Ed Hinkel has enjoyed a magnificent first season as a high school coach at Iowa City Regina. The former Hawkeye has coached wide receivers for the undefeated Regals, who will play in the state championship on Friday.
While the coaching thing has gone great, it’s not been all smiles for Hinkel. He’s suffered right along with his alma mater in what has been a roller-coaster season with struggles on and off of the field.
The Hawkeyes dug out of a four-game losing streak to win four of their last five games. They became bowl eligible with a victory against Minnesota last week and are hoping to secure a bid with a win against Western Michigan on Saturday.
Players and coaches have been put through the ringer by fans and media this season. Some have called for the heads of coordinators Ken O’Keefe and Norm Parker as well as head coach Kirk Ferentz, all of whom Hinkel played for until finishing his career in 2005.
“I respect those guys,” Hinkel said. “I hate when people talk bad about them. Usually if I’m around and I hear it, I’ll say something. Most of the time the people that are saying stuff don’t really understand what’s going on. They don’t really understand the game. (The Iowa coaches) know what they’re talking about.
“The people that are talking bad are the same people that when things are going good are saying that we’ve got the greatest coaches in the world. It’s the same group of coaches, but when we’re doing bad, they’re horrible. It’s kind of funny the way that people think. I never like to see anybody talk bad about our coaches.
Hinkel probably views the situation with a bias. He’s very fond of the Iowa staff. But he also has a pretty intimate knowledge of the program he obtained while winning two Big Ten championships under a group that also led the school to four January bowls in a row and three consecutive Top 8 finishes nationally.
I probably should have called on Ed earlier this season because I really respect his knowledge of the game and his ability to see what’s happening with the Iowa team. Well, it was better late than never.
Hinkel still attends all of the Iowa home games and watches the others on TV. Below, he gives some insights on the Hawkeyes ’07 season:
What’s the transition like from high school to college as a receiver?
I just feel fortunate that I had that redshirt year to make the transition and learn the offense and that sort of stuff because it does take a little time to learn and understand everything. You have to learn the defenses. It’s a tough transition. For the most part, those (young Iowa) guys have done a pretty good job of doing that and have played pretty well at times.
A few of those guys were put in a tough spot. Paul Chaney and Darrell Johnson-Koulianos played different positions in high school and it looked like they were still a little raw when they were thrown in there.
It probably wasn’t the ideal situation that coach wanted to put them in. I’m sure he would have rather given them more time to learn. But it was just the way that things happen this year. They’ve just been thrown in there. They’ve done a good job for the most part.
Have you noticed their on-field maturity increase as the season has gone on?
Yeah, you can definitely see that they’re starting to understand things. They’re starting to understand what they’re doing out there a little bit more. It’s a credit to those guys for putting in the work and Coach (Lester) Erb bringing them along.
Is the maturity in aspects other than catching the ball undervalued in terms of it taking time to learn things like blocking and picking up blitzes, etc.?
Yeah, especially picking up blitzes and seeing that stuff. You’re worried about what route you’re supposed to run and then the guy blitzes in and everything changes. It’s definitely something that takes time to get used to. As I said, I’m glad I had a redshirt year. Even at the beginning of my redshirt freshman year I was still trying to understand things. It takes a while to understand and feel comfortable.
In addition, there is a new starter at quarterback and many new faces on the offensive line. It seemed like the analysis was to blame one aspect of the offense, like Jake for missing receivers or the receivers for running bad routes or the line for inconsistent blocking. Can you speak a little bit about how important each piece of the puzzle is and how things can break down if just one thing goes wrong?
You have to have all aspects of the offense if it's going to be successful. Football is the greatest game because it takes all 11 guys on the field working together to be successful. If one of those things is lacking on a given play, you’re probably not going to see too much success. They’re finally starting to come together. They are young. They’re still young. I’m looking forward to the next few years of Iowa football.
Overall, what’s been you impression of this team? It’s really come back from a rough spot.
It’s impressive considering where they’ve been. It’s kind of what you expect from a young team, not to be real consistent. That’s kind of how they were at the beginning of the year. Now, they’re coming together.
You played with Drew (Tate) and Eric McCollom. They both said some things in the print media this year that cast the program in a poor light. Drew said that his comments were taken out of context. What’s your thought when ex-players do that?
I see where those guys are coming from. Just knowing those two guys, I think they were just misunderstood the way things came out. But you don’t want to see anybody talking bad about the program. In those two instances, I read those articles, I think a lot of what they said was misunderstood, kind of taken out of context, like you said.
Do you have more of an appreciation for your former coaches at Iowa and in high school now that you’ve gone into the business?
Yeah, I definitely do. There’s a lot more that goes into it than just coaching. There’s all the other stuff that you have to deal with. It’s just been a good experience for me to kind of understand that and see the game from a different angle.
When things got rough at Iowa last year, some players have indicated that there was some division among the ranks. This year, guys are saying they’ve been able to stick together. How much does chemistry play into this thing?
There’s nothing wrong with having a little controversy on the team or off the field as long as the guys understand that when you’re on the field that you’re working as one. The guys this year have done a good job of not listening to the things that people on the outside are saying. It’s one of the reasons that they were able to turn it around. It probably brought them more together saying, “We’ve got to go prove these people wrong.” That’s what they’ve done so far.
Senior leadership is another thing that’s thrown out there with chemistry. How important is that aspect?
I don’t know. If you’re winning, you’re going to have great leadership. If you’re losing, you’re going to have bad leadership. It’s always how it’s going to be. It’s not necessarily the case, but that’s what people are going to think. It is something a team definitely needs. Coach Ferentz does a great job of letting the seniors lead the way. It’s the same thing that we’re doing with our high school team at Regina. We told the seniors that it’s their team and they have to lead the way to the championship.
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