Last season ended in disappointment for Iowa as the Hawkeyes dropped their final two games, the season finale at home against Nebraska and the bowl game loss to Tennessee. Both contests were seen more as mental breakdowns by the Big Ten West program.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz highlighted the issues he was able to take away from the finish of their 2014-2015 campaign and how the program has addressed those areas in the offseason.
"We want to have a really good football team," he said. "You can't do that if you don't finish games and you can't do it if you don't show up for a game. I think those two descriptions would fit those last two games. To me, it's all about awareness of where we came up short, why we came up short, and then most importantly, what can we do to correct those things."
Junior wideout Matt VandeBerg also chimed in with his thoughts on last year's ending, and explained the new attitude this year's squad has as a result.
"Leaving the field after the Tennessee game last year was very rough," he admitted. "That's putting it nicely. We don't want to look like that ever. Coming back hungry is a perfect way to describe where we're at. It hit exactly after that last game. We knew we needed to change what was going on and I think we've accomplished that.I think as a group we have had a very good offseason."
"I've absolutely noticed (a culture change)."
One of the more emerging leaders on the Iowa football roster this year is newly-announced starting quarterback C.J. Beathard. He shared snaps last year with outgoing transfer Jake Rudock, now at Michigan.
Beathard pointed to more leadership emerging throughout the offseason in response to the adversity they faced in losses to Nebraska and Tennessee.
"I've definitely seen (a culture change)," the junior signal caller noted. "It's been a big part of this offseason. We've put it on ourselves to be better and not have the season we had last season. A lot of the seniors put it on themselves. I've seen a lot of leadership emerge as a team, and guys stepping up and willing to step up. That's been very good to see."
"It definitely (began immediately after the bowl game)," Beathard added. "I think so. We needed some guys to step up and become leaders this offseason. We're hungry. We're hungry to have a better season. The way to do that is to have guys step up and lead this team. We have the guys doing that."
The attitude is changed. The culture is changed. There is motivation to remedy the failures of last year. What are some things that have changed? How has this offseason been different than others? Beathard again leaned on the new and increased leadership within the program.
"Yes (the offseason has been different," he shared. "Not necessarily in what we do, but just the leadership that has emerged. The people that have stepped up. I've seen more leadership and guys step up when they need to. We're doing things off the field and getting guys together."
Cornerback Greg Mabin emerged as a key contributor last season, and is expected to thrive in the secondary even more this upcoming season. Like Beathard, he's noticed guys coming together and building a stronger unit.
"We're more of a family this season," the junior defensive back pointed out. "As you can tell, all the guys are joking around and everything. I feel like we definitely have come together ever since the season ended with the group of guys that we have. We have just bonded. That's really what camp is all about."
The newfound attitude at Iowa has not just taken place amongst the players, but the coaching staff, too. Star receiver Tevaun Smith revealed the increased excitement from the Hawkeye coaches as well.
"There's a lot of young hungry guys out here," Smith explained. "The coaches are a lot more fired up than they have ever been. They're being real hard on us. That's one thing that's really stood out. There's obviously something that they know we can do. We're all working hard everyday."
"It definitely (inspires us more and makes us believe more)," the senior continued about the staff's different demeanor. "You can just tell they're ready for this season and they want us to be great. That's something we're really excited about. Now there's a little more trust with us and the coaches, it's going to be fun."
Smith also echoed the sentiments of his head coach when referring to specific areas that need addressed.
"We need to learn how to finish," he told Scout. "There was a lot of games we just kind of let go. Going into this season, we want to learn how to start real hard and finish real hard. That will lead to a successful season."
Culture Change For Iowa Football
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