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Iowa Football: Tim Lester Reportedly Named New Hawkeye Offensive Coordinator

The replacement for Brian Ferentz is official. Almost.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Western Michigan at Michigan State
Tim Lester is your new Iowa offensive coordinator.
Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After nearly three months, Iowa’s search for a new offensive coordinator reportedly came to a close over the weekend. Head coach Kirk Ferentz was unhappy 90 days ago when then-interim athletics director Beth Goetz announced that his son, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, would not be retained after the season. However, Ferentz the elder waited until after the close of Iowa’s season (which came in abysmal fashion in a 35-0 blowout loss to Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl) to truly start his search for the replacement.

Even so, while we’ve seen myriad OC hires across the country, it’s taken nearly four weeks for Ferentz to make a decision in this process. That’s come in part because of the constraints that will be placed on the new OC. They will, at the end of the day, be running an offense under head coach Kirk Ferentz. They will not have autonomy to make staff changes or even name their favorite to replace the departing Kelton Copeland as receivers coach.

Combined with other factors, that’s led to Iowa’s top candidate in this process, former Wisconsin OC turned HC Paul Chryst, opting to remain an analyst at Texas for a fraction of the salary instead of packing up and returning to the midwest. With seemingly all the eggs having been placed in the Chryst basket, the search continued for weeks.

Just this past week, the search seemingly turned toward Duke OC Kevin Johns who has an impressive resume filled with work in diverse offenses spanning the Big Ten (Indiana), Big 12 (Texas Tech) and ACC (Duke). The smoke on Johns really fanned heading into the weekend when he was photographed meeting with Ferentz for breakfast on Friday morning. It was the first time in the entire process any candidate had been seen in person in Iowa City. When he was then rumored to spend virtually the entire day inside the complex meeting not only with the staff, but also the team, he seemed a virtual certainty to be Iowa’s next OC.

But the local media with the inside connections seemed to quickly pushback on the idea of Johns as the final choice. His style simply wouldn’t be palatable for Ferentz (which begs the question: why bring him in for an interview?).

Amidst the tempering of expectations on Johns, the name Tim Lester began to emerge as the other potential finalist. Unlike Johns, Lester was never spotted in Iowa City and had really not been linked to the Hawkeyes up until this weekend. Rather, he was rumored to be headed to Troy to be their new OC as recently as a week ago.

Now, Ferentz and the Hawkeyes have reportedly jumped ahead of the line and snagged Lester as the replacement for Brian Ferentz.

On paper, Lester is a very solid hire for the position. His resume makes Brian’s look laughable in comparison and hopefully, his results on the field in Iowa City will do the same.

He comes to Iowa City after one season as a senior offensive analyst with the Green Bay Packers where he was tasked with running the scout team offense to prepare the Packer D each week. That role came after he was let go at Western Michigan, his alma mater, after six seasons.

Lester’s time at WMU is a Rorschach test for fanbase. On the one hand, he finished his time there at 37-32 and gained six years of head coaching experience. His offenses were quite good, averaging more than 420 yards and 32 points per game. The stretch from 2019-2021 was particularly great.

But it’s also worth noting that it was Johns who was OC and calling the plays in 2017, and production absolutely fell off a cliff in 2022. In addition, those win/loss records aren’t exactly great and when compared to the results of Fleck in his final two seasons, it’s clear things were not getting better. The result was Lester’s termination after the 2022 season.

Beyond the so-so results as a head coach, Lester’s resume only features four years of offensive coordinator experience. Two of those were at D-III Elmurst. The two seasons he spent as OC at Syracuse looked much worse than his offenses at Western Michigan. With the Orange, Lester’s offenses averaged only 342 yards and just over 22 points per game.

Image via On3

So, how does this fit with Ferentz and what will it mean for the Iowa offense?

The latter will have to be seen, but there are reasons for optimism and pessimism. On the negative side of things, the numbers while an actual OC don’t lie. They are Brian Ferentz-esque. Optimists can point to the improvements at Western Michigan, especially the chunk in the middle where he was reportedly calling the plays. But pessimists will note he wasn’t the OC of that offense and once his high level talent departed for the NFL draft or the transfer portal, the offense was miserable in 2022. Iowa will not have high level talent at the skill positions.

But there are some things to like. For starters, Lester’s offense is RPO-based. It’s predicated on establishing the run, but punishing defenses for selling out to stop the run by giving his QBs the option to throw in certain situations. Notably, Lester has been a proponent of utilizing the tight end via the RPO to generate mismatches and take advantage of crashing linebackers or safeties. That should not only fit well but help Iowa improve in a number of areas.

Dating back to his time at Syracuse, Lester is on the record as liking the added dimension of having a mobile QB. Specifically, he’s not opposed to using multiple QBs situationally even within a drive and he really likes the added dimension of having a mobile QB in the redzone. That would be a stark contrast to Iowa’s preference over the last two decades and something the fanbase has been yearning for.

Beyond the offensive philosophy and his performance, Lester seems like a genuine fit with the existing staff which may be the most important thing. He’s a guy Ferentz has apparently had respect for over the years, even mentioning him ahead of the 2023 meeting with WMU as “having a good program going” before being let go. So perhaps he is a guy who will be able to implement some things to modernize the offense. It can’t be worse.

You can hear more from Lester on his philosophy and approach to coaching here:

Welcome to Iowa City, Tim Lester. May your offenses not be the worst in the nation!

Tim Lester, Offensive Coordinator

Age: 46
Hometown: Wheaton, IL
Alma Mater: Western Michigan

Coaching Resume

  • Wheaton Warrenville South HS (IL) (2000), Offensive coordinator
  • Saint Benedict at Auburndale (TN) (2001), Offensive coordinator
  • Elmhurst (2002–2003), Offensive coordinator
  • Saint Joseph’s (IN) (2004), Head coach
  • Western Michigan (2005–2006), Quarterbacks coach
  • North Central (2007), Assistant head coach & defensive coordinator
  • Elmhurst (2008–2012), Head coach
  • Syracuse (2013–2014), Quarterbacks coach & recruiting coordinator
  • Syracuse (2014–2015), Offensive coordinator & quarterbacks coach
  • Purdue (2016), Quarterbacks coach
  • Western Michigan (2017–2022), Head coach
  • Green Bay Packers (2023), Senior analyst

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally going to be held for the official announcement. It seems fitting that the announcement, like the decision, is seemingly delayed. Or perhaps we just won’t get one because coordinator announcements are to build excitement and this hire does not do that. Regardless, given the widespread acceptance that this is happening without official confirmation, we’ve decided publish under the assumption all those with sources are not being led astray.