AGE AND EXPERIENCE
Say what you want about Ken O'Keefe's first stint at Iowa, and possibly being ushered out the door by fans towards the end of his tenure in 2011, but his wealth of experience could very well come in handy this time around. Take a look at the Iowa offensive staff right now. It's just LeVar Woods and Brian Ferentz. Two guys that are among the younger college football coaches in the country most likely. Someone with a bit more age, seasoning, coordinator experience, and experience was needed when you look at it that way.
Does Iowa want and need young, energetic assistants that can recruit their butts off? Absolutely. Brian Ferentz and LeVar Woods actually fit that description along with Kelvin Bell and Seth Wallace. Reese Morgan recruits the state of Iowa about as well as anyone in the history of the program has, perhaps better. There's still two other hires, perhaps three, to make. They can't fill the rest with some young, energetic recruiters.
But someone like O'Keefe was needed on the offensive side. Brian Ferentz could use a mentor, a tutor if you will, for the first year or two as an offensive coordinator. It's not that Brian isn't ready to be the offensive coordinator but it can be useful having a brain to pick early on Having someone to call before or right after games is great but having someone on the staff that you can constantly go to is even more valuable. I think that's O'Keefe's main role moving forward. That and his history of developing quarterbacks can not be ignored.
FILLS RECRUITING VOID
When Chris White was dismissed as the Iowa running backs coach, it left a recruiting void for the Hawkeyes in the northeast. Kirk Ferentz and Brian Ferentz both picked up the slack in the last month of the recruiting process. And obviously Brian Ferentz will play more of a role in recruiting now, having some kind of responsibility in each offensive player, and not just the linemen. But they need someone familiar with the area to continue the presence that they have extended in that portion of the country. It is very important for Iowa to continue to recruit that region, as they've had great success in the quality of athlete they've been able to bring in but also their hit rate is pretty impressive in that area.
O'Keefe can make sure those relationships and ties remain between Iowa and prospects from the northeast. He's recruited that region of the country before for a handful of years, and he also has coaching experience himself in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New York. He knows the northeast, knows where to find the talent, and has a history of identifying and communicating with prospects from the region.
PASSING GAME EXPERTISE
The passing game was near non-existent in the past year. It needs fixed, desperately. It takes folks much smarter than us to come up with all the solutions, and identify all the problems with it that caused it to spiral downward so dramatically, but O'Keefe's offenses for the most part didn't have those kinds of struggles. He was actually in control of some pretty potent offenses statistically and even broke or came close to breaking a few school records on the offensive side of the ball as the Iowa offensive coordinator. He at least should be able to make some changes to the passing scheme, coach up the quarterbacks, and bring a different kind of energy and confidence to that area of the game that should provide an instant improvement.
His passing offenses were all better than what we saw this past season. He coached some pretty good quarterbacks. There's really only one way to go from here because last year was basically rock bottom in regards to the passing game. O'Keefe now gets his turn with a four-star quarterback according to Scout in Nate Stanley.
ARRAY OF KNOWLEDGE OFFENSIVELY
One of the big pluses of the hire in my opinion is that it not only gives the offensive staff some much needed experience but it gives them someone that has coached offense for so many years that he has multiple areas of expertise and experience. Sure, he'll coach up the quarterbacks and that's his responsibility. But don't think for a minute that he won't have a hand in coaching the receivers as well. After all, he was a receivers coach for the Miami Dolphins. They'll hire a wide receivers coach as well. You'll have the usual position coach for the receivers, and they are in desperate need of being able to develop the position better, but they also now have another assistant on the staff that was an NFL receivers coach. Think that come into play on the recruiting trail? Oh, I was the receivers coach for the Miami Dolphins and got Jarvis Landry to the Pro Bowl.
I don't think the entire coaching staff had a good understanding of the culture at Iowa, or at least didn't have an understanding of what Kirk Ferentz wanted his program to look like or be. I think that miscommunication lead to some clashes on the recruiting trail but also schematically and game planning wise. Those coaches are now no longer employed by the University of Iowa and I think that inability to co-exist or have a common understanding, both on and off the field, also played a role in some of the inefficiency of the offense.
That made it super important this time to get the hires right, ensure that there was no mistaking anyone being on the same page in what needed to be done and how, and they nailed the culture hire at this spot. He coached under Kirk Ferentz at Iowa already for 12 seasons. O'Keefe fits like a glove for what Iowa needs right now. He's 63 years old so this is probably not much of a long-term hire or solution, but what he brings to the table was what the Hawkeyes needed after the year they had both on the field for the 2016 season and on the recruiting trail for the 2017 recruiting class.