LeVar Woods, a three-year football letterman at the University of Iowa and a veteran of seven seasons in the National Football League, was named special teams coordinator in March 2017, after previously assisting with the Hawkeye special teams.
Woods handles all phases of Iowa’s special teams after coaching Hawkeye tight ends for three seasons. Woods coached Iowa linebackers for three seasons (2012-14) and previously served as an administrative assistant with the Iowa program (2008-11).
Following back-to-back narrow losses to open the 2020 season, Iowa won six straight games, all in Big Ten play, to complete the regular season. The winning streak included road wins at Minnesota, Penn State and Illinois, and trophy game victories over Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes were ranked 15th in the nation in the final CFP rankings and coaches poll, and 16th by the Associated Press.
Iowa has won three straight postseason games and 12 straight nonconference games. The Hawkeyes were selected to compete in the 2020 Music City Bowl, but that event was canceled. Iowa’s streak of eight straight bowl invitations matches the longest in school history.
Iowa won 47 games from 2015-19, the highest total in school history over any five-year period, and a total that ranked ninth nationally. Iowa won its final four games in 2019 and ranked 15th in the nation in the final Associated Press and coaches polls.
Iowa’s special teams played a key role in the 2020 success. Freshman punter Tory Taylor was named the Big Ten Punter of the Year. He was named first-team Freshman All-America by the FWAA and second-team All-America by The Athletic and was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award.
Iowa led the Big Ten and ranked fifth nationally in net punting (42.9), while also ranking fifth in the nation in kickoff return coverage (15.7). Kicker Keith Duncan ended his career as Iowa’s career leader in field goal percentage (82.5 percent) and is Iowa’s career leader with 20 field goal from 40 yards and beyond. Duncan ranks fourth in career field goals (52) and sixth in career scoring (252).
Taylor earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and Duncan was named to the third team. Junior punt return specialist Charlie Jones and senior kickoff return specialist Ihmir Smith-Marsette each earned All-Big Ten honors as well.
The Hawkeyes concluded the 2019 campaign with a 10-3 record following a 49-24 win over No. 22 Southern California in the Holiday Bowl. The three losses were all to ranked opponents by a combined 14 points. The Hawkeyes were 4-1 in trophy games for the third straight season.
Iowa completed the 2018 season with a 9-4 mark and a final ranking of 25th in the Associated Press national rankings. The Hawkeyes earned a 27-22 Outback Bowl win over No. 18 Mississippi State to close the season with three straight wins. The four losses came by a total of 23 points and all were decided in the final minutes of play. Iowa tied for second in the Big Ten West Division.
Along with winning its most recent three bowl games, Iowa also participated in the 2017 Outback Bowl, 2016 Rose Bowl Game, 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl and 2014 Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes have ranked in the final top 10 of both major polls five times in the past 19 seasons.
Iowa has appeared in 11 January bowl games since 2001 and has recorded January bowl wins over Florida (2004 Outback), Louisiana State (2005 Capital One), South Carolina (2009 Outback), Georgia Tech (2010 Orange), and Mississippi State (2019 Outback).
Iowa has won 157 games over the past 19 seasons, including 96 Big Ten games. Along with the 2015 division title, the Hawkeyes earned a share of the Big Ten title in both 2002 and 2004 and tied for second in 2009. Iowa has finished in the Big Ten’s first division in 18 of the past 20 years.
The Hawkeyes posted a perfect 12-0 regular season record in 2015, winning the West Division of the Big Ten Conference. Iowa participated in the 2016 Rose Bowl Game and the 2015 Big Ten Championship and ended the season in the top 10 in the final national rankings.
Iowa’s special teams were led in 2019 by kicker Keith Duncan and kickoff return specialist and wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Duncan earned consensus first-team All-America honors and was one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award. Duncan led the nation with 29 field goals (34 attempts), a total that ranks sixth-best in NCAA history. Duncan was named the Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year in the Big Ten while ranking 16th in the nation in scoring (119 points).
Smith-Marsette led the Big Ten and ranked second in the nation with two kickoff return touchdowns. He had touchdown returns in back-to-back wins over Nebraska (95 yards) and Southern California (98 yards). Smith-Marsette was named the offensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl, becoming the second Iowa player in school history with a rushing, receiving and kick return touchdown in the same game.
Smith-Marsette helped Iowa’s kick return team rank sixth in the nation (26.6), while Iowa was also eighth nationally in kickoff coverage (17.2). Smith-Marsette ranks second in the Big Ten Conference for career kickoff return average (28.7) and ranks 10th at Iowa for all-purpose yards (3,415). He scored 20 career touchdowns.
The 2018 Hawkeyes led the Big Ten and ranked second nationally in kickoff returns, with Smith-Marsette ranking second in the individual rankings with a 29.5 average. Smith-Marsette was named the Rodgers-Dwight Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year. Iowa led the league in kickoff returns for three straight seasons before ranking second in 2019.
Iowa ranked second in the Big Ten in punt return average (10.6), and eighth in the nation in kickoff return coverage (16.4) in 2018. Senior Kyle Groeneweg ranked second in the Big Ten and 19th in the nation in punt return average (9.9).
In addition, senior kicker Miguel Recinos earned honorable mention All-Big Ten recognition. Recinos led Iowa in scoring with 98 points, connecting on all 47 PAT attempts and 17-22 field goals. Recinos ranks 15th in career scoring with 180 points, including all 93 career PAT attempts.
Iowa’s special team highlights in 2017 included ranking sixth nationally in kick return defense (17.08), 15th in the nation in kickoff returns (24.44) and 25th in punt return defense (4.65). Senior running back Akrum Wadley set an Iowa bowl record with 171 yards on five kickoff returns in the Pinstripe Bowl victory.
Iowa tight ends also had an impressive season. Sophomore Noah Fant led all FBS tight ends with an average of 16.5 yards per catch, and his 11 touchdown receptions tied as the top figure among tight ends. The 11 touchdowns are also a record for Iowa tight ends. In addition, redshirt freshman T.J. Hockenson added 24 receptions for 320 yards and three touchdowns. Fant earned third-team All-Big Ten recognition.
Fant and Hockenson each declared early for the 2019 NFL Draft. Hockenson was the eighth pick in the first round (Detroit), while Fant followed as the 20th selection overall. Iowa is the first school ever to have two tight ends selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Senior George Kittle led the Iowa tight ends in 2016 with 22 receptions for 314 yards, while sharing the team lead with four touchdown receptions. Despite missing two full games and parts of others due to injury, Kittle earned All-Big Ten honorable mention recognition. He participated in the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine following the season and was selected by San Francisco in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Kittle set an NFL tight end receiving record in 2018, earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. He surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for a second straight season in 2019 while repeating as an NFL All-Pro selection.
Iowa’s special teams also performed well in 2016, led by return specialist Desmond King, who ranked second in the Big Ten in kickoff returns and third in punt returns. As a team Iowa led the conference and ranked seventh nationally in kickoff returns (25.9), while ranking second in the Big Ten and 11th nationally in punt returns (12.5). King earned NFL All-Pro recognition in 2018 with the Chargers.
Iowa’s offense in 2015 averaged 30.9 points and 386.1 yards total offense, including 181.7 rushing and 204.4 passing yards per game. Iowa ranked in the top 25 nationally in fourth down conversions, fewest penalties, and fewest turnovers.
Iowa’s tight end continued to play a key role in the offense in 2015, as Henry Krieger Coble and Kittle combined for 55 receptions for 695 yards and seven touchdowns. Krieger Coble signed a free agent contract with Denver following the 2016 NFL Draft and was a member of the Los Angeles Rams practice squad in 2018. Jake Duzey, who missed the majority of his senior season in 2015 due to injury, earned an invitation to mini-camp with Indianapolis in 2017.
Woods coached Iowa linebackers in 2014, as the Hawkeye defense ranked seventh in the nation in pass defense and 22nd in total defense. Iowa led the Big Ten and ranked second in the nation in fewest penalties and penalty yards. In his first year as a starter, linebacker Quinton Alston ranked second on the team in tackles and earned second team all-Big Ten honors.
In 2013, Woods joined with Jim Reid in coaching three senior linebackers who served as the leaders of Iowa’s defense. Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey, and James Morris each recorded over 100 tackles while earning All-Big Ten recognition. The trio each recorded over 250 career tackles and combined for 950 total tackles in helping Iowa appear in three bowl games.
Kirksey was selected in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft by Cleveland, while Hitchens was selected by Dallas in the fourth round. Hitchens has started in the NFL for four seasons, serving as a team captain for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in 2019. Kirksey has been a starter in the NFL the past four seasons but missed the majority of 2019 due to injury. Morris signed an NFL free agent contract with New England immediately following the draft and was with the Super Bowl champions throughout the season. He spent the majority of the 2015 season with the New York Giants.
Due to the play of the Iowa defense, Reid and Woods were named by FootballScoop as national Linebackers Coaches of the Year. Iowa earned a spot in the 2014 Outback Bowl behind a solid defense that ranked among the national leaders in total defense (sixth), first downs allowed (seventh) pass defense (ninth), scoring defense (ninth), pass efficiency defense (17th) and rushing defense (19th). The Hawkeyes recorded eight wins, including five in the Big Ten to tie for second in the Legends Division.
Under the direction of Woods, Iowa’s linebackers also held the top three spots on the tackle chart in 2012. Hitchens not only led Iowa in tackles, but also led the Big Ten and ranked sixth in the nation. Morris ranked third in the Big Ten and 13th nationally. Kirksey was third on the team in tackles, while ranking second in the nation with four recovered fumbles. He was also one of eight players in the nation with two touchdowns on interception returns.
Woods served as Iowa’s defensive line coach in the 2011 Insight Bowl. Despite the loss to 14th-ranked Oklahoma, the Hawkeye defense held the Sooners to a season-low 275 yards total offense and just 114 net rushing yards. Iowa linemen recorded four tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception.
As an administrative assistant, Woods assisted the coaching staff in compiling statistical information, gathering information on opponents and recruits, and assisting in the day-to-day operation of the football office.
During his NFL playing career, Woods played for Arizona, Chicago, Detroit, and Tennessee. Woods signed with the Cardinals as a free agent in 2001 and spent the first four years of his career in Arizona.
In 88 career games Woods totaled 168 tackles, 2.5 QB sacks, four fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.
Woods teams with fellow NFL player Kyle Vanden Bosch (both are graduates of West Lyon HS in Inwood, Iowa) in hosting a youth football camp in their hometown. He has also founded the LeVar Woods Football Academy in Okoboji, Iowa, teaching fundamentals and techniques to youth and high school athletes.
During his stint with the Cardinals, Woods was named a finalist for both the Byron “Whizzer” White and Walter Payton Man of the Year awards, recognizing his contributions to charity.
Woods has been involved with several charitable organizations throughout his career, including the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids foundation, Homeward Bound, Soup Kitchen, Youth Christmas shopping trips and, Milk and Cookies Youth Reading Program, along with speaking engagements to elementary school children. Woods has also been instrumental in developing the Hawkeye Readers youth reading program in conjunction with the Iowa City: UNESCO City of Literature, which helps promote the importance of literacy to children.
He has also been involved with the NFL’s Executive and Entrepreneurship programs through the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, the Kellogg Business School at Northwestern University, and the Stanford School of Business.
Woods lettered as a member of the Hawkeye football team from 1998-2000. He was a two-year starter at outside linebacker, totaling 165 career tackles, including 18 tackles for loss and four sacks.
He was a team captain as a senior in 2000 and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors from both league coaches and media after recording 97 tackles. He was selected for the Blue-Gray All-Star game following his senior season.
Along with serving as defensive team captain, Woods was co-Most Valuable Player and the recipient of the Hayden Fry “Extra Heartbeat Award”, given each year to the Hawkeye player who gives extraordinary effort on the field.
Woods attended West Lyon HS in Inwood, Iowa, where he earned all-state honors and was the Class 2A Player of the Year as a senior. He rushed for 1,226 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior, while totaling 50 tackles, nine QB sacks and two recovered fumbles as a defensive end.
He earned his degree in elementary education from the University of Iowa in December 2000.
Woods was born March 15, 1978, in Cleveland, Ohio. LeVar and his wife, Meghann, have three children, daughters Sydney and Whitney, and a son, Mason.
Woods’ Coaching Career
School – Position, Years
Iowa – Special Teams Coordinator, 2018-present
Iowa – Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends, 2017
Iowa – Tight Ends/Special Teams, 2015-16
Iowa – Linebackers/Special Teams, 2012-14
Iowa – Administrative Assistant, 2008-11