The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa football: An early look at the 2024 season

After a 10-4 finish in 2023, here’s a way-too-early look at the 2024 Iowa football squad.
Grace Smith
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz listens to a question during a press conference with head coaches at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023. The teams match up at Camping World Stadium on Monday, Jan. 1, at noon CT. “I guess that is my biggest complaint and there is not a transparency when you talk about NIL, a lot of embellishment, a lot of stuff going on out there,” Ferentz said.

Finishing with a record of 10-4 and clinching the Big Ten West title, the Iowa football team enters the offseason with a lot of questions but also optimism.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz will enter his 26th season in Iowa City and must find a new offensive coordinator for the first time since 2016 after the firing of his son, Brian Ferentz.

Several key starters return on both sides of the ball and fans are hoping for a run to the College Football Playoff, which expands to 12 teams next season.

Schedule at a glance

The 2024 season is a historic one for the Big Ten, as UCLA, USC, Oregon, and Washington will join the conference. To accommodate the new expansion teams, the conference will have only one division, with the top two teams qualifying for the Big Ten Championship Game.

Iowa will face two of the newcomers in 2024, hosting last season’s national runner-up Washington on Oct. 12 and traveling to UCLA on Nov. 9.

Besides Washington, the Hawkeyes welcome the likes of Illinois State, Iowa State, Troy, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Nebraska to Iowa City.

Including the trip to Los Angeles, Iowa will have five away games next season, with trips to Ohio State, Minnesota, Michigan State, and Maryland.

Also, for the first time since 2019, the season will include two bye weeks. Iowa’s off weeks take place during Week 5 and Week 12.

Offensive staff changes

Following a 12-10 loss at home to rival Minnesota, Interim Athletic Director Beth Goetz terminated controversial offensive coordinator Ferentz, though he would coach the remainder of the season.

The Hawkeyes scored a disgraceful 15.4 points per game, ranking 132nd in the country and dead last among the major conferences. In its three games against ranked opponents last season, Iowa was outscored 92-0.

Adding to these failures, the Hawkeyes failed to score a single point in their final two games of the season, including a 35-0 drubbing at the hands of Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl.

Since the bowl loss, the elder Ferentz has conducted a search for his next offensive coordinator, and with the college football season ending earlier this week, Iowa will have to act quickly as the coaching carousel is now in full swing.

On Jan. 12, the Hawkeyes announced that wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland will not return next season. Copeland had been with the program since 2017, the same season that the younger Ferentz took over the offensive coordinator position.

No matter who the new offensive coordinator is, they are going to have a lot of pressure to turn this struggling unit around.

Key returners

Despite mounting questions surrounding the offensive side of the ball, incoming fourth-year tight end Luke Lachey announced his return to the program on Dec. 29. Though he suffered a season-ending injury against Western Michigan, Lachey will be one of the most dangerous targets in the Big Ten if he stays healthy.

Quarterback Cade McNamara will attempt to regain his starting job after tearing his ACL last year. His mobility might never be the same, but his leadership and experience are going to be key for a successful Iowa offense.

Offensive lineman Nick DeJong will also return for a sixth season, giving the Hawkeyes more depth in the trenches.

On defense, the Hawkeyes return many key starters from a unit that was regarded as one of the nation’s best a season ago. Linebackers Jay Higgins and Nick Jackson are coming back for another season along with standout defensive backs Quinn Schulte, Jermari Harris, and Sebastian Castro.

Coach Phil Parker will return for his 26th season with the team, including the last 12 as the defensive coordinator. His defenses have finished in the top 15 for three straight seasons, including top-five finishes the last two years.

Key departures

Though Iowa will return the bulk of its defensive starters next season, standout cornerback Cooper DeJean declared for the 2024 NFL Draft. DeJean’s explosive kick returns will be missed, but special teams coordinator LeVar Woods is known as one of the best in the country and has a knack for finding the right personnel.

All-American punter Tory Taylor departs after a storied career where he averaged 46 yards per kick and emerged as a fan favorite during his tenure in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have already recruited fellow Australian Rhys Dakins to replace Taylor.

Early expectations

Iowa cracked several way-too-early Top 25 polls, with ESPN and USA Today placing the Hawkeyes at No. 25 and No. 24, respectively.

Both polls expect Iowa to improve its offense, while also maintaining its strong defense and special teams.

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About the Contributors
Brad Schultz, Sports Reporter
Brad Schultz is a sophomore at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Sports Studies. This is first year working as a sports reporter and he has a deep passion and love for sports. Outside of the Daily Iowan, Brad is a contributor for Saturday Blitz, a college football site, with his content primarily covering Iowa and the Big Ten.
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.