By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Time and performance will ultimately determine if Iowa’s decision to hire Abdul Hodge as its new tight ends coach was the right move.
On the surface, it certainly looks encouraging.
Hodge is one of the greatest players to have played under Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, a former three-time All-Big Ten linebacker from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
He was known for his bone-jarring tackles, his toughness and his leadership.
He and Chad Greenway formed arguably the greatest linebacker duo in program history, and they also became close friends during college, the soft-spoken black kid from South Florida and the outgoing white kid from a farm in South Dakota.
One of the wonderful things about college sports is that it brings together people from all different walks of life, and from different cultures and they strive for a common goal and some become friends for life along the way.
And while it’s true that Hodge has little to no experience coaching tight ends, football isn’t rocket science.
As long as he has the respect of his players, and a burning desire to evolve and to learn, Hodge should have a positive impact.
He is the fifth former Iowa player to join Kirk Ferentz’s staff.
The others are offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, who is Kirk Ferentz’s son, special teams coordinator LeVar Woods, defensive line coach Kelvin Bell and running backs coach Ladell Betts.
They all know what it means to play for Iowa, and they all know the lay of the land and the rich and proud tradition that they represent.
The fact that four of the five coaches are black also shows that diversity and inclusion are being taken seriously at Iowa in the wake of the racial accusations from the summer of 2020.
Recent data shows that nearly half of the football players at the FBS level are black.
So, it would make sense for a coaching staff to have a similar representation.
There is a concern with Brian Ferentz now coaching the quarterbacks instead of the tight ends that the offense will struggle even more than it has recently. Brian Ferentz also has little to no experience with coaching quarterbacks.
The opening on the staff for which Hodge has filled became available when Ken O’Keefe stepped away from coaching the Iowa quarterbacks in February, a position he had held since 2017.
O’Keefe was hired shorty after Brian Ferentz was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2017. It made sense at the time because O’Keefe was hardly a threat to Brian Ferentz, and because O’Keefe had experience in coaching quarterbacks after having served as the Iowa offensive coordinator from 1999 to 2011.
But it also created a highly unusual setup since the offensive coordinator at most schools also coaches the quarterbacks and calls plays.
Kirk Ferentz apparently believes that Brian Ferentz has learned enough about coaching quarterbacks from having worked alongside O’Keefe for five years, and that now it’s time for Iowa to have a more common setup.
“We believe this is the logical move for our football program,” Kirk Ferentz said in a release. “The person in charge of calling the plays should work most closely with the players who are in control of the offense.”
The move makes sense from a practical standpoint because the offensive coordinator should be the quarterback coach.
It’s just that the circumstances at Iowa are highly unusual with Brian Ferentz being Kirk Ferentz’s son, and with the offensive having struggled.
But that still shouldn’t take anything away from the decision to hire Abdul Hodge, who spent the previous three seasons coaching outside linebackers at the University of South Dakota.
The reaction to Hodge’s hire on social media was overwhelmingly positive as it should’ve been.
Hodge should help Iowa build a stronger recruiting presence in talent-rich South Florida, and if he works as hard as tight ends coach as he worked as a player, he should thrive in his new role.
Kirk Ferentz isn’t one to single out which of his former players are his favorites, but it’s reasonable to assume that Hodge would be near the top of his list.
Hodge was Kirk Ferentz’s kind of player, a tough, no-nonsense, team-first guy who always brought it on game day.
Hodge represents everything that is good about college football, and once a Hawkeye, always a Hawkeye.