IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) Most Iowa fans used to hope that Kirk Ferentz would be their coach until he retired.
Many of them are now worried that such a scenario might actually come to fruition.
The buzz that typically surrounds the Hawkeyes has been largely replaced with a bit of ”Ferentz fatigue.” The former national coach of the year, now in his 17th season, has gone just 34-30 over the past five seasons, a stretch capped by an embarrassing 45-28 bowl loss to Tennessee in January.
Ferentz has five years and over $20 million left on his contract, with a prohibitive buyout of about $13 million. That situation and a steep decline in season ticket sales have been the main topics of conversation about Iowa in the offseason.
Still, there are a lot of programs that are a lot worse off than Iowa.
Junior quarterback C.J. Beathard could be a breakout star. The secondary has a chance to blossom and junior LeShun Daniels Jr. could be the punishing running back Iowa has been looking for.
The schedule seems easy, too – though it also appeared to be that way last August and Iowa still limped to a 7-6 finish.
”We didn’t have to call `Dr. Phil’ in or anything like that for our football team. We’re just trying to work a little bit harder, work smarter, and get better at the things that really determine successful outcomes,” Ferentz said.
Here are some of the key things to consider about Iowa heading into 2015:
SUNSHINE: Beathard is Iowa’s best dual-threat quarterback in years. But the Hawkeyes have to be careful since he is Iowa’s only signal caller with any college experience. Beathard, nicknamed ”Sunshine” by his teammates because of his resemblance to the fictional quarterback from ”Remember the Titans,” was 52 of 92 passing last season for 645 yards and five touchdowns. Beathard’s backup is redshirt freshman Tyler Wiegers, followed by a pair of true freshmen.
”His demeanor is different, and he’s a much more mature guy and he’s accepted the responsibility,” Ferentz said of Beathard.
JACKED DANIELS: After three years of having a converted fullback start at running back, the Hawkeyes will have a more traditional look this fall. Daniels will likely take over for Mark Weisman as Iowa’s lead back, with senior Jordan Canzeri also in the mix to change things up. Daniels battled injuries last season, but the Hawkeyes are bullish on his future. At 6-foot and about 225 pounds, Daniels resembles 2008 Doak Walker Award winner and longtime NFL back Shonn Greene. If Daniels can play like Greene, Iowa might end up contending in the Big Ten West.
SECONDARY: Iowa’s strongest unit just might be its secondary. Junior Desmond King has developed into the kind of cornerback opposing defenses stay away from, and fellow corner Greg Mabin emerged despite some shaky moments. Safety Jordan Lomax was honorable-mention All-Big Ten in 2014, and fellow safety Miles Taylor has the makings of a three-year starter.
LINE `EM UP: Iowa has been known for producing standout linebackers. But last season the Hawkeyes were often shredded up the middle of their defense. Iowa’s linebackers were inexperienced in 2014, often missing their angles and reacting slowly because they were thinking instead of playing. The Hawkeyes expect much better play from this unit in 2015.
TICKETS: It shouldn’t be too tough to get a ticket this fall to Kinnick Stadium, a place once known for a long sellout streak. Season ticket sales for the 70,585-seat stadium were down roughly 15 percent from a year ago as of early August. The schedule includes visits to Wisconsin and Nebraska and the home slate lacks marquee names. A night game with Minnesota in the middle of November is probably the top matchup in Big Ten home play.