OPENING STATEMENT FROM COACH FERENTZ: We finally got some summer weather (it was in the low 90s here Friday with extremely uncomfortably high humidity). The last two days have felt like summer camp. Our guys are working hard right now. We're a little tired. We certainly have a lot of work to do. But I think we're making progress and I'm please so far with what's going on. But we have a lot of work to do in the next two weeks.
How much is the defense ahead of the offense?
They're still ahead. And they should be. They're a veteran group right now. I think they're moving around with confidence and good intensity. That, in the long run, is going to make us a better offensive football team. But we're still trying to catch up to those guys a little bit.
Do you have changes on your depth chart?
Nothing significant. Today was out first scrimmage. We've been practicing pretty good all the way through here. What we'll do this afternoon is look at the tapes. We can start to think a little bit from here on in. But we wanted to give the guys 8-12 workouts to get their feet on the ground and to see what's what. We'll start making those determinations now in the next five or six days.
Has anybody emerged as the No. 2 running back?
Not right now. Fred (Russell) was not here today. Fred had to attend a funeral back in Michigan, a family funeral. It gave the other guys a chance to get some work. Marcus Schnoor is starting to get back in there a little bit. We're keeping an open mind, but it's been good exposure to see those guys. We already know that Fred can play.
Marcus has missed some time with a leg strain. He's starting to phase back in. Sam Browlee got dinged a little bit too. It gave us a chance to look at both freshmen (Albert Young and A.J. Johnson). Right now, we're all pleased with what we're seeing there. The good news is that today those guys protected the ball well. That's one of the first things you're going to look for. It was the first time we really let those guys get tackled live.
Have they responded well to getting so much work?
They really have. They've held up physically and they're doing a nice job mentally. There are still some things to learn, obviously. But they're acting like they belong, which is encouraging.
You're preference would be to only play one of those guys, right?
No. As I've said before, we've got an open mind on everything. Right now, it's foreseeable that we could play both of them. I would not object to that. If that's the best thing for our football team, we'll do that. It would be ideal to stagger them, but we're not worried about that right now.
If more guys start to go out early, will you play more true freshmen?
Possibly. Maybe at a skill position. And when we say early, it's after four years. I think we may start to see a little bit more of that here. It's been going on at places like Ohio State for a long time. Dallas (Clark) was a candidate. Fred's considering it. I don't know if it's the best thing for him, but he's considering it. But again, our mindset is to do whatever we can to win each and every week now. I think out team is strong enough right now. If some freshmen can push us over the top, we're going to go ahead and do that. We'll worry about four years from now four years from now, as long as the player is a agreeable.
Are you satisfied with Chandler?
Yes and No. He's doing a lot of good things out there, but still has a lot of work to do as well, as do all of the guys. I think he's making good progress, but again, we're not ready to play yet at this point.
Where does Chandler need the most work right now?
Again, confidence and repetition, recognition, all those things is true of any guy that hasn't played. The more they're in there working at a good tempo, that's how they improve.
Is it similar to Brad (Banks) at all last year?
It's similar, yet he's a different kind of quarterback. But it's similar to where he is on the progression chart.
Is anything clearing up with the No. 2 (quarterback) position?
It's still kind of cloudy. I want to watch some tape here before I say too much. But we're looking at that. I think we're at that point now where we need to start dividing reps a little differrently. We've tried to work all three of the backups in there plus the two (true) freshmen (Drew Tate and Eric McCollom). We try to work all of our third groups too every day where we're getting a little more time with them than we would in the normal situations. But it's going to be tough to work (six) quarterbacks. It's too many. So, we're going to have to start making some decisions here in the next few days.
Have you eliminated anybody?
No. Not right now. We'll look at the tapes here.
The (true) freshmen are still in the mix?
They're both doing some good things. They're doing some bad things. But you expect that. We're pleased with them though.
Any surprises so far?
As I said the other day, I'm really pleased with our freshmen class. I'll hold true to that statement. Probably in another week we'll be talking about some of those guys. I think their are some guys that are in the mix a little bit and doing some good things and acting like they belong. That's going to be interesting. Outside of that, I don't think there have been any major surprises. But overall, the guys are doing about what we thought.
Are you doing alright health wise?
Yeah. Pretty much. Mo (Brown) and Bob (Sanders) are still out. That's a little concerning. They were out last Sunday, and that hasn't really changed a great deal. I hoping to get them back maybe early next week, but we'll take that day by day. The rest of the stuff is pretty much day to day stuff.
What are their injuries?
Mo has had some back problems, back spasms. Bob has got a foot sprain.
Is Bob's injury somewhat serious?
Yes and no. He had this last year as well. And from everything that I have been able to ascertain, it's basically the same injury. It's kind of flared up right now. We're trying to get it to calm down. He'll be back. I'd be really surprised if he misses any time.
Is Mo's injury serious?
I don't think so. They've done Xrays, MRIs, all that kind of stuff. If we were talking about disks or structural stuff, then I would be really concerned. Right now, it appears to be all muscle, and sometimes it takes time and therapy and trying to stretch a guy out and doing some of that kind of work. Hopefully, he'll be ready to go here soon. I'd feel better if he was out there. I'll tell you that. But seeing is believing. I don't think there's anything major in there. We're not atlking about surgery or anything like that.
The Big Ten released yesterday that the some instant replay is going to be used experimentally this season. What do you think?
I got a memo on it but I have not read it. Maybe I better start reading my memos. (The league is only experimenting with it. It will not play into the games this season). I really think that we're going to see it get implimented here in the next couple of years. I really do. That's one man's opinion.
Are you for it?
I am. I think as long as we can be sure that it's not going to hurt our game, I think it's a good thing. I think that's kind of the consensus, for the most part, of our coaches right now.
Are there any significant rules changes to be aware of this year?
The halo rule as been eliminated. That's a good thing. I think we're similar to what the NFL has now. The halo rule we can just blame on us as coaches because that's how most of the rules get changed. It was impossible to coach. It was impossible to officiate. It's good, not only for the players and the coaches, but also good for the officials. That's the major (change). Then there are a couple of things about enforcing penalties after a score. You have an option now.
Are there any aspects of the team behind the (learning) curve right now?
I don't think so. We were sloppy in some areas today. Part of that is the weather. Part of that is where we are at in camp. It happens kind of every year. But that doesn't make us any happier. We've got to fight through those things and develop our mental toughness. We will.
Where are you now in camp?
About midpoint, I guess. This was 12 or 13 workouts. Where we are right now is where we were a year ago at this time on Saturday. We actually have an extra calendar day in there to fool with. That's a nice luxury to have.
How are things progressing on the offensive line?
I think that the effort has been pretty good. I'm seeing a lot of good things and the competition is still pretty stiff. It's probably between about nine guys. So, that's good. It's kind of funny. When you go over the course of a couple of weeks, things start to clear themselves up. That's probably what will happen next week.
When you have a team like Miami coming in for the opener, don't you have to maybe be sharper than other years?
I would say certainly a lot more than the last couple of years. They were written up real nice in USA Today. And I think all of us know that (Miami QB Ben) Roethlisberger made a giant leap from two years ago to last year. He really threw the ball well (33-for-51, 343 yards, 2 TDs) and that was early in the season. He's one of the top senior quarterbacks in the country, if not the top guy. So, we're going to have our work cut out there. They've got a veteran ballclub. They're picked to win their division (of the MAC). The MAC Conference, those guys aren't intimidated by anybody. They'll come in and play one heck of a football game. We have to be at our best.
Is it good that you played them last year?
I think so. We had to fight our tails off down there to come out with a win (29-24). That was not an easy game for us. This will be no different. This is going to be a real tough challenge for our football team. you look around what Northern Illinois has done, especially last season. The top teams in that conference are very, very tough to play.
Has anything happened in the case of Richard Kittrell (freshman D-line)?
We're still waiting. It's still a Clearinghouse issue. He is at home. We're still hopeful that it can get resolved.
Have any of the (true) freshmen emerged at wide receiver?
Yeah. Tyler Fanucchi has a little bit of a leg strain, but the other three guys are all doing some good things out there. Herb (Grigsby) is not the biggest guy in the world right now, although he has put a little weight on since we started feeding him three times a day (laughter). That's helped. The other guys are doing a good job too. Scott (Chandler) and James (Townsend) are both intriguing. I wouldn't rule any of them out right now.
Have you found anybody to return some kicks yet?
I think we have candidates. We're trying everybody back there. We haven't done it in a live situation. But every day, the guys are fielding kickoffs and punts. I think our punt situation is in pretty good shape. And I think we're going to be OK at the kickoff position too. It will be interesting to see what happens. We're just kind of getting into that right now.
Who specifically has been back returning kicks?
Everybody. Any of our receivers, our running backs and (starting free safety) Sean Considine has been back there. He was a high school running back. We would have had Bob, but Bob has been injured. We're looking for anybody really that touched the ball in our situation or even in high school. A guy like Sean Considine was an excellent skill player in high school. So, we're keeping an open mind. I think we're going to have a good pool to work with.
Anything new with Sam (Aiello)? Probably sometime next week. (laughter) I'll keep you right on the edge of your seats, right on the edge of your seats.(Coach Ferentz has said for some time that he would say something soon about the punishment of Aiello and how is off of the field situation was handled. It has become sort of a game with he and the media. Members ask. He says sometime soon.)