Changes for Iowa? Only Kirk Ferentz knows

The first change came last week as Iowa released a postseason depth chart featuring a new starter at quarterback. Then came Wednesday's news conference with coach Kirk Ferentz, another deviation from the script.

As my friend and longtime Iowa beat writer Marc Morehouse writes, "The regular routine for the last 16 years has been bowl game, radio silence through January and then a news conference on signing day."

Would Wednesday usher in a new chapter for Iowa football? There were even rumors that Ferentz would resign or finally head to the NFL, which the coach quickly dismissed, saying, "This is where I like coaching. This is what I like doing."

(C'mon, people. Why would Ferentz ever walk away from this contract?)

Still, there was hope among many that change would come for a seemingly stale program coming off of a very disappointing 7-6 season. After a breakthrough 2009 season culminating with an Orange Bowl win and Ricky Stanzi's unforgettable pearl of patriotism -- "If you don't love it, leave it" -- there hasn't been much to love about the Hawkeyes, who since are 34-30 overall (19-21 in the Big Ten).

After listening to Ferentz, it's hard to pinpoint what changes will be made and if any will dramatically affect the program. It's hard to glean much out of Wednesday's gathering. Midway through the news conference, Ferentz was asked why he had called it.

"It's just my sense is we needed to talk," he said, "so it's as simple as that."

Ferentz was candid about several topics, including his own need to spend more time on football matters. His external obligations increased in recent years as Iowa had to raise funds for its new football operations facility, a long overdue upgrade that is now complete.

"I've got to ... spend more time in the building with our people and less time on the outside," Ferentz said. "We built the building, that is good news. Not that I disliked fundraising, but I need to spend more time in here and watch more film."

There also could be tweaks to Iowa's offensive structure. Don't get too excited, Hawkeye fans -- "We're probably not going to be a spread team or a run 'n shoot team," Ferentz said -- but Ferentz talked about studying the Green Bay Packers' scheme. So that's something. Maybe.

Iowa also will see a new No. 1 quarterback when it begins spring practice, as C.J. Beathard leapfrogged Jake Rudock on the two-deep. Ferentz was careful not to lay the blame for Iowa's embarrassing bowl performance on Rudock, but competition at quarterback ramped up after the regular season.

Beathard has inched ahead.

"It's very, very close between the two of them," Ferentz said. "What we believe gives us the best chance to move forward right now is to give C.J. a chance to be the starting quarterback."

So Iowa might have a new quarterback and a more dynamic offense. Or it might not. The season opener Sept. 5 is a long way off.

"There are some things that are going to look different," Ferentz said. "I don't know how dramatic they'll be."

The types of changes fans often want after a season like Iowa's likely aren't coming. Ferentz isn't firing any assistants, although some could leave for other positions. The offense won't be overhauled. Ferentz said the Hawkeyes "just don't have the access to some of the personnel that some of those folks do that are running the points up."

There are plenty of non-traditional powers in challenging recruiting locations that successfully run fast-paced, spread offenses, but OK.

"Before we change anything, we want to make sure we're making the right changes," Ferentz said. "There is no sense to change things just to change things."

Ferentz is right, but certain things need to shift to get this program back on the upswing. Those decisions ultimately rest with the head coach, who delivered some cringe-worthy lines Wednesday.

  • "I'm coaching the way I did in 1999."

  • "We'll evaluate it our own way. It's different than other people."

  • "I'm basically here just to restate what I said 16 years ago and have said on and off between December of 1998 until now."

Ferentz had more late-90s references Wednesday than a VH1 flashback show. Iowa fans understand how the program has evolved since Ferentz took over. They appreciate what he's done. But they want and deserve better results from one of the highest-paid coaches in college football.

The most successful programs always have tension within. You think Urban Meyer will sit back now that Ohio State won a national championship? He'll push even harder.

Iowa needs some degree of tension from a coach whose cushy contract, once viewed as a security blanket for the program against NFL suitors, now seems more like a straitjacket.

"Maybe it's a good thing we've won seven games and we're considering this a low period," Ferentz said.

It's a very good thing, and an important realization for Ferentz. How much actually changes with the program this year is up to him.

One item had better change. The wins total.