Ken O’Keefe, the coordinator of Iowa offenses which included six of the 10 most productive seasons ever by Hawkeye quarterbacks, is returning to the program.
Five years to the day after leaving Iowa for a position as receivers coach with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, O’Keefe was named Friday as Iowa’s new quarterbacks coach.
The 63-year-old O’Keefe worked as Iowa’s offensive coordinator from 1999-2011 and fills one of three vacancies on coach Kirk Ferentz’s staff while returning to one of the roles he held with the Hawkeyes for 13 seasons.
During that time, O’Keefe oversaw the development of Heisman Trophy runner-up Brad Banks, Kyle McCann, Drew Tate, Ricky Stanzi and James Vandenberg, quarterbacks who all enjoyed single seasons which rank among the most productive in the program’s history.
“Ken is an excellent teacher who brings a wealth of college and NFL experience to our staff,’’ Ferentz said in a statement announcing the hire. “During Ken’s years in our program, the individual growth and overall performance of our quarterbacks played a major role in the success of our football team.’’
O’Keefe spent the past five seasons with the Dolphins, working for four years as a receivers coach on a staff headed by former Hawkeye assistant Joe Phlbin before spending last season as the organization’s senior football research analyst.
He said he is excited to return to the Hawkeye staff.
“I look forward to working with Kirk Ferentz again, and the entire coaching staff,’’ O’Keefe said. “I gained valuable experience in Miami the last five years, but at the same time I am anxious to return to coaching and working with college players and being back on the campus at the University of Iowa.’’
Ferentz called O’Keefe “an outstanding person and a perfect fit’’ to add to a staff he hopes to have assembled by mid-February.
With offensive line coach Brian Ferentz stepping into the offensive coordinator’s position following the retirement of Greg Davis as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, O’Keefe fills a need.
No coach currently on the Hawkeye staff has experience in coaching quarterbacks.
O’Keefe also adds an experienced coach familiar with not only Iowa, but the nuances of an offense Ferentz wants more productivity from after it finished 121st out of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision programs in total offense with an average of 325 yards per game.
Among his first tasks will be working with quarterbacks competing to replace C.J. Beathard, who O’Keefe recruited, as the Hawkeyes’ starting quarterback for 2017.
Sophomore Nathan Stanley, who completed 5-of-9 passes and took snaps in seven games last season as a true freshman, tops the pre-spring depth chart distributed by Iowa last month.
Junior Tyler Wiegers, who completed 3-of-4 passes as a redshirt freshman in 2015, and sophomore Drew Cook are listed as backups.
Kirk Ferentz has said that all three will be given a chance to compete for the starting position during spring camp which is scheduled to begin on March 22 and they will be joined in the fall by freshman Peyton Mansell.
This will be the third time O’Keefe will be part a staff which includes Ferentz. The pair first worked together in 1978-79 when Ferentz was an assistant on a Worcester Academy staff led by O’Keefe.
When Ferentz was named to replace Hayden Fry as Iowa’s coach prior to the 1999 season he turned to O’Keefe, then the head coach at Fordham, to build the Hawkeye offense.
During his 13 seasons with the Hawkeyes, Iowa recorded four top-10 finishes in the nation and won Big Ten championships in 2002 and 2004 while finishing as the runner-up in 2009.
In addition to coaching at Fordham, O’Keefe coached four teams to undefeated regular seasons and including a 1990 NCAA Division III national title during eight seasons as the head coach Allegheny College.