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Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz recalls Baltimore ties as he prepares to face Terps

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. (Al Messerschmidt / Getty Images)

For much of the last two weeks, Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley has been studying Kirk Ferentz's Iowa team and trying to devise different ways to beat the Hawkeyes' defense when the two teams play in College Park on Saturday.

But Locksley can remember being a guest at Ravens practices years ago, where he watched and tried to learn from different Ravens coaches, including Ferentz.

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Ferentz said he has not been back in Baltimore much since taking over as Iowa's coach in 1999. However, he was the assistant head coach and offensive line coach after the Ravens' franchise moved to Baltimore from Cleveland in 1996, and he spent three seasons in those roles before leaving for Iowa.

With the Browns and Ravens, Ferentz helped turn Wally Williams from an undrafted free agent into a player that later signed a five-year contract with the New Orleans Saints. Ferentz also helped develop a young Jonathan Ogden, whom the Ravens drafted with their first pick in 1996. He also coached other young players such as Orlando Brown, Jeff Blackshear and Jeff Mitchell.

"Usually when you think of Kirk, you think of an offensive line extraordinaire," Locksley said. "Everywhere he's been, the offensive line has played really, really well. I know when he was with the Ravens, he had some say in their ability to run the football.

"And then when you think of Iowa, you think of the talented linemen that came through their program. They've always played great defense, and I think he is well respected in this business when you look at the longevity he has had there and the consistency he has had. … They do a tremendous job developing the players in their program. All of that is obviously a direct reflection of the type of head coach he is and the job he does as a leader."

The 59-year old Ferentz began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Connecticut in 1977. He then had two other stops before taking over as the offensive line coach at Iowa in 1981.

He remained in that role until 1990, when he left to take the head coaching job at Maine, where he was 12-21 before leaving in 1993 to become offensive line coach with Cleveland under then-Browns coach Bill Belichick.

Ferentz then moved to Baltimore with the Ravens in 1996.

"Right from the on-set, drafting Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis in the first round, I don't know how you can do any better than that," Ferentz said. "And even though everything came to fruition years after I was gone, it was neat to see how things progressed there. It was a city that was willing and ready to welcome an NFL franchise, and so that part was unique and neat, and I thoroughly enjoyed the staff I worked with."

It was a Ravens staff under Ted Marchibroda that included future NFL head coaches such as Marvin Lewis, Jim Schwartz, Ken Whisenhunt and Eric Mangini. Lester Erb was on the staff, too, and he later spent many years as an assistant coach under Ferentz at Iowa.

Ferentz said he maintains relationships with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, among others. He said he has been in contact with DeCosta and said DeCosta is planning to stop by and catch up at some point this weekend, as well as take a look at some of Iowa's senior players who will be in next year's NFL draft.

That could happen at Iowa's team hotel or possibly at the game Saturday.

The trip back to Maryland is also a return home of sorts for Ferentz's son, Brian.

Brian Ferentz, who was a starting offensive lineman at Iowa, started high school at Gilman and spent two years there before moving with his family to Iowa.

Brian Ferentz has been Iowa's offensive line coach since 2012, a role he took over after four years on the coaching staff of Belichick's Patriots.

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"It's a little difficult to keep track of the Ravens," Ferentz said. "When you're in the NFL, you lose track of college. And really the only team I would stop and watch when I was in Baltimore was if Iowa was on. I'd have interest because of having strong ties and being here nine years as an assistant.

"So that was kind of a flip, and I still follow the Ravens because of Ozzie and Eric, and now George Kokinis is back there as well. George was with us in Cleveland. And the other obvious part about it, Marshal Yanda's there. You had Jim Caldwell, who is an Iowa grad. Sean Considine was there. He's one of our guys, too. So that part makes it fun to watch, and I still pull for them."

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