to handle the given job responsibilities, it's at least equally important to Ferentz that he fits on a personal level. Iowa isn't for everyone.

With those factors in mind, let's take a look at some potential candidates for Iowa's opening:

COACHING VACANCY

D.J. Hernandez
Current Position: Iowa Graduate Assistant/Tight Ends Coach (2nd Season)
Previous Experience: GA at Miami (FL) ('12); QB Coach at Brown ('11); Head Coach Southington (CT) High ('10);
Playing Experience: QB-WR at UConn ('04-09); Carinthian Black Lions player-coach, Austrian pro league ('10)
The Skinny: Hernandez is a likely in-house candidate to get bumped up to a full-time position. Johnson coached tight ends and served as recruiting coordinator in the past, making Ferentz comfortable with that set-up. Hernandez is personable and energetic. He already is connecting with recruits in his native New England and I've heard positive feedback from some of those prospects.
A.J. Blazek
Current Position: Western Illinois Offensive Line/Running Game Coordiantor
Previous Experience: Winona St. O-Line/Co-Offensive Coordinator ('09-12); Fort Hays St. O-Line/Offensive Coordinator ('05-08); Iowa GA ('02-04); Iowa Student Assistant ('01).
Playing Experience: Chicago Rush of Arena League ('00-01); Iowa ('99-00); Butler Country Community College (''96-98).
The Skinny: Blazek has worked his way up the coaching ladder from the ground floor. The son of a long-time coach, he gets it. He's a teacher and boasts an electric personality. He played at Iowa so he understands the landscape and what it means to be a Hawkeye. One would think he's be a leading candidate for this job if interested.
Kelvin Bell
Current Position: Graduate Assistant Iowa (3rd year)
Previous Experience: Trinity International University Offensive Line/Run Game Coordinator ('11); Wayne State College Offensive Line ('08-09); Cornell College Offensive Line ('06-07); Iowa City Regina High Assistant ('04-06).
Playing Experience: Iowa ('00).
The Skinny: Bell, like Blazek, has paid his dues. He's got a strong football mind and serves a big role in helping Chris White coach Iowa's special teams. Bell has had his hands in a lot of different areas of the game and versatility is one of his biggest strengths. Bell has an egging personality that could serve him well on the recruiting trail.
David Raih
Current Position: Green Bay Packers Assistant
Previous Experience: Texas Tech Director of High School Relations ('13); Iowa Offensive Graduate Assistant ('10-12); UCLA intern ('08-09).
Playing Experience: Iowa Backup QB ('99-03).
The Skinny: Timing might not be everything but it's pretty important in life. Had this position been open a year ago, Raih would have been a serious candidate and more likely to accept it. Texas Tech promoted him to wide receivers coach in December before reports surfaced in February that he was joining the Packers. He's come a long way since begging his way into Rick Neiheisel's UCLA program after selling medical supplies. Raih is an up and comer and really helped Iowa's recruiting efforts with innovative ideas when he was a GA at his alma mater. He would be a excellent hire.
Ed Hinkel
Current Position: Iowa City Regina High Offensive Coordinator
Previous Experience: None
Playing Experience: Iowa Wide Receiver ('01-05)
The Skinny: A key member of the Hawkeyes during the '02-04 glory years that saw three consecutive Top 10 finishes nationally, Hinkel combined natural talent with a high football IQ. That's helped him in assisting fellow Iowa alum, Marv Cook, in building one of the state's all-time greatest runs at the high school level. Cook allows Hinkel to create with his offensive ideas and the coordinator has shown great flexibility in designing the playbook to match the strength of each team's personnel. A Pennsylvania native, Hinkel can relate to recruits coming long distances to play at Iowa. He does enjoy his free time with family and the grind of college football coaching might not be for him. He is thought of very highly by Kirk Ferentz and has known his son, Brian Ferentz, the offensive line coach, since they were kids.
James Ferentz
Current Position: None
Previous Experience: None
Playing Experience: Iowa Center ('08-12)
The Skinny: OK. This one is a bit of a stretch. Kirk's middle son hasn't coached before and may not even want to follow in the footsteps of his father and brother. However, he grew up around coaching and his earning All-Big Ten honors had as much to do with his understanding of the game as it did his physical capabilities, perhaps more. James Still could take another crack at the NFL or he might apply to work with his father and older brother as well as coach his younger sibling, Steve, a redshirt sophomore center. Instead of the defensive line having two coaches as it did with Johnson helping Morgan, James could assist Brian with the offensive line and coordinate recruiting.
Aaron Kampman
Current Position: Solon (Iowa) High Defensive Assistant
Previous Experience: None
Playing Experience: Jackson Jaguars Defensive Lineman ('10-11); Green Bay Packers Defensive Lineman ('02-09); Iowa Defensive End/Linebacker ('98-01)
The Skinny: Yeah, this one is a little out there. Kampman earned a lot of money playing the game and being an entry level assistant required to travel a lot and be away from a young family probably would be unattractive. He's more likely to stay at the high school level teaching during the week and on Friday nights while still being able to make it to his children's activities.
Matt Hughes
Current Position: Clear Creek Amana (Tiffin, Iowa) Co-Head Coach
Previous Experience: Woodbury Central, Solon Iowa City West Assistant Coach
Playing Experience: Iowa Linebacker ('94-98)
The Skinny: Another long shot, Hughes wouldn't have to move. He's coaching with his father at Clear Creek and he has a young family. The grind of college coaching might not be for him. He knows the landscape, however, and is very personable.

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