Ferentz On The Side - Northwestern

Iowa Coach talks about Ballard's painting, injuries, concussions and more.

Q: What were the revelations you had about Coker that he assuaged?

Kirk Ferentz: He showed toughness. He got banged around a little bit on Saturday. There were times there where I wondered if he was going to have to come out, but he kept playing. Running backs get whacked and he did a few times and I it was impressive. A good first step for him.

Q: Is this as banged up as you have been in a few years?

Ferentz: I don't know. I need to think before I talk here. the two areas it has affected us the most has been our offensive line and then more significantly the linebackers, I think. Even little things like Getz. We had him on the punt team at Michigan because Tarp couldn't go and then he tweaks his knee, so…just little things that don't show up then it shows up. that is part of our problem on kickoff team right now. James Morris would be great on that team, but the problem is he is starting at middle linebacker. Things affect others.

Q: I know you have some NFL thinking when it comes to injuries, it seems like you would lead the league in questionable this year. Tweaky things that are out there.

Ferentz: In a nutshell, if a guy can play he will play, as long as they won't hurt themselves doing it. That is good and I support that. The second thing is I have to make the judgement whether or not a guy can be effective. There are guys that we are not clear about. If you can't play your position effectively with your injury, there is no sense. I know you can do it, but you are better off going in a different direction and getting guys healthy. That is not fair to anyone.

Q: What has Mike Meyer done since August to earn your trust?

Ferentz: Two things. We thought he had a shot to kickoff and he won that fairly early. He hung in there on the other competition and after Arizona we decided to give him an opportunity. I think he has really done well in that role since that time. We haven't had a lot of opportunities, but he has done a real nice job. He had a real big field goal at Michigan and the one the other day was huge; it was not a chip shot. We were looking for a drink of water out there and he gave it to us. It was big.

Q: You make that decision not worrying about future repercussions at that position?

Ferentz: We are trying to win games. Our players understand that. Not that our evaluations are right all of the time. I hope they are more than not. We are going to try to do what is best to give us a chance to win.

Q: Nolan MacMillan, is he..

Ferentz: I think he is close. He got a lot closer last week, but he was out there in pre game and it just didn't…I am hoping by Thursday we will be ready to roll and that would help us a lot because we are razor thin in the line now.

Q: What has he been dealing with?

Ferentz: Neck soreness. If you are a linemen, it's hard. It's OK for kickers or punters. It's just not good when you are a lineman.

Q: During the much publicized 06 and 07 seasons and the issues, and what we are seeing now with the freshmen the way they have come through, is it a byproduct of a different recruiting approach?

Ferentz: No. You can do all the research you want and if anyone can be 100% correct in predicting how any 18 year old responds when he gets to college, and I don't care what your background is…if someone comes in with clean credentials there is no way to predict what an 18 or 19 year old will do. Clearly, the dip on the field was in 2006, the last six games and the off the field was in 2007 and 2001. Those were immature teams. I don't want to spend a lot of time there, we beat the 07 year to death. The alarming thing to me was the guys made bad decisions and we kept on making them. That I didn't get. There were six to eight guys leaving the boat at that time. That was puzzling. Hopefully things are changed, so far so good. The last three years, I would put our off the field record against anybody's.

Q: Have you ever seen a Christian Ballard painting?

Ferentz: Not a painting, but I have seen some of his artwork. It's nice. We had some other art majors. Quinn Early is the most accomplished artist that comes to mind. He did a Hawkeye calendar in 1988 that was really good.

Q: Derreck Robinson?

Ferentz: He was into a lot of stuff. I don't know. (laughs)

Q: Strange to get that duality?

Ferentz: It is, but it's great. When I was a high school kid, Mike Reed was an accomplished pianist, an all american tackle at Penn State. He composed some things. A Ronnie Milsap song. Stranger in My House, that was Mike Reed's. I think he still lives in Nashville. I remember seeing him in a tuxedo playing piano. How a defensive lineman can play piano is a contradiction.

Q: Like Julian, diverse interests

Ferentz: Yes, I compare him to President Skorton. You talk about a renaissance man, we have not had many guys take Japanese I know that. And won't either. None of the coaches have taken it.

Q: There is a lot of post season award talks, how do you convey that to people who vote on these things?

Ferentz: I don't care enough probably. I hope I don't do our players a disservice, but we have not gone overboard politicking for guys. If we do we wait until the season is over. But everyone is dying to know who will win the title, and we will know in January. That is why we elect permanent captains in December. It's more reflective of a season's work. Post season honors should be done that way but they won't be. It would be more valuable and meaningful if that were the case.

Q: Were the expectations skewed for the defensive line coming into this year based on what they did last year, with sacks totals?

Ferentz: I don't know what it did last year. All I know is we are playing pretty good defense right now. A big part of that is our defensive line and they are playing well. You can't control when the ball comes out or how many they keep in to protect. I remember we played the Cowboys in 1994, it was one of our better wins during my six years in the NFL. I knew one thing, we were not going to hold the ball. They had a great line. If you held the ball you would get nailed. You have to game plan around things like that. So statistically, you could say our line did a great job that day. The reality is we tried to keep them out of trouble as much as possible. Bottom line is for us, we are worried about us playing good team defense and those guys play a valuable role. People run the ball on us, that is a bad thing. that happened a few weeks ago. Again, that was not all their fault either. It takes a team to stop the run. We are just worried about playing good team defense and winning games. If you have a winning team, you get more guys recognized in post season honors.

Q: Talk about Sash and his ability to put himself in position to make plays. Remind you of any former players?

Ferentz: Both he and Brett are playing at a high level and they are both smart players. They are very experienced. It's amazing how many games they have played. Brett is almost maxed out as far as games he can play as a starter and Tyler is close. They are real experienced guys that play with a lot of savvy and they are opportunistic.

Q: Is it a combination of being savvy and film preparation?

Ferentz: I think so. People are noticed Ricky Stanzi more this year. these guys are experienced plays that work hard behind the scenes to get to the right spots. That gives you the chance, on top of good ability. those guys do have that.

Q: Have you heard people question your decision about whether or not Adam Robinson should have been in the game late against Michigan State?

Ferentz: I read something last week. You can question a lot of things.

Q: What is your reaction to that or what were you thinking at that time?

Ferentz: The fourth quarter had just started and we had a lot of starters in the game on both sides. I would not change it, we were trying to win.

Q: What comes down to the decision on when to pull guys out of the game?

Ferentz: Go back and look at the film, that is when we decided to put the twos in

Q: Do you go by feel of the game?

Ferentz: You go on by what goes on on the field. There is no book. I will buy that book on clock management. There is one. I should have read it about ten years ago, apparently. I will buy that, I am open to suggestion. There is no book on that stuff and you do what you do.

Q: Does it bug you?

Ferentz: Does what bug me?

Q: That second guessing?

Ferentz: People second guess a lot of things I do.

Q: Some people may have been thinking that you put him unnecessarily in harms way…

Ferentz: He is playing football. you can get a concussion in any…anyone can get one anytime playing football. If I have to start worrying about all of that stuff you will be afraid to come out of the building. If I had known he would have gotten a concussion, hell yeah I would have taken him out. If you want to know when I would have taken him out, the play before he got hurt.

Q: How are concussions and their diagnosis different now than in the 80's?

Ferentz: Guys felt queasy before and their stomachs were hurt and when they felt better they came back in. Now there is a detailed protocol. People came up with that and they are smarter than I am. We all trust in the system. You have to be careful. You have a guy like Alex Kanellis. We had guys in the 80s that probably couldn't have gone on, but you kept reloading.

Q: Does your decision to go recruit Baltimore have to do with the time you spent there?

Ferentz: We finally got someone out of there. We try to recruit some people a few years ago. We have tried and struck out. Gilman has had kids but we couldn't get them. Two went to Notre Dame. They chose not to come here. We are always looking for areas that make sense.

Q: Have you dealt with any companies that help kids find colleges, like the Cam Newton allegations?

Ferentz: No, I am not aware of that. It sounds like a hokey deal to me, and pretty shaky. I know basketball is a different discussion, there are a lot of layers in recruiting. In football it's straightforward coaches and parents.

Q: No companions contact you, what would you do if they did?

Ferentz: I have never heard of it. We deal face to face with coaches and parents.

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