IOWA CITY, Iowa - Discussing quarterbacks drove Kirk Ferentz's weekly press conference here Tuesday. The Iowa coach fielded questions on the position for about the first 15 minutes of the gathering and throughout the media event.
Q. Last year Jake Rudock had dealt with some knee stuff for three games. But this wasn't that, right?
COACH FERENTZ: Correct. I didn't say that. It's all soft tissue right now. We got that tested yesterday. It's a couple different spots, but the good news is there is nothing torn or really bad.
Q. Is there a specific date this week that he would have to be on the field to be able to play? Is it different for quarterbacks?
COACH FERENTZ: We'll play it day by day and see what it looks like. I don't expect he'll be with the trainers today. We'll move him around, see how he feels and go from there. The good news is he feels better this morning than he did yesterday, and getting the test results back was a real positive.
Q. Where do you stand, Coach, on injuries? Can a guy lose his starting spot to an injury? Do you have a set rule?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, there is no set rule. Some players are really hard. It's going to be tough to beat Scherff out and it was kind of that way coming in. If anybody can do it, if he wasn't one of our five best linemen, he wouldn't be out there playing. So we'll just play it by ear. The good news I said Saturday and I really mean this, we have two guys we have a lot of confidence in. Maybe I've been around that situation before. It just doesn't pop out off the top of my head. But maybe in '81, Pete Gales and Gordie Bohannon were both really capable. But, you know, we'll just play it by ear. The good news is, at least, we're not going way into the bullpen here to come up with something.
Q. If Jake can't go Sunday, Wiegers would be your number two I would assume. A guy you'd like to red-shirt?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, that's a little different topic there now.
Q. How's his progression coming?
COACH FERENTZ: I really don't know. He's been on the scout team most of the time. The one thing I'm pretty confident, and I said two months ago, he can take a snap from our centers now. That was a real issue in August. That's a big step. I still remember to this day I'm pretty sure it was 1977. I remember Pitt losing to Notre Dame. Literally if they could have run quarterback sneaks to finish the game, they would have won the game. They had some center exchange problems, and it was that kind of situation, about so that's not a good deal. So we'll learn more about Tyler this week, for sure today.
Q. You've gone through it with the injury thing a little bit. Part of coming back is being able to perform at the same level. Does that help you or give you some sort of peace of mind in terms of Jake's dealt with pain before and you've seen how he's had to respond on the field?
COACH FERENTZ: Absolutely. First of all, the medical staff will not clear anybody that's at risk, so we're not going to do that with any player. The second part of the equation is can they play effectively? We didn't know that about Brandon and Drew a couple weeks ago. But they were able to demonstrate that they could do it.
Yeah, you don't want to put a player out there where they're not going to be able to perform and look representative of the kind of players they are. That's just not fair to anybody. The team or the players individually. The good news right now is it's really more about what we see than it is anything else at this point.
Q. Ironically, last time you went to Pittsburgh you had a situation where you were playing two guys and went on a gut feeling and went with Christensen as I recall in the second half. Is this totally different because it's an injury involved?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, we didn't have a choice Saturday. Jake could have gone in, but couldn't move. It wouldn't have been fair to him or anybody else. What we would have done after that, that would have been interesting. The thought entered my mind at halftime, but didn't share it with anybody else, and fortunately it never came up. We have a week now to prepare if that ends up being the case if Jake can't play.
Q. It seemed like Jake stayed engaged and stayed really with C.J. in helping him with an injury and everything else on his mind. How does he pull that out? Is that just the kind of guy he is?
COACH FERENTZ: You guys have been around him. This guy is not your average player. This is an exceptional young man going back to his organic chemistry test last year and all that stuff. Jake is just really wired the way you would want a player to be wired, any player, especially a quarterback. But it was really the same thing last week. I'll go back. Last week you had Lomax, Terlouw and Gair trying to help him get ready. And I remember Stanzi when he went down in '09, he's up here after surgery the same night with VandeBerg trying to get him ready. When you have good people on your team, that's what I think -- I don't want to say it's a tradition here. But we've been fortunate and we have high character guys and they're all about the team. They're not worried about their own little deals.
Q. What is C.J.'s best attribute? What is the thing that you put into that?
COACH FERENTZ: I'm not good at that game, I guess. He's a good player. I feel the same way about Jake. They're different guys totally. Their personalities are different, they look different, just about go right down the row. But that's the neat thing about football. You've got a lot of diverse backgrounds, personalities, ages, all that stuff. But it's about they both share a real common bond in terms of they're here to help the team be a better football team, and they're great teammates with each other and that is certainly something you would expect or hope for.
It doesn't always work that way, especially at the quarterback position. You can have some interesting chemistry sometimes with the group and all that kind of stuff. But we've been pretty lucky and had a good run of guys that are thinking the right way.
Q. Were you surprised with how efficient Beathard seemed to be in that game?
COACH FERENTZ: Yes and no. If you guys had seen Thursday practice the answer would be yes, I was surprised. I was underwhelmed with what I saw Thursday. But Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty good. That's kind of like our whole team, the consistency factor. But C.J.'s a really good quarterback, and I don't think I would be surprised by anything he did or Jake. I think both of them are capable of playing really well. I thought Jake played a good first half.
I've read a couple things coming home that night. I have a little technology, that I phone and stuff so I get to read scores. But if we catch that one ball and he got a turnover credited to his count instead of a big completion, his numbers look pretty good too. So again, I think we have two pretty good players.
Q. C.J. has a big arm and guys with big arms like to use it when they can. What's his progress been like?
COACH FERENTZ: I think good. Rudock threw it well too. It was a pretty deep ball. I think both the guys can throw. Their styles are different. They both can make the throws they need to make. Their leadership styles are different too, but they're both effective. Again, I feel pretty good. I'm no quarterback expert. I just know when I feel good about guys and when I don't. I feel really good about both of these players.
Q. How has C.J.'s life changed? If he's installed as a starter for the week today, how much more into it is he?
COACH FERENTZ: I hope not at all. Although I read a quote of one of our other back-up players how he amped it up last week, which will be a message to the team today. It's a good idea to amp it up all the time because you just never know. Coincidentally the Sam Brownlee story was featured in the press -- there is a publication they circulate in the press box, and his is a great story. I know when he sat in this room in August that year, he had no idea what was going to happen. How could he? Next thing you know he's in there playing against Ohio State and making A.J. Hawk miss on his best run, career run.
So that's just a good reminder that you never know what's going to happen. You like to think that everybody in the two-deep is preparing. Guys are going to be traveling or preparing the way a starter is, you know? That's ideal thinking. It doesn't always work that way, but a good reminder why it's important.
Q. I don't know if deserved is the right word, but do you think C.J. has earned more playing time?
COACH FERENTZ: I feel good about both guys. Most of those axioms are true and everybody loves the number two guy, and I do too. I'm glad he's on our team. I look at them both as starters just like I look at Mike Hardy as a starter. We can only start three ends on defense and right now it's Meier and Drew, but I consider Mike Hardy to be a starter. He really plays good football for us when he's in there, and that's rare when you have guys that can do that, but that is another position where at least we have three guys that can go in there and play at a really confident level.
Q. What was Beathard showing you Thursday that was not up to your standards?
COACH FERENTZ: He just wasn't sharp. He wasn't sharp, and that's not typical for him. So it's a little more prominent when a quarterback is like that because everybody notices what quarterbacks do. Practice is the same way. He just wasn't as sharp with his on target accuracy. That's not to suggest Jake's perfect every day either. We all have our ups and downs.
Q. Can you describe maybe the amount of man hours and work that goes into deciding who starts and why?
COACH FERENTZ: A year ago is really when the decision got made. We had to make one. At that point it's like every player on our team. Everybody's got a lot going. You put the little things in the plus column, you put them in the minus column and you just judge everything, but we evaluate everything. Not only practice, but everything that goes into it. At that position you want guys that are really dependable and you can trust because they've got a lot of responsibility.
But the good news is we found out about Jake last year. I think we found out early that he's a guy that can play at a really high level and we can win with, and due to the injury to Jake, we found the same thing out about C.J.
So, again, it's a really unusual situation, but we felt pretty good about both guys coming out of the year last year. The good news is now that we have them both healthy, and we have a really good situation right now. We don't. As of today, we're not in the best of situations, but hopefully it will get better as the week goes on.
Q. You mentioned leadership a moment ago. On the sidelines, did you sense any difference in the way the rest of the offensive players on the field interacted with or reacted to Jake versus C.J. when C.J. wasn't in?
COACH FERENTZ: I'm sure you've already asked our guys and will do so again today. But I think our players, they're like coaches, there is a lot of fuel involved in anything you do in athletics and I think confidence gets earned through performance and through what you do. Our players know a lot more about what guys do than outsiders would. I don't want to speak for other people, but I think I'm safe in saying our players have total confidence just like the coaches in both quarterbacks, and that's a good thing. But they've earned it. They've worked hard and they've played tough. Beathard threw that one Saturday where he was going to get a mouthful, and that was a huge throw in the game. To me, that was his best play.
When a quarterback takes one -- takes a shot and gets right up, I can promise you the linemen love that. Everybody else responds to that. The defensive guys love it. Typically on good teams the defensive guys respect the good quarterbacks as much as offensive guys do, but that's something you earn. You earn it through practice, and also on the game field.
Q. When you guys switched quarterbacks in 2008 what did you need to see? Going back to the question about the amount of thinking that you guys do to pick a quarterback, does that make it hard to reconsider the position?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah. You know, I can't remember three weeks ago let alone how many years is that? I'm not good in math. But that was a more drawn out -- I think that would shift back to a year ago where we really didn't know. We were just kind of, if Jake (Rudock) had sputtered, it probably would have maybe played out the way that one did, but Jake really didn't sputter. I thought he kind of took control of things. Now we're in a situation just by fate more than anything else where C.J.'s been able to play when Jake's been hurt, and we were able to discover some good things about C.J. without having the do we, don't we stuff. So it's all good.
Q. Is that a way of saying there are going to be some bumps in the road for C.J.? Maybe that wasn't on Saturday?
COACH FERENTZ: This week, you mean? Well, there would be some for anybody who is in there, I think. That is just the nature of that position. I'm not saying I'm comfortable because I'm not comfortable right now, but I'm confident that C.J. is going to be well-prepared and he'll play well. I was confident last week he would when he went in. He had a bad practice and that happens. So it happens to a lot of guys and that's part of the growing process. Hopefully as we go along this season we'll get better on a consistent basis.
But all that being said, last week I was confident Jake would play, and if C.J. had it going, no reason to think he wasn't going to play well because we've seen enough of those guys in practice and in competition.
Q. Have you ever had a time here at Iowa where you and the offensive coordinator haven't agreed on who should be the starting quarterback?
COACH FERENTZ: I can't remember one, no. I don't think we've had that many tough calls, have we? '08, we were trying to work through that, and you guys probably remember that stuff better than I do. Back in the first couple of years we were round and round and round. That was like the loser got to be the quarterback because three-step and get the ball out. That's all I remember the first year. Ladell Betts was the toughest guy in the history of the program. I think he averaged over four yards a carry that first year. That was an accomplishment. We were young.
Q. Do you think the casual fan understands at all what goes into picking a starter?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, probably not. But why would they? We'll play whoever is ready to go. It's not that big a deal to us. We'll rally whoever is out there. We're not going to put Jake out there if he's not able to play the way he has to. C.J. will be ready to go if that's the way it turns out.