Former Rutgers defensive coordinator Jay Niemann has been hired as a defensive assistant, Iowa Football announced Wednesday:
"We had an excellent pool of coaching candidates, but one clearly stood out and that was Jay Niemann. Few coaches in college football today have Jay's extensive defensive experience," said Ferentz. "I've had the good fortune to know Jay for years – first as a coach and then as a parent when we recruited both of his sons. In every instance, I've always been impressed with him. He will be a valuable addition to our staff and program."
The statement included some of the worst Photoshopping I've ever seen; Iowa just took the top result from a Google Image Search of "Jay Niemann," filtered it black and white, and dropped some random Iowa logos on his hat and shirt.
Photoshop horrors aside, the hire makes a ton of sense. Niemann is the former defensive coordinator at Rutgers, where he spent the last two years before having his contract expire. Prior to that, he spent four years at defensive coordinator at Northern Illinois, an Iowa feeder program if there ever was one. He also had a six-year run as the head coach at Simpson College in Indianola, was previously the defensive coordinator at Drake and UNI, played college ball at Iowa State, is a native of Avoca (AHST REPRESENT), and put two sons through the Iowa football program in the last half-dozen years.
Niemann joined Wyoming's staff back in February, but obviously didn't stay long. According to Iowa's statement, he will coach defensive line with Kelvin Bell and act as lead scout on defensive recruits. As far as I can tell, this is the first time that Niemann has coached defensive line exclusively, but his extensive experience as a coordinator and coach should ensure that any learning curve is short.
As a Reese Morgan replacement, he checks all the boxes: Institutional knowledge of Iowa high school football from his time at Simpson, UNI and Drake, experience in defensive position coaching at a developmental program, and an obvious connection to the program and region. None of this means that Niemann will have the eye for talent or success in getting that talent to Iowa City that Morgan did, but he certainly has a better chance of replicating Morgan's output than most.
The one thing Niemann is not: A Brian Ferentz hire. Iowa's choices on assistants in recent years have skewed toward youth and familiarity. Niemann has the familiarity, to be sure, but he's approaching 60 years old. Obviously, that's not a knock on Niemann -- his experience is invaluable to a program that just lost a huge chunk of it -- but this isn't a hire to set up the Second Ferentz Regime. This is one to close the first, and a good choice at that.