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Iowa Football: Hawkeyes Name Abdul Hodge Tight End Coach, Brian Ferentz to Coach QBs

Five former Hawkeyes are now on the staff

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Syndication: SiouxFalls
The former Hawkeye standout is headed back to Iowa City.
Briana Sanchez / Argus Leader

It’s been less than two weeks since Ken O’Keefe announced his intentions to retire as Iowa’s Quarterbacks Coach, yet remain on as an off-field analyst. In that span of just 13 days, speculation has been rampant as to where the Hawkeyes would turn to replace the familiar face.

One of the potential outcomes put forth was for Iowa to avoid looking at a “QB guru” or hiring a QB coach altogether, and instead shift the internal staff around a bit and bring in the best available candidate. On Tuesday, the program announced they had done just that by bringing in former All-Big Ten and NFL linebacker Abdul Hodge to coach tight ends. The move shifts offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz over to QB coach in KOK’s old role.

While the position group may be a bit of a surprise (though former LB LeVar Woods had great success with Iowa tight ends), the addition of Hodge is not an unexpected move for Kirk Ferentz. Hodge was a three-time All-Big Ten linebacker at Iowa, and he was taken in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He spent four years in the NFL, playing for the Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers.

Abdul Hodge was named South Dakota’s outside linebackers coach and NFL liaison in February of 2019. Hodge was a three-time all-Big Ten linebacker for the Iowa Hawkeyes during a playing career that spanned 2002-05. He was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Following his career in the NFL, Hodge founded Professional Interactive Solutions in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a company that helps businesses grow their online presence. In addition to running the business, Hodge served as an assistant coach for several high schools and was head coach and defensive coordinator at GAIN Sports in Sarasota, Florida, from 2013-16. Most recently, he served as a football consultant for Iowa and was a coaching intern for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

Hodge’s first year in Vermillion was highlighted by a three-game win streak in the first half of the season in which the Coyotes held their three foes to a combined 745 yards and 16 points. It marked the first time since 2008 that USD held three consecutive foes to 16 points or fewer. USD went on to knock off fifth-ranked South Dakota State on Senior Day inside the DakotaDome when the Coyotes stopped three fourth-quarter drives to preserve a 24-21 victory.

Year two was truly unique in that it was reduced to four games due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was conducted in the spring of 2021. That proved plenty of time for the Coyotes to build accolades. Rush linebacker Jacob Matthew, who has grown the most under Hodge, led the team in sacks and tackles-for-loss for the second year in a row and was rewarded with honorable mention all-MVFC honors. South Dakota forced nine turnovers and produced seven sacks in those four games highlighted by a 27-20 upset of No. 7 Illinois State on the road in the season opener. Half of the team’s four games were against FCS top-10 teams.

Abdul Hodge further strengthens Iowa’s pipeline to Florida. In 2020, he discussed his passion for the area with Tom Kakert of Hawkeye Report:

I was passionate about south Florida football players because I was once one of those guys. There are a lot of great kids down there just looking for an opportunity to come to a place like Iowa or South Dakota to play football. I looked at the roster to see if they had any players from Florida, which was the same thing I did when I was looking for a college. Their depth chart had guys from Florida and felt good about that. I had connections down there and relationships from coaching high school down there and that would help me in recruiting.

In the press release, Kirk Ferentz had this to say about Hodge:

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Abdul. We first got to know him when recruiting him in 1999 and 2000. He was a terrific player for us, but more than his accomplishments on the field, he was an outstanding leader for our football team.

Abdul exemplifies all that is good in college football. The competitive drive he used to become an All-Big Ten player continues to fuel him to this day. I am confident he will do an outstanding job in this position.

High praise.

Kirk’s blurb on the move of son Brian Ferentz to QB coach is what it is: “We believe this is the logical move for our football program. The person in charge of calling the plays should work most closely with the players who are in control of the offense.”

It is difficult to argue with the logic, while it’s much easier to argue the deservedness considering Iowa’s underwhelming offensive performance in two of the last three years. In the Big Ten last year, just two QB coaches did not play the position nor have extensive QB coaching experience prior to their hiring. Ohio State’s Corey Dennis & Michigan’s Matt Weiss. Across the conference, the standard is to have QB coach and offensive coordinator aligned.

Yet it is a gamble. As Scott Doctherman noted in his write-up, the doubling down of Brian is unlikely to grant any extended runway in fan sentiment which might have existed with an outside hire.

One would expect Iowa’s offense to improve, simply because it is very unlikely to be worse. How much will be attributed to the Hawkeyes new quarterback coach is to be determined.

BoilerHawk contributed to this write-up