A closer look at a much different Iowa football coaching staff


By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa - You name the position on offense and Tim Polasek has either played it, coached it or both.

Except for the offensive line.

That will change now that the 37-year old Polasek, a former college quarterback, has been hired to coach the Iowa offensive line.

He and Kelton Copeland both were hired by Iowa this week, with Copeland the new receivers coach.

Polasek brings a wealth of experience after serving as the offensive coordinator for FCS power North Dakota State for the past three seasons.

His climb up the coaching ladder also includes stints where he has coached running backs, quarterbacks, tight ends, receivers, defensive backs and special teams.

And though it’s easy to see why some Iowa fans might be concerned about Polasek not having any experience coaching the offensive line, it shouldn't be a problem.

Brian Ferentz also didn’t have any experience coaching the offensive line when his father hired him for that position at Iowa before the 2012 season.

But that seemed to work out okay, considering Brian's recent promotion to offensive coordinator.

Not to downplay the complexities and mental demands of football, but it isn’t rocket science.

Polasek has directed an entire offense, so wouldn’t it seem logical that he could handle one position? Especially considering how much experience his two new bosses – Kirk Ferentz and Brian Ferentz – have with coaching the offensive line.

Kirk Ferentz’s area of expertise is the offensive line. He spent nine seasons as Iowa’s offensive line coach from 1981-89 and six seasons coaching the position in the NFL. Brian Ferentz coached the Iowa offensive line for the past five seasons. That's a combined 20 years of experience between Kirk and Brian.

Kirk and Brian both know exactly what they want and need from the offensive line coach. That will be explained in precise detail to Polasek, and together, they will execute their plan of attack on a daily basis.

Polasek also has the luxury of coaching an Iowa offensive line that has four returning full-time starters from a group that won the 2016 Joe Moore Award, which goes to the nation’s top collegiate offensive line. The offensive line should be Iowa’s greatest strength next season.

Fans should be more concerned about whether Kelton Copeland can help upgrade the receiver position because it certainly needs it.

Bobby Kennedy failed to do that in four seasons as Iowa’s receivers coach from 2013 to 2016, while Erik Campbell wasn’t much better before him.

Polasek will take over a position that has far more proven talent than what Copeland has at receiver.

Iowa’s two new assistants both have earned praise for being passionate and productive recruiters. That’s important for any program, but especially for a development program like Iowa where there isn’t always an abundance of talent.

Polasek being hired to coach the offensive line did come as a surprise, at least to me. I figured he would coach the running backs and that maybe long-time assistant Reese Morgan would switch back from coaching the defensive line to coaching the offensive line.

It makes sense that Kirk Ferentz would want to surround Brian Ferentz with as many veteran mentors as possible.

Ken O’Keefe was hired to be Iowa’s quarterbacks coach, but let’s not fool ourselves. He also will be a mentor to Brian Ferentz.

According to documents obtained by The Cedar Rapids Gazette, O’Keefe will make $540,000 as Iowa’s quarterbacks coach. O’Keefe also received a three-year contract, which is unprecedented for an Iowa assistant coach.

Brian Ferentz’s salary will remain at $425,000 according to The Gazette, but is likely to increase.

O’Keefe’s situation is sort of unprecedented because it is extremely rare that a coach returns to the same school where he spent 13 seasons as the offensive coordinator for a lesser job. O'Keefe was Iowa's offensive coordinator from 1999 to 2011 before leaving to coach receivers for the Miami Dolphins.

O’Keefe, in my opinion, will sort of be like a co-offensive coordinator, at least to begin with, although, you’d never get him to admit that.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe O’Keefe will focus strictly on the quarterbacks, and it took over a half million annually just to bring him back. If that's the case, then more power to O'Keefe.

Coaches at Iowa’s level all have experience and a vast knowledge of the game or they wouldn’t be there.

What often separates them is the ability or the inability to recruit.

If Polasek and Copeland excel in that area, the rest should take care of itself.