For an Iowa football staff that is notoriously stable, this offseason is shaping up to be one of the more notable from a personnel standpoint in some time. While the summer of 2020 brought with it substantial changes in the strength and conditioning program and by all accounts with the culture in the entire program, 2021 may bring with it more changes.
Those are likely not as deep and embedded in the program as last year given the tenure of Chris Doyle, but the volume of staff changes has already now topped the turnover of the last three years. After offensive line coach Tim Polasek was named offensive coordinator at Wyoming on Tuesday, running backs coach Derrick Foster is now also heading out of town just three years after arriving in Iowa City.
Official details have not yet been released as the NFL team Foster is heading to has not yet made their formal announcement. However, speculation began well over a week ago with reports surfacing last week that Foster was headed to LA to take a role with the Chargers.
In LA, Foster would be reunited with new head coach Brandon Staley. Staley was a graduate assistant at Tennessee in 2012 while Foster was an assistant RB coach for the Volunteers that year.
Sources: Iowa running backs coach Derrick Foster is expected to be hired by the Los Angeles Chargers.— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) February 3, 2021
Led a group this season that included first-team All-Big Ten running back Tyler Goodson. Was previously the running backs coach and run game coordinator at Samford.
Foster leaves after three seasons in Iowa City where he served as not only running backs coach, but also offensive recruiting coordinator. He was known as a solid recruiter who opened doors for the Hawkeyes in the south, particularly as Iowa has tried to make inroads in states like Georgia, home of All-Big Ten RB Tyler Goodson.
As Iowa looks to replace both Foster and Polasek, they’re likely to again target coaches who can help build recruiting pipelines while also contributing in the coaching room. There are now two open assistant roles, but also that offensive recruiting role vacated by Foster and the territory in the upper Midwest and southeast covered by Polasek and Foster respectively. Look for Ferentz to target coaches with recruiting skills and overall coaching ability rather than focusing solely on background in the RB and OL rooms. In the past, we’ve seen the staff shuffle assignments to make way for new hires if needed.
Unrelated to the coaching changes, the Hawkeyes announced on Wednesday afternoon that senior tackle Mark Kallenberger has opted to forego his final year of eligibility and depart the program. The news came as a surprise and with little forewarning.
For his part, Kallenberger has not publicly made an announcement and nothing was published to social media by the Hawkeyes detailing the departure. However, the announcement was made in the formal press release issued on Wednesday that outlined the departures of Polasek and Foster.
Kallenberger was slated to be a starter at tackle this season for an Iowa offensive line that was expected to be dominant thanks to the return of All-American center Tyler Linderbaum. Instead, Iowa will be breaking in two new starters at tackle.
Jack Plumb seems a likely candidate to earn one of those jobs while the other could fall to former walk-on Nick DeJong or a youngster. The Hawkeyes have built tremendous depth up front in part due to the recruiting efforts of the departing Polasek. That includes five incoming linemen in this year’s class, which ranks among the best ever under Ferentz.
Kallenberger is the younger brother of Jack Kallenberger who stepped away from the team two years ago. When the racial bias allegations were brought to light last summer, the older Kallenberger came forward with his story of bullying in the program for his struggles with ADHD. There has been no indication a similar situation arose with Mark, but the history is not likely forgotten.
As for what’s next for Kallenberger, options are now open. It’s possible, though not likely, he could opt for the NFL draft. There he would likely be undrafted but still potentially able to make some money. It’s also still possible we see him enter the transfer portal. Iowa saw such moves for former linemen Ezra Miller and Jeff Jenkins, who both announced they would be stepping away from football only to later enter the transfer portal.
Best of luck to Mark Kallenberger, as well as coaches Polasek and Foster.