Iowa installing new offense under ‘intense’ Lester

AP FILE PHOTO - New Iowa offensive coordinator Tim Lester speaks during a news conference on Feb. 6 in Iowa City.

IOWA CITY — Iowa has been known for stability on its football coaching staff, which makes this spring a little different for the Hawkeyes.

Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, the son of coach Kirk Ferentz, was fired during the team’s off week last October, though he did complete the season. New OC Tim Lester was hired in early February.

That meant this spring has been about installing a new offense to replace one that ranked among the worst in Division I the last two seasons.

It’s been an education, offensive lineman Nick DeJong said.

“At Iowa, coaching changes don’t happen a lot,” DeJong said. “It’s not something we’re used to. But they’ve done a really good job of mixing some of our old terminology with some of the new stuff.”

Iowa went 10-4 last season, winning the Big Ten West Division. But the Hawkeyes ranked last out of 130 teams in total offense and 129th in scoring offense, averaging 15.4 points per game. Three of their losses were shutouts, including the Big Ten championship game against Michigan and the Citrus Bowl against Tennessee.

Lester was an analyst with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers last season after six seasons as head coach at Western Michigan. He is being counted on to revive the offense, even if it still will have some of the principles that Kirk Ferentz has employed since his first season at Iowa in 1999.

“It’s different terminology, being a new playbook,” wide receiver Kaleb Brown said. “But it’s the same kind of concepts.”

Ferentz has always talked about “complementary football” with offense, defense and special teams, and he still wants that, even with a new offensive coordinator.

“Yeah, I think (the offense) is going to look different, but I think philosophically we’re in line,” Ferentz said. “Not that it was a prerequisite, but he’s been a head coach, and I think he understands how all three things function together. We played good defense here for pretty much 20-plus years. That was a building block coming in.”

Learning the new language of the offense was something players said was the biggest part of the spring transition.

“There’s obviously differences in the schemes,” DeJong said. “In terms of fundamentals, it doesn’t change a whole lot. But schematically, it changes, the Xs and Os.”

Tight end Addison Ostrenga, who tied for the team lead in receptions with 31 last season, said there is more pre-snap movement with this offense.

“It’s a big difference hearing the play calls, and then going out and running them,” Ostrenga said.

The installation of the offense is going to be a process. Cade McNamara, No. 1 on the depth chart at quarterback, is limited in spring workouts as he recovers from a knee injury that sidelined him most of last season, but is expected to be at full strength for summer workouts.

Deacon Hill, who made nine starts last season and averaged just 88.6 passing yards per game while throwing eight interceptions against just five touchdowns, has taken most of the snaps with the No. 1 offense this spring.

“Learning a new offense — I mean, this is my third time doing it,” said Hill, who started his career at Wisconsin. “But this is by far the hardest I’ve had to learn. At some point it just clicks — what’s going on, why you’re doing certain things. Obviously, still, there are going to be mistakes. But it’s getting better.”

Hill said Lester is an “intense” coach.

“But it’s a good intense,” he said. “He’s very positive a lot of the time, but if you mess up, he won’t be as positive. He’ll yell at you, like any other coach. He knows what he’s talking about.”

Lester has made an impact other Hawkeyes have felt.

“I like the way he thinks, and game plans.” Brown said.


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