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The Short List: Erik Campbell

At most schools, an open coordinator position wouldn't be cause for serious contemplation. Coordinators come and go, in most circumstances. Iowa football isn't most schools, though; the program hasn't hired a new coordinator in thirteen years, and a full-on head coaching search looks to be years away. Offensive Coordinator LET'S TALK ABOUT IT.

You have to hand it to Kirk Ferentz: When he wants to keep a secret, nobody gets in. It's been twelve days since Ken O'Keefe resigned as offensive coordinator, and not only do we not know who the replacement will be, but we don't even know who the candidates are. Gary Barta's comments this week indicated an announcement might not be forthcoming anytime soon, so we might as well speculate.

Four years ago today, Iowa named Erik Campbell as the replacement for the retiring Carl Jackson (Lester Erb, who was coaching receivers at the time, moved to running backs coach to make way). It was seen as something of a coup for Ferentz; Campbell's resume was exemplary, and he had been mentioned for far bigger jobs than a position coach spot with Iowa even then. Campbell had spent the past thirteen seasons under Bo Schembechler (for whom he played defensive back in the early 80s), Gary Moeller, and Lloyd Carr as wide receivers coach; in his last six in Ann Arbor, he also acted as assistant head coach. Campbell had been largely responsible for the never-ending string of dominant receivers that had victimized Iowa over the years: Braylon Edwards, Mario Manningham, Amani Toomer, David Terrell, Marquise Walker, Jason Avant, Steve Breaston, etc.. etc., etc. Prior to his long stint with Michigan, Campbell had coached running backs at Syracuse, Ball State, and Navy.

The results since Campbell landed in Iowa City, in both recruiting and production, have been staggering. In the course of his four seasons at Iowa, Campbell has coached the two most productive receivers in program history. Probably more impressive is the fact that neither receiver played the position in high school; Marvin McNutt, who broke nearly every receiver record at Iowa, spent his first two seasons AT IOWA as a quarterback before Soup got him out wide. Under Campbell's watch, Iowa landed Keenan Davis, precisely the sort of in-state recruit Iowa lost to Michigan in the past (and, as it turns out, in the future as well). If the star ratings haven't changed significantly in receiver recruiting under Campbell, the player type has. Iowa used to sign receivers who could already play receiver, and that largely meant guys who were a step slow or a few inches short or somehow overlooked. Iowa now recruits size and speed, knowing that Campbell can build college receivers in the same way that O'Keefe could build college quarterbacks or Phil Parker could build defensive backs.

Campbell has the resume and the Lloyd Carr seal of approval necessary to get him in the conversation, but he's never been a playcaller. While that was not a problem at defensive coordinator -- Phil Parker had an audition in 2010, and is so embedded in an Iowa defensive system that doesn't involve a ton of playcalling responsibility -- the open OC spot is a different animal. Ken O'Keefe had been a national championship-winning head coach before joining the Iowa staff, and Norm had been calling plays since the dawn of time. It might not be a huge concern, given that Campbell has spent four years in the program and thirteen years in a similar system at Michigan before that, but it is still a different animal, and I'm not certain Ferentz wants to be breaking in two first-time coordinators at the same time.

There's also the question of whether Campbell wants the job. It's been common knowledge since he got here that Soup wants to be a head coach. He was a finalist for the open position at Eastern Michigan filled by former UM defensive coordinator Ron English. He's also been here to watch what happened when Ken O'Keefe tried to throw his hat in the ring for open spots at Indiana and UConn and had the hat thrown back at him. If Ferentz offers Campbell the position as an actual coordinator and an honest-to-God playcaller, Campbell probably accepts. If it's offered as the same position O'Keefe filled, as Ferentz's silent criticism sponge with playcalling subject to Ferentz's conservative mandates, Campbell might well pass for the sake of his career.

Much like the defensive coordinator search, Campbell was seen as a fait accompli when the position first opened and loses steam with every day. We still think he's the favorite, but it's notoverwhelming. Remember this: The defensive staff is set at four coaches, which means Ferentz can only hire five on the offensive side of the ball. He has three in place right now: Campbell, Lester Erb, and Eric Johnson. If there's an announcement on offensive line coach and quarterback coach in the next couple of weeks, the hire has to come from within. If one of those spots remains open, it's much more likely an outside hire. We'll get to outside names soon. From the internal ranks, though, it's Campbell's spot to lose.