Category Archives: Dixie Wooten

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Ameer Ismail hired as newest Iowa Barnstormers Coach

The search for the Iowa Barnstormers newest head coach is over, the team announced on Thursday, as they have hired Ameer Ismail to take the reins in Des Moines.

Ismail becomes the eighth head coach in Iowa Barnstormers history and will follow the most successful coaching stint the team has seen in Dixie Wooten.
Ameer Ismail hired as newest Iowa Barnstormers Coach
The former NFL and arena league player brings experience from all over the place, including stints with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars as well as the AFL’s Jacksonville Sharks (Pre-NAL) and a plethora of IFL teams.

“It is such an amazing honor to be named the new Head Coach of the Iowa Barnstormers, the most prestigious and historic team in all of indoor or arena football,” Ismail said in a press release from the team. “[Barnstormers Vice President and COO] John Pettit and I have known each other and maintained a great relationship over the years despite being on different teams or even in different leagues.”

Ismail started off his coaching career with assistant roles in the IFL in 2014. He spent time with the Cedar Rapids Titans, Tri-Cities Fever, and Spokane Empire.

In 2017, Ismail took his first head coaching job with the Champion Indoor Football league’s Bloomington Edge, where he would lead his team to a 7-6 record and a berth in the CIF Playoffs.

The next year, Ismail packed up shop and accepted the head coaching position for the newly formed Massachusetts Pirates in the east coast’s National Arena League.

There, Ismail led his team to an 11-6 record and another berth in the playoffs. He was also named NAL Coach of the Year during that time.

In 2019 Ismail took a break from head coaching in the arena league to take a spot coaching the outside linebackers at Albion College.

Now, he’ll return to the indoor ranks carrying an 18-12 record as a head coach and a resume that includes two playoff appearances in as many seasons.

“To be able to work with someone of his expertise and experience is another major reason why I wanted to be here,” Ismail said in the release. “We will continue the winning ways with tremendous positive culture for our community and fans. I am very grateful for the opportunity and can’t wait to bring another championship to Des Moines.”

Expect the Barnstormers as well as other teams in the Indoor Football League to start announcing player signings soon as well as an announcement regarding Iowa’s assistant coaching staff.The post Ameer Ismail hired as newest Iowa Barnstormers Coach appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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FERGUSON: Where Iowa will go Following Dixie Wooten Era

The Iowa Barnstormers went 10-20 in their first two seasons in the Indoor Football League. After that stretch, Iowa had gone seven straight years without a winning season.

Dixie Wooten entered. He went 36-8 in his three seasons at the helm in Des Moines, winning IFL Coach of the Year twice and also the franchise’s first championship.

The Barnstormers announced last week that the pair had parted ways and on Wednesday, the Tucson Sugar Skulls announced that Wooten would be their next head coach.

The full press release from the IFL can be found here.

So. Where does Iowa go now?
FERGUSON: Where Iowa will go Following Dixie Wooten Era
Well, the right candidate will likely have a strength in recruiting. That’s how the Barnstormers were successful under Wooten.

Even with rosters that only included five to eight players returning each season, Wooten rounded up talented teams in each of his three seasons.

Iowa’s front office as well as its fans are going to be looking for the same quality in their next leader.

Now, with Wooten’s departure, it’s expected that some of the stars from Iowa’s roster will not be returning to the team in the upcoming season.

The most obvious is 2019 LWOS IFL MVP Ryan Balentine, who has played under Wooten since their days in Billings.

Rocky Hayes was another standout during this past season in the heartland. When asked if he was coming back after Iowa’s last game he said it would depend on what Wooten would do.

And what’s to make of standout quarterback Daquan Neal? Wooten brought him to Iowa and he shined. Will he follow to Tucson?

October 1 is the first day that returning players from 2019 can sign with teams for 2020, so we won’t know much of anything in concrete until then.

As for coaching candidates for the team, it’s not likely that a former player of recent years will be taking over the ship. It didn’t work for Joe Brannen and of the players that have gone on to coach, most headed to the college ranks in position coaching spots.

Although, there is one exception to that in Jason Simpson. 

Simpson was an stand out defensive back and has been involved with Iowa for a number of years. Last season, he was the team’s defensive back coach and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the 2020 staff in some capacity.

Another pair of names to look at are those that were assistant coaches when Wooten was in Iowa.

Hurtiss Chin and Marcus Coleman both have experience with Wooten, were on the Iowa staff during the United Bowl season, and coached in Tucson this past season.

Now, there’s still a chance the two stay in Tucson for 2020, but the Sugar Skulls did not announce any plans for their assistant coach when Wooten’s hire was announced.

The last time Iowa was staffed with hiring a new coach, Mark Stoute’s name was thrown around as the next potential coach instead of Wooten.

Stoute ended up taking the job in Jacksonville and most recently finished off the 2019 season with the Cedar Rapids River Kings. The team finished 1-13 last season.

If you’re looking for Iowa to get what some would consider a home run hire, I’d pick one out of left field in current Carolina Cobras (NAL) head coach Billy Back.

Back has plenty of experience and has proved his worth in Carolina, earning back-to-back trips to the east coast league’s championship game and winning the whole thing back in 2018.

Not to mention, Back has history with the IFL and was at one point signed to coach in Iowa with Cedar Rapids right before accepting the Carolina job.

No matter who Iowa hires as its franchise’s next head coach, fans in the stands are going to expect wins – rightfully so. That’s what they should expect after the Dixie Wooten era.

The thing that’s important to remember is that in a sport filled with uncertainty year after year, Iowa is still here in Des Moines at Wells Fargo Arena, and come February, we’ll all be sitting back, watching some good, old Barnstormers football.The post FERGUSON: Where Iowa will go Following Dixie Wooten Era appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Ryan Balentine named 2019 LWOS IFL MVP

Ryan Balentine ended his 2018 Indoor Football League season with a three-touchdown game in the United Bowl, winning the MVP for the championship game.

He picked up right where he left off in 2019.
Ryan Balentine named 2019 LWOS IFL MVP
With the departure of fellow veteran wideout Brady Roland and a new quarterback in Daquan Neal for this season, the pressure was heating up for Balentine to step up.

Coach Dixie Wooten chose to roll with a young squad for the 2019 campaign, meaning the few players returning from last season’s roster would be vastly important to Iowa’s success this year.

Balentine did more than come through.

The former Southern Mississippi star averaged two touchdowns per game, this year. Including his all-purpose scores, Balentine ended the year with 30 trips to the end zone.

Not only was his 28 receiving touchdowns the best mark in the IFL, Balentine also recorded a league high 1,084 yards through receptions, beating the next highest wideout by 159 yards.

His 89 receptions were more than anyone else in the league had by 19.

Balentine’s play helped the Barnstormers advance to the league semifinals for the third straight season – a first in the franchise’s history that dates back to 1995.

Iowa finished the season with a 12-3 record, and were an injury to Neal away from heading to a second-straight championship game.

The No. 1 dominated play no matter where he went whether it was Sioux Falls, Green Bay, or in Des Moines – a place he has called home longer than any other in his long career in the IFL.

All of this helped us select Balentine as our 2019 Last Word On Sports IFL Most Valuable Player as well as an All-IFL First Team selection at wide receiver.

LWOS announced its 2019 All-IFL teams yesterday and has also announced its 2019 Players of the Year as well as honorable mentions.

Coach of the Year: Corey Roberson
Most Valuable Player: Ryan Balentine
Players of the Year: Daquan Neal, Allen Chapman, & Eric Thomas
Honorable Mentions: Lorenzo Brown Jr., Marques Rodgers, & E.J. Hilliard
LWOS First and Second All-IFL TeamsThe post Ryan Balentine named 2019 LWOS IFL MVP appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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