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Overreaction Monday: Offseason Doesn’t Mean No Fireworks for Iowa Football, Athletic Department At Large

This started slow last week, but there was plenty to unpack. Let’s dive in and kick off this week with a bang.

Missouri State v Iowa
Brian Ferentz may still be second in command on Kirk Ferentz’s staff, but he took the lead last week on the airwaves.
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Wow. What a week. There’s no football. No basketball. No NFL draft to unpack. The first half of the week felt like we were into the doldrums of summer. And yet here we are on a Monday morning and it seems like we were just here. It was a whirlwind my friends. So let’s jump in.

After picking up a commitment on the recruiting trail Monday from Solon DL Tyler Linderbaum, Brian Ferentz took to the airwaves on KXNO on Thursday to discuss, among other things, crootin. If you haven’t already, go take a listen to the podcast. Here’s HawkCentral’s quick recap with a link to listen to the podcast.

Before we try to unpack some of his comments, let me just say that regardless of your opinions on any of his statements, I find it utterly refreshing that Brian was willing to speak so openly on the airwaves in this fine state. One of the things I love about Fran McCaffery is his willingness to let it fly and let us into his mind for a few minutes on legitimate topics. Kirk Ferentz has always taken much more of the Bill Belichick approach to intreviews, repeating canned phrases (that’s football comes to mind), responding with bodily functions (*snort*) or just not answering. So the mere fact that we’re sitting here on a Monday morning even discussing an interview given by one of the Iowa Football coaches is newsworthy.

Now, I’m sure there’s a fraction of our fanbase that simply thinks the KF approach is the way to go. The man is all business and we don’t want anyone on the staff making waves, headlines or bulletin board material for our rivals. I disagree. Before you close out of the browser window, let me explain.

College football is a changing game. What Kirk Ferentz has done for this program is remarkable. He is precisely the guy to build this place into a perennial contender for the upper half of the Big Ten with the occasional peak into Big Ten Championship contention and (previously BCS bowl) playoff berth hopes. But the Big Ten is a conference where the giants have been awakened. The talent gap between those teams and the teams in the middle is growing with every passing year. To truly have a shot at knocking them off, you have to have some talent.

Iowa will never be Michigan or Ohio State. There won’t be 85 guys on the roster each year who were touted as 4- or 5-star guys out of high school. But that’s who Michigan and Ohio State, and to a lesser extent Penn State and an even (much) lesser extent Nebraska, are. The style KF plays will always give me a hope of knocking those teams off. But to really have a shot, you have to have some talent to get the job done.

And that’s where things like what we heard from Brian last week come into play. It sounds ridiculous to a good number of you I’m sure. And I can already feel the eyes rolling. But I, and Brian, don’t give a damn. You don’t matter. That 17 or 18 year old kid looking at scholarship offers is who matters. And that kid? He likes a little swag out of his potential coach of the future. And that’s what we got from BF last week.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous when the first comment I committed to memory was “we’re not that sexy.” My hopes of an offense that isn’t exactly like last year’s were dashed. And my hopes of hearing anything interesting faded to black. But the more I listened, the more the interview started to sound a little different than what I had expected.

Brian started to open up. At first it was just about the spring game and the offense. There was this heartwarming line:

I think anybody who would tell you they’re real excited coming out of the spring is a liar.

I mean, he’s not wrong. I came out of the spring thinking things were an utter disaster from an offensive standpoint. The QB situation is really worrisome for me. I thought we had our starter when the staff decided to pull the redshirt off of Nathan Stanley last year and name his the backpoint. And here we are with a true QB controversy. The old adage is there for a reason: if you have two QBs you don’t have a QB. And then there’s the WR situation. Ugh. VandeBerg is still injured and I’m not going to believe he’s 100% until I see him on the field for more than a couple games. Jerminic Smith isn’t even with the team due to some “academic issues” which apparently aren’t his grades, or he’d be academically ineligible. So we have a JUCO walk-on being touted as the number 1 despite have a grand total of 0 D-1 scholarship offers, a pair of young guys who couldn’t find the field with last year’s brutal receiving group and some incoming freshmen none of us have seen against anything other than a bunch of high schoolers. Hooray!

Luckily, Brian was there to calm my fears.

Ok, so maybe not. But again, I love the willingness to just tell us like it is. Don’t feed us some BS line about there being some things to clean up and blah blah blah. WR is a concern. Let’s fix it. The first step is admitting you have a problem.

But he does mention trying to find ways to get Akrum Wadley the ball. And he talks about finding other ways to get your playmakers the ball, including the talented group of TEs. I know it will be constrained by the KF philosophy on life and football, but I seriously feel like we might see an effort to get guys the ball in ways we haven’t necessarily seen explored.

Then things went beyond the Iowa offense. In addition to the openness on the current situation for the offense, Brian also echoed his dad’s sentiments on the NCAA’s recent rule changes. Specifically, the Ferentz family doesn’t seem to care at all about the recruiting stuff or the additional staff member coming, but boy do they not like the elimination of two-a-days.

That’s the real problem with college football: 2-a-days.

Live look at the Ferentz household:

And then the shots started coming. And they were glorious.

What has sped things up (in recruiting) in our state, especially, is the guys in Ames and then the new guys in Minneapolis seem to have no problem really throwing early things out. And what I’ve learned – certainly about the guys in Ames, and I think we’ll find this about the guys in Minneapolis — what does an offer really mean? I can tell you this much: If the University of Iowa offers you a scholarship and you commit to us, we intend to sign you.

Now, if that just sounds like a coach complaining a little about new staffs making tons of offers, I think it’s worth getting a little bit of context.

Now, normally I don’t really enjoy math and wouldn’t ask you to do any. But try and round up all the fingers and toes you can. Now, how many you got? 334? Didn’t think so. I mean, good Lord that’s a lot. Any given team is allowed to have 85 guys on a scholarship at the start of a season. So Matt Campbell and ISU have offered up scholarships to roughly 4 times as many high school seniors-to-be as they can actually given scholarships for the next 4 years. And while our new, uhhh, friends in Minneapolis were singled out (likely because in general, everything I’ve seen on PJ Fleck indicates he’s going to not only be a thorn in the Frentz’s side, but also kind of a db) Indiana actually leads the Big Ten with 246 outstanding offers to class of 2018 recruits. Iowa, meanwhile, is sitting at 93. Wow.

A lot of new staffs are selling kids on hope. They hope to win. They hope to graduate guys. They hope to have former players go on and play in the National Football League. They hope to develop guys, because they've never done it. You watch the draft and it always amazes me all the guys that (say) 'Congratulations to so and so,' and they never even coached the guy. They didn't develop them, but they're quick to take credit for it.

We recruit against a couple schools that talk about their pipeline. I'm thinking of one a little bit west of Omaha that talks about their pipeline. I think they've had like two guys drafted in two years, so I'm not sure how much of the pipeline the coaches have contributed to. But perception is reality in recruiting, so you work against that a little bit.

Once you get kids on campus, and we can explain to them that here are the facts, and the bottom line is, anybody that you see on this sheet or this graphic, whether it's a graduation number or an NFL number, you're going back to 1999. Our head coach has recruited and coached and had a direct influence on every one of those guys. And no one else in our conference can say that.

Seriously, guys. Shots. Fired. I love it. I love that he is saying what we are all thinking. And I love that in a public way, he is putting the message out there for recruits: most of the these guys are full of it and we’ve been proving it since ‘99 (ish). I love the bravado and the willingness to actually make some waves. I don’t think there are many people on the staff who can make those comments and survive the offseason and I absolutely love the Brian seems to have decided he’s going to use that platform to deliver the message he thinks needs delivered.

Of course, the Omaha World-Herald did exactly what you expect any good Cornhusker fan to do: they got mad online. Keep up the good work, fellas. I’m sure that next MNC is just around the corner.

In other football news, Faith Ekakite is officially going to be a professional football player. For those of you wondering how he wasn’t added as an undrafted free agent like so many other ex-Hawkeyes following the NFL Draft, we got out answer yesterday as Ekakite was selected number 1 overall in the CFL Draft. You read that right. Faith Ekakite, a native of the Toronto burbs was taken with the first pick in this year’s Canadian Football League draft by the Winnipeg Glue Bombers.

Our in-house NFL scout had the following to say on the topic of Ekakite:

I’m guessing Faith did get a (NFL) camp invite. However, when players show any kind of interest in the NFL they hurt their stock in the CFL draft.

Well, I don’t think Faith hurt his CFL stock any. Congrats to Mr. Ekakite. We all look forward to watching you progress and fill your bank account.

Stepping away from the fun side of last week’s excitement, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the Jane Meyer case which concluded last Thursday when the courts awarded Meyer more than $1.4M and sided with her on all 5 of her claims. I’m going to refrain from giving any of my personal feelings on the case. If you want the details of the trial, we have you covered here. If you are looking for a more personal take on what this entire situation has meant, take ya boy Jordan Hansen for a spin.

As for me, I’m just going to say the whole thing demonstrated some serious concerns for Gary Barta. Regardless of intent, I don’t know how you get to where he is without documenting things. I get that the athletic department gets FOIAd beyond belief (and yes, I just used FOIA as a verb, @ me), but you have to protect yourself and the university, man.

I don’t know what this will actually mean long term, but news came out following the results that the University of Iowa will be hiring an external firm to conduct a full review of the athletic department. And rumors have already started swirling that Barta will be out of a job within the year. I think at best (for existing staff) we see some major policy changes and at worst (again, for staff) we see some major staff shake-ups.

Now it sounds like Meyer may seek an additional $2M from the University. And all this comes ahead of the Tracey Griesbaum case that is still pending. Interesting times ahead for Gary Barta and the University of Iowa Athletic Department.

As we look ahead to another week of work, Peter Jok starts his journey toward the NBA Draft with the NBA Scouting Combine beginning tomorrow. I’m not some NBA fanatic, but I think that kid has a place in the league. His defense, as we all know, is sorely in need of improvement, but that’s something that can come with coaching and commitment. His shot is a thing of beauty and if I’ve learned nothing from being a LeBron James/bandwagon Cleveland Cavaliers fan it’s that you don’t need to be good at anything other than shooting if you want a shot at the NBA. Exhitibit A: Kyle Korver.

Speaking of basketball, quick PSA that the 2017-2018 Big Ten basketball season kicks off a week early, the first weekend in December, this year as the Big Ten Tournament has been moved up a week.

Quick note for those of you looking for a family vaca this fall, the Hawkeyes will be in the Cayman Islands for the Cayman Classic, along with Cincinnati, Louisiana Lafayette, Wyoming, Buffalo, South Dakota State, UAB and Richmond. Plan accordingly.

Since we are talking hoops, I suppose it’s worth mentioning that former Hawkeye Trey Dickerson has found his final NCAA home. After a cup of coffee with the Hawkeyes, Dickerson ended up at South Dakota, facing off against Iowa in the NIT last season and will be suiting up for the Georgetown Hoyas and Patrick Ewing next year. Raise your hand if you saw that one coming.

Speaking of things not exactly ending up how you pictured, props to Cardale Jones on actually graduating from Ohio State. Hope that degree isn’t handed out like a North Carolina degree for athletes.

Still on the “not what you expected” front, apparently, white men can jump?

And finally, a note a little closer to home to help get you through the week. If these fine people at the University of Iowa can do what they’re doing, you sure as heck can make it to Friday afternoon.

Happy Monday. Let’s get through this week together. Go Hawks. Go Bron Bron. Go Cavs.