Iowa Football: A Close Look at Recently Departed Members of the Hawkeyes Staff
With the recent news that Lester Erb has left the Iowa Hawkeyes football program, that makes six coaches over the past two years who have moved on.
As the Cedar Rapids Gazette detailed, that is equal to the amount of staff turnover that had occurred over the previous 12 years.
None of those coaches were fired, though one is left to wonder if they were pushed out. After all, head coach Kirk Ferentz has felt the fans' ire over the past few years.
In effect, it is worth looking at the coaches who have moved on, what they brought to the program and whether Iowa is better off with some new blood.
It's difficult to gauge a coach's effectiveness, but there is tangible evidence which could give an indication as to how good a coach he was.
The criteria will concern recruiting, attrition, discipline and player development.
In the modern world where everybody knows everything about everyone, recruiting is fairly open. Consequently, thanks to Rivals, which lists which coach recruited which player, fans know how effective the coaches have been. This element of the criteria does not concern itself with whether the recruited player developed, only how successful the coach was on the recruiting front.
Attrition and discipline are tougher to measure. In effect, there are no hard numbers to gauge them. There is only the eye test and the depth of my memory.
Finally, development will concern itself with how many players in a position group developed under a specific coach. Therefore, a coach who led a 5-star player into the NFL Draft will receive credit, but a coach who has consistently done the same with 2-star players will receive even more credit.
There are, of course, other measures of a coach's effectiveness, such as game planning and in-game adjustments. Nonetheless, those are elements of the game about which outsiders couldn't make a reasonable judgment.
Rick Kaczenski: Defensive Line (2007-2011)
Kaczenski was responsible for recruiting Florida, which, in some fairness, is a tough sell for an Iowa recruiter. On the other hand, as ESPN's Adam Rittenberg detailed, Bret Bielema, the Hawkeyes linebacker coach from 1996-2001, did a superb job in bringing Sunshine State players to Iowa City.
Either way, Kaczenski didn't do a good job bringing players in, and, as Jon Miller of Hawkeye Nation noted, none of the players he brought in ever made an impact in an Iowa uniform.
In 2011, attrition struck the defensive line resulting in arguably the worst performance by an Iowa defensive line since 2000. The attrition struck harder in 2012, a season in which the Hawkeyes recorded a Big Ten-worst 13 sacks.
Prospects for next year look slightly better.
It is unfair to wholly fault Kaczenski for this. On the other hand, former Iowa lineman John Raymon, via Hawkeye Insider, stopped just short of blaming Kaczenski for his transferring. Furthermore, as Pat Harty of Hawk Central paraphrased the defensive linemen at the beginning of 2012, "the atmosphere is better with Reese Morgan coaching them as opposed to Rick Kaczenski."
There were never any major discipline problems while Kaczenski was the coach.
Kaczenski gets credit for some quality linemen who developed during his tenure. That group includes Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard, Karl Klug, Mike Daniels and Broderick Binns, all but one of whom were drafted.
He also gets credit for the under performance of arguably the most talented line to have played during the Ferentz era—the 2010 group, i.e. the five players listed above.
Lester Erb: Wide Receivers (2000-07), Running Backs (2008-12), Special Teams
Erb was responsible for Illinois and Wisconsin, and since he joined the staff, he has unarguably been Iowa's best recruiter.
Hawkeyes fans know it is not easy to bring top talent into Iowa City. In fact, going back to the 2005 recruiting class, the Hawks have brought 23 4-star-or-better players to Iowa (not including 4-star-or-better players from the state of Iowa). 13 of them, or just over 56 percent, were recruited by Erb.
In 2012, his efforts brought him personal laurels, as he was recognized as one of the top 25 recruiters in the country.
Iowa had a tough time holding onto receivers under Erb. The 2003 recruiting class brought in four players who wound up at receiver. None of them made it to senior day. 2005's recruiting class went 1-for-4, though much of that attrition had to do with discipline.
Meanwhile, the attrition at running back under Erb has been well documented. In five years, Erb failed to bring even one scholarship tailback to graduation.
City Boyz Inc. happened under Erb's watch. Not including the 2012 group, one has to go back to 2008 and Shonn Greene to find the last Iowa scholarship tailback who has not been in trouble with the law or been suspended at some point.
The receiver group improved notably after Erb moved to running backs. Erb always did a good job fielding a tailback, but when was the last time Iowa had two tailbacks who were ready to go?
He gets credit for Iowa special teams in the early part of the millennium, but he also takes blame for the Iowa special teams of the last few years.
Darrell Wilson: Linebackers (2002-11)*, Secondary (2012), Special Teams
Wilson was arguably Iowa's second best recruiter. He was responsible for Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and the Washington D.C. area.
Though he only brought in two 4-or-more star players, east coasters Shonn Greene, Albert Young, Mike Daniels and Jeremiah Hunter were all recruited by him.
Moreover, he is responsible for the emergent pipeline to Maryland/D.C. which has brought such future contributors as Jordan Lomax, Nico Law and Darian Cooper to Iowa.
There has never been any major attrition problem at any position Wilson has coached.
Players have mostly stayed out of trouble under Wilson, and any issues Wilson's charges have had—such as Micah Hyde earlier this year—have mostly been of the public intoxication variety.
Wilson's two most successful proteges were Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds. He did a good job of fielding outside linebackers (LEOs in Iowa's lexicon) in the early part of his tenure, though none of them, until Edds, were NFL draft worthy.
The safety play was a mess in 2012, his only year as the defensive backs coach, though it's impossible to say how much blame he deserved for that.
As with Erb, he gets credit for Iowa special teams in the early part of the millennium, but he also takes blame for the Iowa special teams of the last few years.
*Wilson was responsible only for outside linebackers—which, in Iowa's scheme is only the strong-side linebacker—between 2002-2007. He took over for all linebackers in 2008.
Erik Campbell: Wide Receivers (2008-2012), Tight Ends (2008-2009)
Campbell was responsible for Michigan and parts of Texas. He also regularly took to the road to bring in players for his position group.
He had mixed results during his time at Iowa. He never brought in a 4-star-or-better recruit, and failed to sign even one prospect in the 2009 recruiting class, his first year of active recruiting as a Hawkeye.
Needless to say, he wasn't going to go into the state of Michigan and take away Wolverines recruits. On the other hand, defensive backs coach Phil Parker took Michigan State recruits out of the Great Lakes State, something Campbell never managed to do.
Campbell also had lukewarm success in Texas.
Campbell inherited a mess at receiver (see Erb, Lester), but the position stabilized after he took over.
Derrell Johnson Koulianos' (DJK) arrest happened under Campbell's watch, but if there was ever a situation where it was hard to blame the coach, this was it.
Otherwise, Campbell's players always maintained clean records.
Two of the greatest Hawkeyes receivers—DJK and Marvin McNutt—came through Iowa City during Campbell's time. Moreover, the receivers' improvement from Erb to Campbell was palpable.
On the other hand, Iowa receivers set new lows for awfulness in 2012. Iowa blog BlackHeartGoldPants noted that "Campbell was a perfect wide receiver coach" for former offensive coordinator (OC) Ken O'Keefe's offense, but he couldn't coach up the receivers that current OC Greg Davis needed.
The issue is that teaching is teaching, and it's hard to accept that Campbell could teach some aspects of the position but not others.
In short, 2012 slightly undermines what had otherwise been an unimpeachable career.
Ken O'Keefe: Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach (1999-2011)
It might surprise Iowa fans, but O'Keefe was a decent recruiter in his time.
He was responsible for a large area that included Massachusetts, Connecticut and upstate New York, as well as Pennsylvania and Ohio.
He brought in two 4-star recruits, as well as a number of players—Ricky Stanzi, DJK, Amari Spievey, Bradley Fletcher—who made major contributions to the program.
Iowa didn't have any attrition problems at quarterback while O'Keefe was in charge.
Iowa quarterbacks were never in trouble—at least not publicly—while O'Keefe was in charge.
Iowa quarterbacks under Kirk Ferentz have historically had the bad habit of regressing or stagnating as they gained experience. Was this Ferentz or O'Keefe?
The most recent Iowa quarterback—James Vandenberg—fell to pieces after O'Keefe left the program, but there were extenuating circumstances.
As for O'Keefe the offensive coordinator, he spent the better part of his 13 years in Iowa City taking the brunt of the fans' abuse. Then he left and the offense fell apart. What does that say?
Norm Parker: Defensive Coordinator (1999-2011), Inside Linebackers (1999-2008)*
Parker was minimally active early in his tenure and ceased any recruiting following the 2007 season.
Iowa linebackers didn't face any severe attrition while Parker was in charge.
Iowa linebackers didn't have any major issues with the law while Parker was in charge.
Chad Greenway, Abdul Hodge, Fred Barr and LeVar Woods were Parker's most notable proteges.
Under Parker, Iowa developed a reputation for consistently fielding elite linebackers, and, for a while, the Hawks' production at the position was on par with Ohio State and Penn State.
As a defensive coordinator, Parker was the mastermind behind five top-20 scoring defenses (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010).
*In Iowa's lexicon, the insider linebackers are the weak-side and middle linebackers, both of whom play "inside" the box. Parker coached all linebackers during his first three years on the staff.
Final Assessment of Recently Departed Staff
It's tough to say the value of a coach without being inside the locker room.
However, based strictly on the evidence that is available, losing Rick Kaczenski was a positive move on all fronts.
Lester Erb also didn't seem to be doing the team any favors in the locker room. On the other hand, he was an invaluable recruiter, and the Hawks will miss his presence in the Chicagoland area.
Wilson's value in the locker room and on the playing fields was nebulous, but he was also a top recruiter. Expectations, per BHGP, are that recent hires Chris White and Jim Reid, who have familiarity with Wilson's recruiting area, will be able to step in.
Erik Campbell is no loss on the recruiting trails, but the receivers he's coached—Marvin McNutt and DJK, and before that, Michigan receivers Braylon Edwards, Mario Manningham, David Terrell, Marquise Walker, Amani Toomer—make up a who's who of top-Big Ten receivers over the last 15 years.
It's impossible to say what went wrong with Campbell under Greg Davis, but his work speaks for itself. Nonetheless, it wasn't working with Davis and given the current Iowa offensive dynamic, his moving on is for the best.
O'Keefe served as the fans' whipping boy for 13 years, but given the horror show that was the 2012 offense, maybe he wasn't so bad. Only time will tell.
Finally, Norm Parker is irreplaceable, and the void left by his absence will be tough to fill (pun intended). His replacement had a difficult first year on the job, but he was in a tough spot due to the attrition on the defensive line. 2013 will be a truer test of how much Norm Parker's absence will be missed.
Coming next week, a detailed look at the Hawks' current and newly revamped coaching staff.