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Brian Ferentz adjusts to role at Iowa

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP)

(Eds: Updates.)By LUKE MEREDITHAP Sports Writer

Brian Ferentz left one of the top organizations in football to rejoin his father at Iowa.

His first season back was hardly what Ferentz was hoping for after jumping from the New England Patriots to Iowa City.

Brian Ferentz was a major piece of his father's massive two-year overhaul of the Hawkeyes coaching staff. The former standout lineman for Iowa from 2001-05 left the Patriots to take over as the offensive line coach under Kirk Ferentz before the 2012 season.

Iowa dropped its final six games and finished 4-8. The offensive line struggled with the rest of the team down the stretch, as injuries to starters Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal limited the unit's effectiveness.

Brian Ferentz isn't making any excuses, preferring instead to focus on building enough depth during spring practice to withstand the loss of any starters.

''Any time you have injuries there's certainly going to be a drop-off in play, although that's not what any of us want, that's not what we are looking for. Right now we are fortunate. Everybody is healthy and practicing,'' Brian Ferentz said. ''The goal for us is to build the kind of depth to be able to play with that kind of consistency and not see a performance decline when you suffer injuries.''

Brian Ferentz and his father took some heat when Brian joined the Hawkeyes staff. Brian even has to technically report to athletic director Gary Barta to avoid issues with university nepotism rules.

But Iowa likely couldn't have found a better fit to work with its offensive line than Brian Ferentz.

Ferentz played right guard and center for the Hawkeyes, and as a senior in 2005 he earned honorable mention All-Big Ten and was named a team captain. Ferentz went undrafted by the NFL, and after a year on Atlanta's practice squad his pro career was essentially over. So he followed in his father's footsteps, joining the Patriots as a scouting assistant before moving up to coach tight ends in 2011.

Most young coaches wouldn't dare leave a unit boasting of stars like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to be a position coach in the Big Ten. But Brian Ferentz couldn't resist the opportunity to return to his hometown and alma mater and work with his father.

''There's a lot of things on a personal level that I really enjoy about being back in Iowa. I love this program. That's not a line for me; that's genuine. I feel a deep, deep love for this football program and the people that support it,'' Brian Ferentz said.

Now, the younger Ferentz is charged with building a line that resembles the stout units the Hawkeyes used to be known for.

Scherff and Donnal should be ready by the fall, which will be huge for Iowa. Both went down with season-ending injuries in a loss to Penn State in October.

The Hawkeyes have a lot of potential with the likes of Brett Van Sloten, Austin Blythe, Ryan Ward and Conor Boffeli, and Ferentz wants to build a line that can establish the run consistently.

''What we need to do to be successful is we know we have to run the football, however we are going to do that,'' Ferentz said. ''We have to be able to run the football - and run it when we want to run it and run it when they know we are going to run it.''

Brian has also been seen by many Iowa fans as a driving force behind recent tweaks like alternate uniforms, an increased presence by the program on social media and last Sunday's practice in West Des Moines, a first in Kirk Ferentz's 15 seasons.

The thinking was that Brian, 30, would have his father's ear. But Brian shot down such speculation on Wednesday, adding that his father is more up on the times than many give him credit for.

''I do bristle at the notion that we are archaic or that our head coach is ... a Luddite,'' Brian Ferentz said. ''He's not. He's got an iPhone and he's got an iPad.''

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Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

Tagged: Iowa

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