As the Iowa Hawkeyes football program inexorably moves toward closure for the 2010 season, the transition to 2011 is still not complete. The first stage is over--draft decisions for underclassmen--but now comes transfer decisions, and the always mysterious signing day for high school recruits. All of which helps us to forget the more disappointing details of the past season, allowing them to slowly retreat from our collective memories. College football fans are well aware their beloved teams must move on and undergo a certain amount of turnover as one season concludes and next takes shape. The lifecycle of college football is one of the sport's most thrilling features. We follow with fascination as young players develop to become major contributors and cringe when others plateau and fail to meet our expectations. While there is considerable ebb and flow among the players, under Kirk Ferentz Iowa has managed to maintain unequaled stability among its coaching staff.
The weeks between the Minnesota game and the Insight Bowl saw the emergence of potentially the most widespread fan base dissatisfaction with Kirk Ferentz as there has ever been after a winning season. Unmet expectations led to grumbling and even calls for serious and meaningful change within the program. Player suspensions only amplified the chorus. However, it seems all it took was a victory in the Insight Bowl to extinguish the fire of the disapproval. Now, nary a word is written pondering the job security of Kirk or even those on the staff.
It's quite possible that Iowa will have as many players drafted into the NFL this year as in any year of the Ferentz era. The 2010 NFL Draft saw six Hawkeyes selected, with one going in the first round. The 2011 draft could see as many as seven Hawkeyes drafted, which would be the most in the Ferentz era.
Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard, and Tyler Sash all could be first day picks with Clayborn and Ballard looking more and more like late first rounders. Many draft evaluators are rating DJK, Ricky Stanzi and Karl Klug as likely second day picks, although DJK's draft status is hard to calculate. Jeremiah Hunter and Allen Reisner could vault into the draft with solid workouts. Not to mention that if Julian Vandervelde and Brett Morse get picked it should surprise no one. Consider too that two juniors for Iowa chose to stay in college for another year and many believe they would have been selected if they declared. That is an awful lot of talent to be NFL worthy for any program, but for that program to be the Iowa Hawkeyes suggest something may have gone horribly wrong in 2010.
The following teams were ranked in the Top 15 in the 2010 A.P. Preseason Poll yet finished outside of the final rankings entirely:
Team / Preseason Ranking / Most Votes Final Ranking / Bowl Game Result:
Florida - #4, 6th (suggesting a final ranking of #31), win vs. unranked Penn State
Iowa - #9, 2nd (suggesting a final ranking of #27), win vs. #14 ranked Missouri
Miami (Fl) - #13, No Votes Received (NVR), loss vs. unranked Notre Dame
USC - #14, NVR, ineligible for a bowl and thus unable to make any gains in final poll
Pittsburgh - #15, NVR, win vs. unranked Kentucky
Consider that of all these teams, Miami and Pittsburgh fired their coaches. USC had a new coach installing a new system (while on probation) so their drop-off was largely swallowed in the name of rebuilding, and Florida's coach resigned to avoid any further stress. Iowa is the only team among these five who will see no change in their program's leadership.
So, was this year's win over Missouri the kind of redemptive win, for this program and it's coaching staff, that suggests the ship has been righted and full steam ahead or did it merely obfuscate still existing problems that are mounting and must be addressed for the program to prosper going forward. Perspective is power in college football. How you are perceived determines your fate in so many ways: rankings, bowl selection, recruiting and so forth. A new Iowa Hawkeyes team begins in the spring and those players have already begun to establish their own identity, separate from this year's team. But the coaching staff, and Kirk Ferentz in particular, remain and while we know he will always be accountable for this year's subpar performance, what effect has it had on the man?
So all this begs the question: Do you have confidence in Kirk Ferentz to fulfill the promise of the talent he now is able to recruit on a regular basis, to handle the new Big Ten format, to win the Big Ten Championship, to play in another BCS Bowl Game or better yet, to play for it all?