IOWA CITY | With no bowl game to prepare for following a 4-8 season, Iowa football coaches are focusing on the three R’s this month.
Reflection, recruiting and rebuilding occupy the December days Hawkeye coaches traditionally have spent preparing for a bowl opponent.
“It’s not the way we like to spend December, but we will make the most of the time,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
In 10 of the past 12 years, the Hawkeye coaches have juggled practice and game preparation with recruiting in the weeks leading up to bowl games.
Typically, those practices have included a lot of time spent on player development that will benefit the program in the future. This year, that work has to be done on an individual basis.
Ferentz said if there is a positive from not having a bowl opponent to worry about, it is that additional hours will be spent in areas of need.
“We have more time to focus on recruiting and we certainly have more time to focus on our players, player development and program development,’’ Ferentz said.
Coaches will meet and dissect the good, the bad and the ugly of the recently-completed season. They’ll also begin to formulate plans for 2013 and the start of spring practices in a little over three months.
They will also recruit. Less than 48 hours after the Hawkeyes ended their season with a 13-7 loss to Nebraska, Iowa assistant coaches were on the road recruiting.
Current high school seniors have made official visits to the Iowa campus the past two weekends and the largest contingent is currently in the midst of a weekend stay in Iowa City.
“We need people who want to lineup and play and compete,’’ Ferentz said. “We’re not that far away, at least that’s the sense I have. My guess is that will be the tenor of talks with recruits.’’
Iowa expects to sign around 19 players on Feb. 6, the earliest date current high school seniors can sign binding letters of intent. The Hawkeyes entered December with 15 verbal commitments, and Ferentz said linebacker – a position where Iowa returns three senior starters next season – and playmakers remain priorities on the program’s recruiting wish list.
Two days after coaches hit the recruiting trail, returning Hawkeye players began off-season individual physical work which will lead them to the start of spring drills in late March.
“This offseason can make or break us,’’ linebacker James Morris said. “You can change and respond, or we can keep doing what we’ve been doing and that next you know, you have a loser attitude. As a returning guy, I have to make sure it’s the former and not the latter.’’
Players on the current roster will receive plenty of individual attention as that work begins.
“Decembers are typically so busy, you’re literally on a treadmill basically every day looking to get things done, probably not giving anything enough attention, quite frankly,’’ Ferentz said. “It never feels like it at least until you get on the plane and go to the bowl site, you never feel like you are attending to the game the way you need to.’’
Individual meetings between coaches and players are a part of this month’s schedule, something Ferentz believes would benefit his team more frequently.
“In a perfect world, you could take two days a week in-season and visit with your players and have one-on-one visits, but you can’t do that,’’ Ferentz said. “That’s not realistic. Nobody can.’’