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The scoop on Kirk Ferentz: He’s really not plain vanilla

[ 0 ] August 3, 2014 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Who says Kirk Ferentz can’t change? This summer he switched favorite ice creams, from Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia to a coffee flavor the company brought out of recall.

“Boy, it’s good,” Ferentz said. “Too good.”

And get this. Iowa players will now get their weekly scouting reports on their iPads.

“Basically, everything that was in the folder that we handed players will be paperless,” said Ferentz, who headlines his 16th media day as Iowa’s head football coach this afternoon.

Film clips will also be available on those iPads. And Ferentz sees positive academic advantages, bringing order and organization to his players’ student-athlete lives.

Ferentz opens 16th season at Iowa today

Kirk Ferentz will address the media today, just less than a month before the Hawkeyes begin the 2014 season against Northern Iowa. (HawkCentral)

Want more? Ferentz is marching ahead with a two-quarterback look, and the third-down “Raider Package” will continue to be part of the defensive gameplan. The new football facility, about to open west of Kinnick Stadium, as is new-age as you can get. Ferentz will now have an office larger than Urban Meyer’s coat closet.

And all the new faces added to the coaching staff since 2012 have brought plenty of new ideas into meetings and a new vibe to a program that continues to rely on strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle’s body-shaping blueprint.

“We’re probably not as generic as we advertise,” Ferentz acknowledged during an interview with the Des Moines Register. “And really, we’ve been labeled that. We didn’t label that ourselves.”

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Yet the coach who has taken the Hawkeyes to 11 bowl games, four final-season top 10 appearances and two Big Ten championships is more than happy to reflect a self-deprecating persona and play along with that stereotype.

“Sometimes, old school is a good school,” he said at last week’s Big Ten media days in Chicago.

The image of the Iowa program is constantly fed on the offensive side of the ball, where Ferentz has resisted the national trend of wide-open, pass-happy attacks and stuck with the meat-and-potatoes menu he’s comfortable with.

“The world is always changing, so you have to stay in tune with things,” Ferentz said. “But you can’t get away from your identity, either. At least we believe it’s important to have an identity and we don’t want to compromise what are real core values are at any time.”

When Northern Iowa prepares for the August 30 season opener at Kinnick Stadium, I guarantee it won’t be worried about quarterback Jake Rudock throwing the ball 50 times. The Panthers will be worried about stopping Iowa’s stretch run play.

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Iowa’s staple will still be physical, fundamental, no-frills football. That smash-mouth brand of ball leads to generalities that aren’t always right, either.

A wry smile breaks out on the coach’s face when he recalls hearing questions about why Iowa can’t pressure and sack the quarterback like Alabama.

“Go back and look up our sacks and where we were nationally, and look where Alabama was,” Ferentz said.

Alabama ranked 86th nationally last season, with 22 sacks in 13 games. Iowa tied for 77th, with 24 sacks in 13 games. The Crimson Tide were fourth in scoring defense and fifth in total defense. It’s not all about sacks.

“It’s more about passing and disruption in the passing game,” said Ferentz, whose team ranked ninth nationally in scoring defense and sixth in total defense last season. “But that’s one (sacks) that tends to get overplayed, a generality that people get hung up on. And it doesn’t tell the whole story.”

The whole story is the win-loss record. Ferentz, the dean of Big Ten coaches, knows that. But he seems relaxed heading into an expectation-rich 2014 season.

Maybe the old coach has a new wrinkle up his sleeve.

Rick Brown, a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year, covers Hawkeye football for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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