Iowa’s newest coaches addressed the media for the first time Wednesday afternoon. We were graced by new offensive line coach George Barnett, and running backs coach Ladell Betts. One of those names is new, and one isn’t.
Like we did last week with Brian Ferentz, Seth Wallace, and Kelvin Bell, let’s talk about what they talked about.
Real quick, despite being named Tim Polasek’s replacement like seven weeks, you’ll notice Iowa SID Chris Brewer introducing himself to Barnett for the first time on camera. I just found that funny.
GB: I want to start by just saying how excited and grateful I am to work for Coach Ferentz and the University of Iowa. Coming up through the ranks, you always keep your eye on jobs that might be a good fit for you and as an offensive line coach it comes down to how much do they value the OL position and who the head coach is, so Iowa was always one school I kept my eye on so very excited about the opportunity.
I’ve been here since March 9, so been getting to know all of the players. They are all at different points of development and all have their own story, so important to get to know them individually on and off the field.
When you start talking about the OL room, you have to start with Tyler Linderbaum. He’s exactly what people say about him. His leadership to younger players and every day work ethic and hunger is fantastic. We have a bunch of young kids going through their first spring, so to be able to see a kid like Tyler go through things every day and the how he does it is a huge positive.
Kyler Schott, great story coming in as a walk-on and earning a spot. He provides a lot of energy and leadership. Then third guy providing leadership is Cody Ince. He’s not on the field with us this spring, but he’s in the meetings with us and he’s a five position player so can help a lot of different players. Also, Justin Britt is giving us leadership in the room as well. Rest of the room is kind of a land of opportunity. We have some middle guys stepping up and then some younger kids, first or second year, going through first spring and for the offensive line that’s huge as they learn the ropes. I love the mix of the room and looking forward to continue to working with them. Look forward to every day.
Really, Barnett has to be THRILLED with the offensive line room he just sorta waltzed into. While Iowa is lacking two stalwart tackles, an all-American-caliber center in Linderbaum, with a damn good guard alongside him, creates a hell of a foundation for a new coach.
And well, here’s what he had to say on the matter:
Q: How much research do you do on personnel going in? Or just throw yourself into it?
GB: I think when a job gets brought up to you, it depends on how powerful the job is for you. If the roster might not be where you want it to be, you probably have to check it out. Here, I loved the roster, the mix of youth and veterans. Who’s our starting five? I don’t know. Still developing. But it’s definitely a situation that outweighs everything regardless of roster.
Barnett then talked a bit Iowa’s tackles. I’ve never really heard anyone compare them to a corner before.
Q: You come into a situation where Iowa is replacing two starting tackles. What do you look for in your starting tackles?
GB: What you’re looking for first of all is fundamentals with their feet and athleticism in lower body. That gives you a chance. Then it goes to the mental for me. Their confidence level when maybe a rep doesn’t go great, how are they on the next play, how do they bounce back.
Playing tackle is like playing DB. It’s how you respond. We’ve had some guys doing some nice things in camp, but it’s a developmental phase right now and I wouldn’t expect anything different. Jack Plumb has stepped in and done a nice job at left tackle and worked a little bit at both. He’s really ramped up his play the last seven days. Nick DeJong has gotten a lot of the reps on the right side. He plays big, plays square, very fundamentally sound. Nick has been a pleasure to watch and coach.
And finally, Barnett mentioned his recruiting responsibilities will include Wisconsin, central Illinois, and the Cincinnati area, which is not really an area I can recall Iowa recruiting with great fervor or success. There are currently two—albeit important—players on the roster from Ohio in Luke Lachey and Jestin Jacobs.
Bonus Barnett content:
I just friggin’ love what Betts does in his opening statement.
Thank you. My name is Ladell Betts, running backs coach at the University of Iowa.
Might not be a new name for some of you, but a little older, a little less hair. This was a unique opportunity and one I couldn’t pass up on. An opportunity to coach at the University I love and coach the position I love which is running back.
I first started playing football when I was 11 years old and when I stopped playing I was 31 years old and over the course of those 20 years playing nothing but running back. So as fate would have it, everything has led me back to the University of Iowa where I’ve inherited a great group of guys, top to bottom, which is a testament to Coach Foster. He’s established a great foundation in the running backs room.
Give me a helmet and shoulder pads!
But don’t make me run at Jack Campbell.
Looking at the room, Ivory Kelly-Martin is the elder statesman of the group. I haven’t had the chance to work with him on the field yet, but he’s been great in the meeting room and helping younger guys.
Then Tyler Goodson, tremendously talented back back and great young man. Work ethic matches his talent. Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams working hard, important spring for them as they learn the nuances of the offense and hone in on their fundamentals. Then a late addition for us was Nolan Donald, who came over to us from the receiver position to get more of an opportunity. Those guys have accepted the challenge. I’m pleased with the group and excited about the opportunity.
This is the first I’ve heard of Donald moving, and it’ll be interesting to see which Williams picks up the slack if IKM’s injury lingers.
Actually, he was asked about that very thing.
Q: Looking at the backup running backs with Ivory out until August maybe, what about Gavin and Leshon, how are they fitting in? Are they ready?
LB: I would feel comfortable putting them in. They’ve earned my trust. Gavin is the bigger body, more of a rhythm runner where the more carries he gets the more effective he can be. He’s very smart and takes his job seriously.
Then Leshon is kind of the life of the room. He makes me laugh every day. He runs hard, runs behind his pads, and is deceptively quick with good feet. I told both of those guys I want them to make my job hard where it’s impossible to keep them off the field. Don’t make my job easy, make it hard, and they’re doing that.
Time for a trip down memory lane!
Q: You were there at the beginning. How can that help you in this new role?
LB: At some point, we’re all going to run into adversity. Having been through that here, I can speak to that and know how to handle it. We’re recruiting high character individuals, so these guys already know how to deal with that most of the time.
Q: How has the Iowa run game changed from when you were here? Is it easier to teach it having done it?
LB: It actually hasn’t changed much. That was one of the first things Brian told me when I got here. Honestly, there’s not a lot of different ways to run the ball.
You have zone schemes, you have gap schemes, and you have lead schemes, and we do all three. Everything they’re doing now is what we were doing when I was here. It’s outside zone, inside zone, a few lead concepts and a few gap concepts.
Q: What’s changed in 20 years at Iowa? What feels different and the same?
LB: Biggest difference is aesthetically. There’s a lot of new buildings including our football building. When I interviewed, that was the first time I stepped foot in this building. Coach Ferentz has been here 22 years, so not a lot has changed there, but more so aesthetically.
Say all you want about Betts saying Iowa football, specifically the run game, hasn’t changed in 20 years all you want, but...
Well, we do say all we want about that. A lot.
And right here, I think Betts said all the right things.
Q: Last summer was a challenging period for this program. What did you think from afar and how connected were you then and since then?
LB: It’s a bit unfair to speculate when I wasn’t here, but I’ll say this. I had an invested interest in what was being said. I assure you this, I wouldn’t be standing here if I didn’t believe in the direction of this program and believe in Coach Ferentz’s leadership.
Betts is recrutiing Minnesota and Tampa and Jacksonville, which I just love to see after coaching high school in Tampa the past few years.
Bonus Betts content: