NCAA Football

Why Iowa Should Rid Itself from Kirk Ferentz and His $13M Buyout

Let’s make this clear: Kirk Ferentz has done plenty of tremendous things in 16 years as Iowa’s head coach. After taking over a program that had fallen into disrepair in legend Hayden Fry’s final seasons, Ferentz restored the Hawkeyes to national prominence with 115 wins, four 10-win seasons and a pair of Big Ten championships.

He has been an outstanding leader and ambassador for Iowa as a program and a university as a whole. But for nearly every coach, there comes a time when their tenure grows stale. When it becomes plainly obvious that a change is necessary for both sides to move on and rejuvenate themselves, make a clean break.

For Kirk Ferentz and the University of Iowa football program, that time should be now. Friday’s 45-28 Taxslayer Bowl loss to Tennessee, which wrapped up Iowa’s 2014 season at 7-6, is not a cause or a final straw. It is merely a symptom of a larger problem—one that must be addressed sooner rather than later, despite the large buyout due Ferentz that change would require.

Since 2009’s unexpected 11-2 season, capped with an Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech, Iowa has sunk into mediocrity. In the last five seasons, the Hawkeyes are 32-30 with two eight-win seasons and one bowl win, a 2010 Insight Bowl victory over Missouri.

That’s a terrible return on UI's investment. Per a recent USA Today survey of college football coaches’ salaries, Ferentz will make $4.075 million this season, which ranks as the ninth-highest salary among FBS coaches.

Per a recent article from Forbes’ Chris Smith, Ferentz’s base salary is $3.55 million annually. His contract runs through 2020, and his buyout equals 75 percent of the total salary remaining on his deal. If Iowa were to fire him tomorrow, its buyout would equal $13.3 million, a staggering figure.

However, Smith argues that Iowa would save $7.7 million over the life of the contract by eating Ferentz’s contract now, although the department would spend significant salary on a new coach.

Is it worth it to arrest Iowa’s decline? Absolutely. With Ohio State’s return to the national elite, Michigan’s hiring of Jim Harbaugh and Michigan State’s continued success (not to mention James Franklin’s presence at Penn State), the Big Ten is not getting any easier.

Fortunately for Iowa, all four programs reside in the Big Ten East Division. Iowa is in the West with Wisconsin and Nebraska, both of whom have endured their own coaching changes this season.

The Hawkeyes are showing no signs of making a move in the West. This season set up as Iowa’s easiest schedule in recent memory: rival Iowa State, Wisconsin and Nebraska at home, with no Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State or Penn State on the schedule. The Hawkeyes? They gave ISU one of its two wins on the season and lost to both the Badgers and Cornhuskers.

Next fall, Iowa again avoids the East powers but must travel to Iowa State, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

It’s more than the schedule, though. Too often this fall, the Hawkeyes have looked unmotivated and uninspired. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis’ system was bland, entering the Taxslayer Bowl averaging 28.2 points per game, No. 71 nationally. Neither Jake Rudock nor C.J. Beathard were truly effective at quarterback, and the defense often struggled to stop people and tackle well (a major concern Friday).

Tennessee led 35-7 following a lifeless first half and held a 45-14 lead before Iowa narrowed the gap with a pair of garbage-time touchdowns. The Vols' Jalen Hurd rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, and UT was never threatened.

And this isn't a young team: Iowa will lose 10 starters, including senior left tackle and Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff and all-time receptions leader Kevonte Martin-Manley. 

The team’s performances epitomized a program that has gone stale, and Ferentz himself did little to combat that narrative. Asked repeatedly about the Hawkeyes’ mistakes following the Nebraska loss, he repeatedly answered, “That’s football,” which doesn’t sit well with fans seeking answers.

Ferentz still has the support of his boss, as Iowa athletic director Gary Barta made clear to Rick Brown of the Des Moines Register during a recent interview.

Without question he will be our coach next season. That being said, (myself), Kirk and others surrounding the program have very high expectations for Iowa football. My expectations are for us to compete for and win championships. Maybe that's a bowl championship. A Big Ten Championship. Maybe, someday, even beyond that. And because they are so high, in 2014 we didn't meet those expectations.

Money, Barta told Brown, isn’t a factor in Ferentz’s tenure.

The money is not what I'm basing my decision on. If he was making half of what he's making, or he was making two times what he's making, I would be going through the exact same process. I'm trying to evaluate where we're at, and then trying to decide if the foundation is strong enough to go forward with the current coach. And I absolutely believe that it is.

Iowa might not be able to compete consistently with the Big Ten East, but it can certainly challenge for Big Ten West titles. And now is the time to ensure the Hawkeyes can do so consistently.

If money truly isn’t a factor, then Barta and Iowa officials should act now to change the program’s direction. Thanking Ferentz for his contributions and moving on would be the best tonic for a program that is obviously in need of a major shake-up.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Under Armour All-America Game 2015: Score, Recruit Commitments and Reaction

The Under Armour All-America Game is one of the most important high school football showcases on the calendar. The 2015 game, which Team Highlight won 46-6 over Team Armour 46-6 on Friday, served as a display for some of the nation's best prospects and a commitment stage. 

It's also a good learning opportunity for the players, who got to work with former NFL head coaches Herm Edwards (Highlight) and Steve Mariucci (Armour). Getting insight from two men with such extensive football resumes is only going to make them better. 

Even though Mariucci's squad was blown out, there were plenty of positives to take away from a recruiting standpoint. Daylon Mack, who was in the opposing backfield all day, was one of those positives, via Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com:

Further illustrating Mack's dominance was ESPN's Derek Tyson, who provided the first-half numbers for the big defensive lineman:

Mack was joined by Byron Cowart in being named MVPs of the game, via Tyson:

Wide receiver Brandon Martin was another standout, making one of the best catches of the day late in the third quarter between two defenders. It was also notable because arguably the top cornerback in the country was in on the coverage, via Shotgun Spratling of the Los Angeles Times:

One school that had a very good day, on the winning side, was Florida State. The Seminoles might still be reeling from their embarrassing loss in the Rose Bowl, but the future looks bright, thanks to the quarterback-wide receiver duo of Deondre Francois and George Campbell, via Tyson:

Francois did put a scare into Seminoles fans when word got out that he took an official visit to the University of Florida, though he told Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel that it was just a matter of doing due diligence:

I'm just taking an official to see if anything has changed, to see if it's a different atmosphere now that (Jim McElwain) is there. Just to make sure I made the right decision.

I'm fully committed to Florida State. I'm not really thinking about what can they do to make me change my mind. I'm just going on an official to see what they got to offer.

While that doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, Francois said Florida State is still firmly in control. Florida State can't afford to suffer a big loss, knowing that the wide receiver and quarterback positions are vulnerable next year because Rashad Greene is a senior and Jameis Winston could take his talents to the NFL. 

 

Commitments

As much fun as it is to watch these players on the field, the real story coming from the Under Armour All-America Game was the commitments. Several of this year's top recruits gave verbal pledges during the game. 

Defensive tackle Tim Settle, a 4-star prospect out of Virginia, announced on Twitter that he's staying close to home:

Frank Beamer's program was down in 2014, but landing one of the top run-stoppers in this year's class is a good start to build upon for 2015. 

Staying with the defensive tackle theme, 4-star recruit Daron Payne apparently wasn't dissuaded by Alabama's loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, via ESPN Recruiting Nation:

Nick Saban just watched Ezekiel Elliott gash his defense to the tune of 230 yards and two touchdowns, so adding a 325-pound monster in the middle will be a welcome sight in Tuscaloosa. 

Another area that Saban needed to upgrade was the secondary, and he did it in a big way. Kendall Sheffield, a 5-star recruit from Texas, will join Payne in Tuscaloosa, via Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

In one of the most anticipated moments of the Under Armour All-America Game, star wide receiver Tyron Johnson, a 5-star recruit, announced that he was going to attend LSU next season, via ESPN College GameDay:

James Smith of The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) noted what Johnson's commitment says about the job Les Miles and his staff have done keeping Louisiana talent at home:

LSU continues to retain nearly every top-ranked prospect in the state of Louisiana and landing a talent like Johnson has a lasting effect.

Recruiting has become extremely popular among LSU football fans over the years, and as a result, these guys are instant celebrities the moment they walk on campus. It's starting to feed itself and the Tigers are reaping the benefits.

Speaking of keeping players home, that's one area Texas has struggled with in the last few years and why the program has been down. Head coach Charlie Strong endured his share of trials and tribulations in 2014, but he is off to a solid start in recruiting this season. 

A perfect case in point is linebacker Anthony Wheeler, a 4-star recruit, who announced on Twitter that he is committing to Texas:

Texas is always a recruiting hotbed, and there is no reason the Longhorns shouldn't dominate the efforts in the state every year. Strong might have to win over a lot of fans in Austin, but few coaches are capable of handling the scrutiny better. 

Young running backs were all the rage in college football this year with players such as Leonard Fournette and Nick Chubb making an instant impact. USC hopes it has found someone who can continue that trend with 4-star recruit Ronald Jones committing to the Trojans, via Jones' Twitter:

Plenty of top recruits are waiting to make their decision on national signing day, which is on February 4, but Friday was a huge day for teams that didn't exactly need a boost (Alabama) and others that were looking to make an impact on the recruiting trail (Texas). 

With four weeks to go before players can officially sign their letter of intent, expect things to pick up in a big way. Plenty of schools, such as Michigan under new head coach Jim Harbaugh, need to get in the mix quickly. 

Even though the final score didn't mean much, it was important to see how these high school standouts fared under the bright lights. Playing on national television in front of fans and scouts can make or break a player. 

Most of the big names showed up to play, which suggests the future of college football is as strong as it has ever been.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

TaxSlayer Bowl 2015: Game Grades, Analysis for Iowa vs. Tennessee

The Tennessee Volunteers pounded the Iowa Hawkeyes, 45-28, during the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.

Tennessee (7-6) controlled the game and earned a 42-7 advantage, winning its first postseason outing since 2007. Iowa (7-6) dropped its third consecutive bowl matchup.

 

Pass Offense: The two-quarterback system was a failure, and the Hawkeyes failed to establish any offensive rhythm as they alternated shot-callers. C.J. Beathard was clearly the better option, completing 13 of 23 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns compared to Jake Rudock's 2-of-8 mark.

Run Offense: During the first quarter, Iowa couldn't run outside the tackles with Mark Weisman. Once the Hawkeyes let Jordan Canzeri take stretch handoffs, the running lanes opened up. Canzeri finished with 120 yards, but Weisman was ineffective other than his two short touchdowns.

Pass Defense: Josh Dobbs shredded coverages at every level, and the secondary lost track of Vic Wharton on a double pass. Though the Vols completed just 17 attempts, a staggering 10 resulted in a first down.

Run Defense: Iowa simply could not stop Tennessee's rushing attack, especially near the sideline. The 284 yards allowed was the third-most by a Hawkeyes opponent this year, but four touchdowns was a season-high.

Special Teams: Three Hawkeyes compiled a pitiful 12.7-yard average on six kick returns, which consistently cost Iowa field position. Marshall Koehn nailed four extra points, while Dillon Kidd and Connor Kornbrath managed 35.8 yards per punt combined.

Coaching: Offensive coordinator Greg Davis adjusted well to a sluggish opening, but his quarterbacks continued to miss open receivers until the game was decided. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker couldn't stop Tennessee's versatile—yet not elite—offensive attack.

 

Pass Offense: Josh Dobbs didn't overpower the Vols with his throwing arm, but he efficiently moved Tennessee down the field through the air. He finished the day 16-of-21 for 129 yards and one touchdown, with his one interception being a catchable pass. Marlin Lane added a 49-yard score on a trick play.

Run Offense: Hurd tallied 122 yards and two touchdowns, doing most of his damage during the team's explosive first quarter. Dobbs scrambled away from pressure on multiple occasions and properly executed zone-read calls, managing 76 yards and two scores.

Pass Defense: Though the defensive linemen didn't sack an Iowa quarterback, they constantly disrupted the backfield and forced a few errant throws. Plus, Desmond King intercepted a pass in the end zone. The secondary surrendered two late touchdowns, but Tennessee wasn't hurt by those 14 points.

Run Defense: Canzeri and Beathard raced to 202 yards but did a strong majority of their damage following the Vols taking a 35-point lead. During the first half, the Vols surrendered just 3.6 yards per carry and stuffed a 4th-and-1 attempt. Still, 244 yards is a big number to allow.

Special Teams: Aaron Medley connected on a 28-yard field goal and drilled six extra points. Matt Darr contributed 37.2 yards per punt, and Todd Kelly recovered three onside kicks. The kick coverage unit was stellar, as mentioned previously.

Coaching: Coordinators Mike Bajakian and John Jancek attacked Iowa's weaknesses and stayed aggressive until the fourth quarter. Butch Jones has this team trending in the right direction, especially with the backfield combination of Dobbs and Hurd.

 

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Iowa vs. Tennessee: Score and Twitter Reaction for 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl

While the SEC West has had a bowl season to forget, the Eastern Division has been rolling against Big Ten competition. Tennessee picked apart Iowa early and often in the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl, cruising to a 45-28 win on Friday that looks closer than it was because of two garbage-time scores for the Hawkeyes. 

Volunteers head coach Butch Jones isn't going to run through Knoxville screaming about finishing with a 7-6 record, but the win is a positive step for the program. Tennessee hadn't played in a bowl game since 2010 and hadn't won a bowl game since the Outback Bowl seven years ago. 

Everything Tennessee was doing worked against Iowa. The Volunteers had a 21-0 lead after the first quarter and were ahead 35-7 at the end of the first half. Sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs finished 16-of-21 for 129 yards and added 76 yards on 13 carries with three total touchdowns (two rushing) and one interception. 

Dobbs has been tremendous for Jones' offense since taking over the starting duties on October 25. He had at least two touchdown passes in each of his first three starts and entered the game with a completion percentage of 61.5. His ability to run added a wrinkle that was lacking with Justin Worley. 

Freshman running back Jalen Hurd was also instrumental in Tennessee's offensive dominance, running for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. His performance in the first quarter was better than most running backs have had in entire games this bowl season, via Rocky Top Insider:

Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated noted that Hurd's future with the Vols is looking exceptionally bright, while Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee seconded that opinion with one caveat:

The much-maligned Tennessee offensive line had no such issues on Friday, which is a step in the right direction for this program. That has to carry over into 2015 for the Volunteers to become serious players in the SEC East. 

On the losing side, Iowa's season ends with a whimper for the fourth straight season. The Hawkeyes (7-6) have lost their last three bowl appearances and had a 4-8 season in 2012. This also marks the fifth consecutive year they have won fewer than 10 games,

Kirk Ferentz has been the head coach at Iowa for 16 years now and is on the verge of a big bonus at the end of January, per ESPN's Darren Rovell:

Even though Ferentz has been a popular figure in Iowa, it's hard to justify what he's getting paid given the mediocre results in recent years. The Hawkeyes had two wins against bowl-eligible teams this season— Pittsburgh and Illinois, both of which finished 6-7 following losses in their bowl games. 

Despite the struggles in games, Ferentz said prior to the TaxSlayer Bowl that his program is built on a foundation of loyalty and commitment, via Chad Leistikow of The Des Moines Register:

To me, that's the beauty of college football. That's the beauty of sports, I think, when they're done right.  We have 16 seniors on our team. Every year I say this, but I have such respect for guys that run the whole race, stay their entire four or five years of their career, earn their degrees. Our guys have done a great job of that, first and foremost.

I don't care how good a player they may be, none of them are going to be playing when they're 40.

No one denies that Ferentz does things the right way, but at some point the results have to start showing up. They haven't been there for a long time, as illustrated by quarterback C.J. Beathard. The sophomore played decent in limited action during the regular season, but he was a mess on Friday. 

Even when the game was out of hand in the third quarter, Beathard couldn't get out of his own way, via Sports Illustrated's College Football:

It was that kind of day for Iowa from the opening kickoff. Beathard finished with 145 yards and two touchdowns on 13-of-23 passing with 82 rushing yards on eight attempts, though a lot of those yards came on the final two drives when Tennessee was playing prevent defense. 

Iowa's future continues to look murky. Ferentz keeps taking backward steps with the program, and the result is like what happened against Tennessee. The offense has been flat all year, and the defense gets exhausted because it's asked to compensate. 

There's still work to be done for the Volunteers, but Jones has them heading in the right direction. They won their seventh game for the first time since 2009 and appear to have found a capable quarterback-tailback combination in Dobbs and Hurd.

Tennessee will still experience some growing pains in 2015, but some of those close losses against teams like Georgia, Florida and Missouri will start turning into victories. The Volunteers are on their way back in the SEC. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kendall Sheffield to Alabama: Crimson Tide Land 5-Star CB Prospect

Defense wins championships, and it's difficult to have an outstanding defensive corps without a lockdown cornerback.

Alabama took a huge step in the right direction as Kendall Sheffield, a 5-star corner by 247Sports.com and one of the top prospects in the class of 2015, committed to the program. JC Shurburtt of 247Sports reported the news on the standout defensive back:

Sheffield, who stands 6'0" and 181 pounds, is the No. 3 cornerback in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. His 4.40 40-yard dash time proves he has the speed necessary to run with anyone.

Along with his talents on the football field, Sheffield is also an elite track athlete. As a hurdler, the 18-year-old posted an impressive time of 13.85 in the 110-meter hurdles, according to 247Sports. Sheffield also competes in the 300-meter hurdles.

His straight speed and recovery speed are both strengths, along with his change-of-direction skills. As for his weaknesses, he scored just a seven out of 10 on both tackling and instincts, according to 247Sports, but those are still above-average marks and areas he's sure to improve in time.

Brian Perroni of 247Sports notes that Sheffield had a good showing at the Nike camp in February:

Moving forward, the Crimson Tide now have an elite corner to continue to grow in the upcoming seasons. With the loss of several top players, adding Sheffield to the roster should bolster what has already been a successful run for the school.

With his elite athleticism and outstanding speed, Sheffield will fit in perfectly with Alabama. Expect him to make a huge impact when he finally gets his chance to shine on the college football stage.

 

Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter:

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Anthony Wheeler to Texas: Longhorns Land 4-Star LB Prospect

Versatile 4-star linebacker Anthony Wheeler has taken himself off the market by committing to Texas, according to Jeff Howe of 247Sports:

During the Under Armour All-America Game on ESPN2 the four-star linebacker from Dallas Skyline chose Texas over Oklahoma. Baylor and LSU were also among the finalists, but it came down to a decision between the Longhorns and the Sooners.

“I sat down with my family and talked about how comfortable I felt with the coaches and how comfortable I felt with the school,” Wheeler said. “I felt like that's where I needed to be.”

The relationship that has Wheeler headed to the Forty Acres is the one he developed with Brian Jean-Mary. The Texas linebackers coach and Wheeler started speaking weekly during the fall and with the additions of Malik Jefferson and now Wheeler within a two-week stretch Jean-Mary has gone a long way towards retooling the Texas depth chart at linebacker.

“He's a real cool dude,” Wheeler said of Jean-Mary. “I've just gotten more comfortable with him. He's laid back and you can talk to him about anything. He's a good coach.”

A native Texan, Wheeler's two favorites were the two Big 12 schools that battle in the Red River Rivalry, Texas and Oklahoma. To the chagrin of his home state, during an interview with Adam Gorney of Rivals.com (subscription required), the linebacker said he "would put them over Texas in my top."

Wheeler also tweeted a photo from his visit to Norman, Oklahoma, with Sooners head coach Bob Stoops:

Wheeler did visit Texas, in April, after Charlie Strong was named head coach, and told Jason Higdon of Scout.com that he liked what he saw from the team and that coaches tried to tell him about the outgoing crop of linebackers:

I talked to every coach mostly. They all said they could see me playing for them and that a lot of seniors are leaving after this year so they are going to need some new tough and good linebackers. The best part was just watching the game and seeing where I could fit in to play and they still stand in my tops.

In addition to the battle between Texas and Oklahoma, 247Sports also noted that Wheeler had at least a dozen total offers from schools like Alabama, Baylor, Michigan and Ohio State. The Big Ten schools were always a long shot.

A coveted prospect, Wheeler now provides Charlie Strong with a talented building block for the defense.

Wheeler is ranked as the 10th-best outside linebacker recruit in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. Listed at 6'2", 225 pounds with a 4.55-second 40-yard dash, there's a lot to like about him at the position.

Already possessing the frame to fill out as he develops, Wheeler also has polished instincts for a player his age. He's a good tackler who pursues the ball well and understands how plays develop. Those fundamentals are crucial for young prospects.

The linebacker finally made his choice and will be a critical addition to Texas' recruiting class for 2015.  While he may not make an immediate impact, he has a bright outlook and should develop into an anchor off the edge.

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages