Christensen: Iowa Staff Among the Best

As amazing and improbable as Iowa's 30-25 win against LSU was on Saturday, it was just a snap shot of what happens when preparation meets opportunity. That is my favorite definition of what 'luck' is. Iowa prepares as good as any program in the country, and they develop their talent to compete and win Big Ten titles and January 1 bowl games. I spoke with Jeff Christensen, father of Iowa commit Jake Christensen, about his thoughts on Iowa's coaching staff and much, much more...

The Iowa football program received a verbal commitment from quarterback Jake Christensen back in June of 2004. What they got was one of the most talented signal callers in the country, an intense competitor and a team player.

They also landed Jake's father, Jeff, who was a quarterback in the NFL.

Having been successful in football at every level, as well as in life, Jeff has a well informed opinion not just on the nuances of the game of football, but of what it takes to be successful.

Which is one of the reasons that he more than gave his blessing to his son to commit to Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa coaching staff.

I spoke with Jeff shortly after Iowa's thrilling Capital One Bowl win that capped an improbable 10-2 2004 season at Iowa, to get his thoughts on the Hawkeye staff, how they overcame enormous odds to win a share of the Big Ten title in 2004, as well as to get his feel on Iowa's recruiting class that his son is a part of.

JON MILLER: What were your thoughts on Iowa's Capital One bowl win against LSU?

JEFF CHRISTENSEN: I thought it was going to be a very tough game for Iowa to win, but after watching the coaching staff for 11 weeks during the season, there is no way that I would figuratively bet against them. Iowa's kids were more ready to play and they were better prepared.

JM: We have talked about how this Iowa staff prepares for games. You have seen a lot of football at every level; how does the Iowa staff rate to you, given all of the football coaches you have seen over the years?

JC: The one thing about football, the intangible, is that you can have all of the talent in the world, but the game is still played with good, old-fashioned heart and soul and intelligence. I think that the coaching staff that Kirk Ferentz has put together, they just really know how to prepare based on their talent pool and they get the maximum out of their talent. Every coaching staff wants to do that, but few actually do it.

JM: Could you have imagined after the start of the Big Ten season, when Iowa was down to their fourth then fifth string running backs, and Ken O'Keefe came into the team meeting and told the kids that they were going to start passing the ball 70 percent of the time and with what ended up as the last ranked rushing offense in the nation, that any high-major team could have gotten to 10 wins?

JC: Kirk promised me from now on that it's going to be 80/20…I am just kidding. No, I think you and I have spoken about this several times and we both agreed after the Michigan game that 7-4 or 8-3 would be a really good year, based on the injury factor. This was before Brian Ferentz came back. I felt 7-4 would be a really good job, and that 8-3 would be a great coaching job. Obviously 9-2 and 10-2, based on everything that happened, it's incredible.

I completed agree with Trev Alberts when he says that the Iowa staff is the best in the nation. They went to an entirely new level of coaching and performance this year, based on everything they had to overcome. The fact that they are good leaders and good men off the field is the type of situation that every father wants for his son.

When you look at the great coaching staffs across the country, the common theme for success is building a family atmosphere. Parents across the country want their kids to get great educations, get treated properly and to have a chance to succeed on the field as well. All of those things help them grow and to help them make a positive impact on society down the road. It's not magic, it's football; and it sure is fun when all of those things can come together at one place the way they are at Iowa.

Having played in the NFL and still following it closely, they are starting to believe this and they are drafting a lot of ‘character kids' first; at least the successful organizations like New England, Pittsburgh, etc. It's no coincidence that you hear Kirk talk about New England a lot, not just because he coached under Bill Belichick, but because Iowa and New England are a lot alike. They find the diamonds in the rough and develop and coach them into championship contributing people on and off the field.

If you wonder why those teams are hard to beat, it goes beyond just talent. Football is a game that, to be successful, has to be played and coached with passion, emotion and heart and soul. Take away Iowa's win-loss totals, and just look at how they play; it's pure passion. Then you can figure out just from seeing how they play that they have to be a great program.

JM: You are an interested observer in Iowa's recruiting class, as the people they sign will be your son's teammates. You have spoken to several of the players and parents that Iowa is involved with, which is allowed by the NCAA at the present time. What are some of the things that you have been hearing and your reactions to the people Iowa is recruiting?

JC: My personal belief is, after some of the talks I have had with a lot of the recruits, is that if the Iowa fans were excited on Saturday, they will be quite pleased in February. Everyone has to remember this, and Jake and I have had a lot of talks the last two weeks; he said to me, I never said it to him, that these ratings of recruiting classes is that you have to understand they are nothing more than potential. And when they get to campus, they have to be willing to work as hard as the current players, because potential is only as good as the work you put into it.

As adults, we come back to that after the excitement wears off, but it's nice to hear from an 18 year old who already has his feet on his ground, that when they walk into Chris Doyle's world, the work is just beginning and their job is to maximize their ability.

Having said that, my opinion as to what is coming in to Iowa, I would hope people would be careful as to how they talk about national titles. Here at Lockport, our objective was not to win a state title; it was to get into the game. Let's run the table, and let's get in that game, and then let's let it all hang out and see what happens. We have to remember as adults, that these are still boys. You don't want them to come from the place of pressure, you want them to come from the place of conviction and commitment, and then I think everything else falls into place.

JM: In your view, what are the needs of this class as they round it out?

JC: My personal belief is that to run the table in the Big Ten, it has been put into place. Trey Stross is 6-foot-3, Marcus Wilson is 6-2, David Nelson, who I really like and who Iowa has a chance with, is 6-5; I think it's a huge advantage to have big receivers.

I have spoken with David Nelson and his father and they are really solid people. If he were to step up to the table and give Iowa a 6-5, Terrell Owens type receiver to go along with Trey and Marcus; after Doyle gets done building their bodies, I think you would have a great corps or receivers.

Having said that, with what I believe is coming to Iowa, there is no replacement for a great tight end. It really puts defenses in a bind. I feel really good about Tony Moeaki. He is a wonderful kid, his character is off the charts, his family is great people and he is a huge piece to this puzzle. I know that Jake has really taken a great liking to him. Iowa is one of the few schools that really knows how to use a tight end. You saw that with Dallas Clark, who was drafted in the first round out of Iowa in 2003.

Big receivers and a great tight end, keep your running backs healthy so you can finish at least 110th in the nation in rushing (laugh); you need to be able to run the ball for at least 125 yards per game…

On the other side of the ball…the 6-1, 275-pound defense end for the Colts, he has 16 sacks this year. Speed off the edge, especially in the Big Ten, two very athletic defensive ends. The perfect defensive end is one inch taller than Matt Roth and a half a step quicker. Get two of those on each side, and get two rangy, good length in the arm corners who can cover man to man, and I think at that point, what could possibly take place is that if I am kid growing up around the country, I am not just looking at Michigan and Ohio State because of their 30 years of history, I am now looking at Iowa as one of the top seven or eight programs in the country because of the quality of their coaching and the way they treat their kids.

I have been there (to Iowa) 12 times now, and what Chris Doyle does with those kids is miraculous; it just gives Iowa a huge advantage.

You will not want to miss our February Issue of Hawkeye Nation magazine, as that will be a commemorative Capital One Bowl special. We'll record and relive the exciting moments, stories and pictures in this issue, and it will undoubtedly be a keepsake you will want to save in your Hawkeye collection. For ordering information, CLICK HERE There is a new six-month package that allows you access to as well as at least four issues of Hawkeye Nation, the magazine, for $64.95. Some of you might not want to take the $99 annual package plunge, so this is another option.

If you order any subscription that includes the magazine before January 9th, you will get the Cap One Issue, PLUS our March Recruiting Issue that will have capsules and photos of every Iowa recruit, as well as special features. On or before February 9th is the deadline to receive the Recruiting Issue. It's the most anticipated and popular issue of the year, so don't miss out!

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