IOWA CITY - It was a mere coincidence, at worst a Freudian slip, that Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz phrased it the way he did.
Accident or no, his statement was right on.
"You know, if you do something for 13 years there's a good chance something is going to change. And based on the national average I think we certainly outlived what the norms are - no pun intended."
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz speaks to reporters during the Hawkeyes’ annual media day event on Monday in the Feller Club Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes are coming off a 7-6 season with a number of question marks as fall camp begins.
He didn't mean to reference retired defensive coordinator Norm Parker, yet it fit his current situation perfectly. Ferentz is heading into his 14th season as the Hawkeyes' head coach, and he's doing it for the first time with two new coordinators.
Parker retired and offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe took a coaching position with the NFL's Miami Dolphins, so Ferentz and his rearranged staff stepped up to try and fill in the numerous question marks left behind by graduation and the draft.
"Anytime you're 13 years into something you need to look at everything," Ferentz said during Monday's media day event at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "We said that back in the offseason. We're going to need to do that regardless, in all phases of our program, and I think certainly having three coaching changes made that a necessity."
That, and only 11 returning starters.
Iowa will have its youngest group ever in the Ferentz era, yet hopes remain high in the Hawkeyes' camp. Four days into fall practice, the players and coaches met with the media and voiced their optimism no matter the new coordinators, ever-changing depth charts and the general uncertainty surrounding a handful of positions on both sides of the ball.
"All the positions are open right now," said Phil Parker, named Iowa's new defensive coordinator after spending 13 years as the defensive backs coach. "I think there's a lot of good competition. We've got a long ways to go and it's evaluating and see who's making the plays."
That seemed to be the consensus for each position coach. The running backs have been ravaged in recent history by injuries and suspension, the offensive line returns two starters and only one defensive lineman is back from a unit that gave up more rushing yards and points than any Hawkeye squad in more than a decade.
"Some young guys are going to have to develop, and that might be redshirt freshmen, redshirt sophomores, whatever the case may be," said defensive line coach Reese Morgan. "I think our guys right now are enjoying the challenge and the opportunity to go ahead and work as a unit. They know they're under a bit of a microscope."
The few mainstays on the Iowa roster include senior quarterback James Vandenberg, rounding out his career with his second full season as the starting signal caller. A lot of how the Hawkeyes respond to the coaching of new offensive coordinator Greg Davis, a 38-year veteran of the craft, will be determined how well Vandenberg picks up what Davis is putting down.
"It's not the easiest transition switching offenses, especially the older you are, but I think it's gone as smooth as it could be," said Vandenberg, a Keokuk native. "We're far from perfect right now but we're moving in the right direction."
Iowa will try to bounce back from a 7-6 campaign that included an Insight Bowl loss to Oklahoma and a 4-4 record in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes were 1-3 on the road in conference play, and they'll look to a four-game homestand early to give them a chance to solidify their lineup.
"We have a depth chart that's been distributed. It really is something you'll probably be able to throw out the window in a week or two because I think this is the kind of football team that's going to look different in the weeks ahead and that certainly may go through September and even into October," said Ferentz. "Obviously what we're doing on the field right now is very, very important."
After opening with a Sept. 1 game against Northern Illinois at Soldier Field in Chicago, the Hawkeyes host Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Central Michigan and Minnesota before getting their bye week on Oct. 6.
"We're a young football team, we're going to grow a lot as the season goes on, and that includes camp so we're looking forward to these next three weeks of a lot of heavy lifting, hard work and just moving in the right direction to get to that September 1 opener," said Vandenberg, who threw for 3,022 yards and 25 touchdowns a season ago.
Offensive linemen Matt Tobin and James Ferentz, wide receiver Keenan Davis, fullback Brad Rogers and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz join Vandenberg as returning starts on offense, while the defense brings back its heart with linebackers James Morris and Christian Kirksey. Defensive backs Micah Hyde and Tanner Miller, and lineman Dominic Alvis are also back in the fray.
Some of the more glaring openings include running back, where Rogers and Damon Bullock are listed atop the depth chart with true freshmen Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill right behind them.
De'Andre Johnson was dismissed on Wednesday for multiple run-ins with the law, while Jordan Canzeri tries to recover from a torn ACL suffered during spring camp.
"We're going to coach the guys on the field," Ferentz said. "And we've got guys out there that are capable. I'm not sure how it's going to play out yet."