Hawkeyes hire Packers' analyst Tim Lester, ex-Western Michigan coach, to revive offense

Iowa Lester Football
Posted at 9:33 AM, Feb 01, 2024

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Former Western Michigan coach Tim Lester was hired Wednesday to turn around Iowa's underperforming offense.

Lester replaces coach Kirk Ferentz's son, Brian Ferentz, who finished this past season on the staff after athletic director Beth Goetz told him in late October that he wouldn't return in 2024.

The 46-year-old Lester spent a year as a senior analyst for the Green Bay Packers after Western Michigan fired him in 2022.

"His experience as both a head coach and a coordinator at several different levels of football gives him an excellent perspective," Kirk Ferentz said. "I believe his expertise and personality make him a perfect fit for this position."

Lester was 37-32 in six seasons at WMU, where he was a star quarterback in the late 1990s. He previously was quarterbacks coach at Purdue in 2016 and offensive coordinator at Syracuse in 2014-15. He also has coached at the Divisions II and III levels.

"When you have coached at every level of football like I have, you have a true appreciation for an opportunity like this at the University of Iowa," Lester said. "I know the tradition and history of the Hawkeye program and I am excited to get to work with the outstanding players and coaches."

Iowa has had the Big Ten's least productive offense two straight years and ranked second-to-last in 2021. The system under Brian Ferentz was panned for being outdated and unimaginative. Iowa was one of two teams in the nation with a pass completion rate under 50% this past season. Seven wide receivers have entered the transfer portal over three years.

The Hawkeyes have still managed to win 28 games since 2021, including two 10-win seasons, largely because of a defense that consistently ranks among the nation's best.

But Iowa has wilted on the biggest stages. Last season the Hawkeyes were shut out 31-0 at Penn State, 26-0 against Michigan in the Big Ten championship game and 35-0 against Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl.

Lester's offenses at Syracuse struggled, ranking 13th in the 14-team Atlantic Coast Conference in both 2014 and '15.

WMU's offense was ranked in the top 35 nationally in total offense four consecutive seasons (2018-21) under Lester. He was the primary play-caller from 2018-20.

His 2022 WMU offense, coordinated by Jeff Thorne, was worst in the Mid-American Conference at 301 yards and 19 points per game.