Late winter is usually a quiet time for football news, but Kirk Ferentz dropped a small bomb today with some news about change to the Iowa coaching staff. That change? Reese Morgan is retiring prior to the beginning of spring football practice.
A tremendous coach, mentor and friend! His impact on the game of football in the state of Iowa cannot be overstated!— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) March 6, 2019
Thank you for 19 great seasons at the University of Iowa, Coach Morgan | #Hawkeyes https://t.co/mhDC9JtTeG pic.twitter.com/IFGOP5TZyr
In a word: whoa. Pat will be along later with a longer retrospective on Morgan and his career at Iowa, but this is arguably the most impactful change to Iowa's coaching staff since Norm Parker retired after the 2011 season. Officially, Morgan was "just" Iowa's defensive line coach, but unofficially Reese Morgan was the secret sauce behind so much of Iowa's success over the last two decades.
Morgan has more experience and more institutional knowledge of the Iowa program than anyone without the last name "Ferentz" or "Parker" (or "Doyle"). He arrived at Iowa early in Ferentz's tenure (2000) after dominating the Iowa high school football ranks: he won three state titles in eight years at Iowa City West, including back-to-back state championships in 1998 and 1999. He first served as recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach at Iowa, helping mold an unheralded player by the name of Dallas Clark into an eventual John Mackey Award winner. He moved to the offensive line from 2003-2011 and helped develop future stars like Robert Gallery, Bryan Bulaga, Riley Reiff, and Brandon Scherff. He switched to the defensive line from 2012-2018 and molded players like A.J. Epenesa, Anthony Nelson, Parker Hesse, and Drew Ott.
As valuable as Morgan was as a position coach, though, his ability as a recruiter was perhaps of even more importance to Ferentz and the Iowa program. Morgan's connections throughout the state of Iowa high school football and his eye for talent helped Iowa uncover innumerable gems in the recruiting process. That unheralded 2* prospect whose only other offers were FCS schools? He was probably a Morgan find. The number of prospects like that who blossomed into meaningful contributors -- and often much, much more than that -- at Iowa is stunning and vital for a program like Iowa that relies on developing talent over the long haul. Morgan's skill as a position coach will definitely be missed (particularly as Iowa heads into next year with four new starters along the defensive line), but his ability to canvass the state and find under-the-radar prospects could be even harder to replace.
But how Iowa intends to replace Morgan is a topic for another day. For now we congratulate Morgan on a tremendous career at Iowa and thank him for nearly two decades of invaluable coaching and recruiting acumen. Iowa football would look very, very different over the last 20 years if Reese Morgan hadn't decided to move on from high school coaching and try his hand at the college level. We're grateful he made that decision and thankful for all of his contributions to Iowa. Enjoy your retirement, Coach Morgan.