IOWA CITY — Iowa signed five wide receivers Wednesday, when the national signing period began. The headline is the school managed that without a wide receivers coach.
Rumors started to surface in early December, the news broke in early January and on Jan. 24, the University of Iowa posted a job opening for an assistant football coach. Iowa officially announced Monday that wide receivers coach Erik Campbell wouldn’t return in 2013 after five seasons at Iowa.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Wednesday that no wide receivers coach wasn’t a problem when searching for wide receivers, a definite need for an Iowa passing game that produced just seven TD passes in 2012.
“Change is part of college football, and that happens,” Ferentz said. “It’s part of football in general. And I think, again, the players looked at what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to accomplish, and probably saw opportunity.”
Ferentz said he hoped to be able to announce something on wide receiver coach in the next 10 to 14 days. When asked if he expected more changes coming for his staff, he said, “Not right now. We’re just moving forward here and we’ll see what the next couple of weeks bring.”
After 2011, Iowa lost both coordinators, with Ken O’Keefe becoming wide receivers coach with the Miami Dolphins and Norm Parker retiring, and D-line coach Rick Kaczenski. Greg Davis was hired as offensive coordinator. Phil Parker was promoted from secondary coach to defensive coordinator. Brian Ferentz was hired as O-line coach and LeVar Woods as linebackers coach.
Iowa finished 4-8 last season, the worst under Ferentz since 3-9 in 2000 and the first season Iowa didn’t reach bowl eligibility since 2001.
Five wide receivers were among the 21 players the Hawkeyes signed Wednesday. With three senior starters at linebacker going into next season, Iowa also signed three linebackers. Iowa’s ever-changing running back position dictates running back recruits every year, and so Iowa signed three of those, including two — Akrum Wadley and Jonathan Parker — who are a departure from the burly backs that Iowa is known to use.
LeShun Daniels (6-0, 215) fits the Iowa mold with his size, but Wadley (5-11, 170) and Parker (5-8, 175) are smaller and speedier, more like junior running back Damon Bullock. Bullock and junior Mark Weisman combined to rush for 1,328 yards last season, but they also combined to miss eight games.
Ferentz said Iowa had plays designed to use both backs, but the health issues kept those packages from happening.
“We feel like we have some strong physical backs and LeShun Daniels certainly fits that bill,” Ferentz said. “Jonathan and Akrum are both a little bit different type backs.”
On Parker, a St. Louis, Mo., native who committed to Tulsa in September before signing with Iowa Wednesday morning, Ferentz said, “He’s a guy we envisioned using outside a little bit, too. He’s got great speed and he gives us a chance for some big plays not only on offense but also special teams.”
Ferentz didn’t indicate that any of the signees were in line for imminent position changes. He said he considered the lack of defensive ends in this class a miss, but added that Iowa didn’t want to bring in a project at that position.
“One thing we didn’t want to do was try to fabricate players or create players based on needs,” Ferentz said. “It would’ve been great in January if we found [a DE]. We were looking, but we didn’t find anybody that really struck a chord with us, and it’s a two‑way interest.
So, we just moved on to a different position and tried to get the best players we felt we could add to the class.”
Iowa players are going through winter workouts at the indoor facility. Junior offensive tackle Brandon Scherff was on his way there Wednesday, showing no effects from the broken fibula and dislocated ankle. Ferentz said that Scherff and O-lineman Andrew Donnal (torn ACL) should he should be ready for spring practice.
Defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat, who started every game last season, will miss spring after having shoulder surgery. “He’ll be back 100 percent when that’s over,” Ferentz said.
Iowa’s spring practice begins March 27 and ends with an open scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium on April 27.
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