Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz met with the media Wednesday evening to update information from Camp Hawkeye. Here's what the reigning AP Coach of the Year had to say:
OPENING STATEMENT: Basically three things - First of all, everybody got the new depth chart. As you can see, we have a lot of positions that are still being contested. We still have some decisions to make before next week.
Secondly, on the Albert Young situation, no big news flash at this point, but as I said (Tuesday), it's as good as we could have hoped for. It was a very clean fracture, one that is going to heal very quickly as I understand it. There are no casts involved or anything like that. So, it's kind of a matter of how quickly nature takes it's course and how quickly he can become effective again. We've been very pleased with Albert's performance out there on the field. He's a great personality. I think he's going to add a lot to our football team. We hope that's going to be in the very near future. We'll take that as it comes.
The third thing, obviously I issued a release. With Sam (Aiello's) situation, he's going to serve a one-game suspension. In Derreck Robinson's case, we're looking at a two-game suspension. As I said in the release, both players were quilty of making poor choices back in the spring. They've already paid a penalty to date. This would be the conclusion of that penalty. When the suspensions are served, they'll be back in uniform. I'm happy to say since they stepped over the line a little bit back in the spring, they've been great team members and done a great job. That's what I would anticipate the rest of their careers. Once that's behind us, we're going to move forward and go from there.
Could you elaborate on Derreck's situation?
KF: I'm not going to. I guess I could, but I'm not going to. Basically, and probably as specific as I'll get, is just that it was something that was a bad decision that he made back in the spring time. It's something that we've dealt with. Like I said. once this suspension is served then he'll be in good standing with us.
Can you remove the stigma of police (involvement from the Robinson case)?
KF: They can think that. I think it's probably safe to say that if it involved police action in this community, we all would have heard about it (laughs). We've done a pretty good job of digging things up, so I think we're safe to say that it wasn't involving that. But, I'll let you (media) guys do some homework (laughs).
How is practice going?
KF: It's going well. We're kind of in the dog days right now. The last few days have been a little rugged. The weather has been pretty warm since Saturday. We've got some guys that are nicked up. Everybody is sore. We've had guys in and out of the lineup. So, we don't have the continuity that you would like to have. This is typically how you feel this time during preseason. I'm not sure we'll make a first down or we can stop anybody. But I suspect we'll be feeling a little bit better when game week comes around.
Does it make you nervous that there are that many positions (on the depth chart) with three names by them?
KF: Not really. I think the competition has been very, very healthy. That's a good thing for our entire football team. We're really pleased with a lot of guys. Some of the guys you look at there (on the depth chart), some guys like Miguel Merrick has really stepped in, Chris Smith at the safety positions. Bob has been in and out of practice and Chris has really made the step that you hope to see from a senior. The offensive guys, you look at some of the surprises we have at fullback, Champ Davis, a true freshman. Paul Davis is a walk-on that transferred in here from a junior college in California. He's been a very, very pleasant surprise. Newcomers like Albert Young, he was doing tremendously well. Then, A.J. Johnson has done a good job too. So, I think we have some new faces in there. Some of the older guys have done a good job too. Lee Gray, Lee has done a nice job. He's been a very pleasant surprise moving over from defense. There's some good competition and we're seeing some good things out there.
You've got a guy that's been with you a few years, Tyler Luebke at (No. 2) right end.
KF: Tyler is doing a real good job. He steadily has improved each and every year. He is just playing with a whole different level of confidence. You can kind of compare him maybe to Joe Uselman a couple of years ago. Except that Tyler has two years left. Joe was a senior that year. Thye're a lot alike out there. Tyler is a very hard-nosed, tough young man.
Kirk, what is the timeline on Albert?
KF: I'm not a doctor. I'd guess 2-4 weeks would be my suspicion. I think we'll see him, hopefully, before we get into the Big Ten. Hopefully, he'll get some playing time before that. That would be nice. It could happen.
How about Blake Larsen not being on the depth chart?
KF: Blake is still coming back. He had the knee surgeries as I mentioned. He had a procedure done in the spring. Both he and C.J. (Barkema, back surgery) didn't start out at full bore. C.J. is a little bit behind Blake in terms of his medical progress. Right now, those guys are kind of working their way into things and back in. But again, I think we have good competition (on the offensive line). I think the guys are fighting hard for jobs. We're going to at some point decide which direction we're going because obviously next week we want to get some continuity going.
What has Drew Tate shown you to jump up on the depth chart?
KF: You know, again, that's still a little cloudy, the whole situation. But he's done a good job. Eric McCollom has done a good job. All the guys have competed well there too. I think right now Drew is...you have to factor in with the back-up quarterbacks especially because sometimes protection breaks down, which receivers are in there. We've had receivers in and out. We don't have the continuity offensively that you have to have. But we've just seen (Tate) do some pretty impressive things. He throws the ball well. We knew that. But some of the decisions he's making, the decisiveness he's playing with (the coaches like). He's got a lot of improvement to make obviously before we can even think about putting him out there on a game field. But thus far, he's really holding his own. It will be interesting to see. We'll play this one out right through the week. I'll probably know more next Tuesday.
Does (Tate) want to play this season?
KF: I think he's open to it. For the most part, most of our freshmen are, those guys listed in the two-deep. There's a possibility that we'll look a freshman or two at the wide receiver position. But I think most of the guys are pretty much open to that. That's kind of been the attitude so far.
How are Mo (Brown) and Bob (Sanders)?
KF: They're coming along. They're in and out (of practice). They're in for a day or two, then they're out, that kind of thing. It's part of summer camp. One of the frustrating things just guys that have injuries. Those things take time. They need time. It's been a little bit tough. But when when they've been out there, they've looked very good.
(Mike) Follett jumps into the depth chart at (No. 2) tight end. Is that Tony Jackson not performing or is that Mike just outperforming everybody else?
KF: I think it's more a case of Mike improving. He looked very tentative and unsure of himself back in the spring. That's common when you move a guy. That first year can be a little tough, certainly spring ball. But he has just steadily made progress. He's doing a lot of good things out there. It's really close right now. Tony is right there with him. We're very pleased with Ryan Majerus too. He's making some strides. I'm not quite sure he's in that same tier, but he's coming on well too.
Are things shaking out the way you want them to on the offensive line?
KF: Yes and no. I guess it would be nice if we knew, "Hey, here's our best five or here's our best combination." But we don't. We're going to keep an open mind. Oviously the fact that Sam is not going to be out there the first game factors into things too. You know, it affects us a little bit because he's having a nice fall camp. We know he's not going to be with us in that first game. He'll be down on the scout team next week. But all in all, I'm pleased with what the guys are doing. I think they've made progress. Sometimes it's hard for us to see that. I had a visitor at practice (Tuesday) who knows a little something about line play. He was here last spring. He thinks our line has made immense progress. When you're so close, you look at him like, "What are you crazy?"
Are you really entertaining the idea of Fred Russell returning kicks?
KF: Possible. The one guy that I for sure knew was going to return kicks was Albert. We were pretty sure on that until (Tuesday) at 9:30 or 9:40 (a.m.), whatever it was. That kind of went down the drain.
How did (Young) get hurt?
KF: We had a scrimmage. I think it might have been the first or second set of plays. It;s just one of those things. He got tackled. You know, it's just part of the game, unfortunately.
Was it a couple of guys or one guy tackling him?
KF: It was just one clean tackle. That's the risk you take. But injuries can happen anytime. We don't scrimmage an awful lot. The only times we really do live tackling would be (Tuesday) and last Friday.
Is that almosy a neccesary evil, preparing for your first game, to get that live action in?
KF: I think we practice pretty hard. I think we practice at a good tempo. But sometimes you've got to find out if your defense can tackle. We've done some situational stuff, where maybe the DBs will tackle the receivers, that type of thing. But full-out scrimmages, we don;t do an awful lot of them. But I do think you have to do it. You really run a risk of not performing as well maybe as you should in that first game. One thing that we've really improved upon over the last three years is our tackling. We want to make sure that continues.
How is (Young) coping with the injury?
Great. I think is attitude has been fantastic. You know, he was scared initially. I think anybody would be, as well we. You always kind of think of the worst because you don't know what it is. We knew by the time I was in the locker room. They had diagnosed it. That was a relief in some regards. And it's not a spiral break or a fracture. That's good too. I think if it was a spiral deal they were talking about six weeks.
Do you do anything different with (No. 1 RB) Fred (Russell) now?
KF: No. He's really been practicing well. We're so pleased. And nobody has tackled him. We have great faith that he'll hold the ball. We haven't taken any chances with him. He'll get tackled Saturday (Aug. 30) for the first time. Hopefully, he won't get tackled that day. But that's wishful thinking.
Has Nathan (Chandler) grabbed the (No. 1 quarterback) job and run with it?
KF: He's doing well, but he could do better. That's probably true of every guy on our roster right now. He's improving every day.
What would you like to see more of out of him?
KF: I just think, and this has been true the last couple of years, we've just got to keep picking up our tempo offensively. The challenge there again is when you're fooling around with your line, which we're doing. We've got receivers in and out. The running back situation has been a little unsettled. Fred was gone a couple of days for a funeral. We just haven't had the continuity you'd really like to see. In a perfect world, you'd have the same 11 guys out there every play. That doesn't happen every often, at least not until in season.
(No. 2 CB) Ma'Quan Dawkins is a new name on your two-deep. Can you tell us a little bit about him?
KF: He's kind of snuck out of the woodwork here. He's always been a great guy. He was a good young guy on our scout team last year. He's not the biggest guy in the world, but we've just been really impressed with the way he's competed, especially this camp. You know he kind of caught our eye back in spring practice. He was on the scout team last fall. But quite honestly, I don't think any of us would have predicted at this point that he'd be right in contention. He's just gotten better every day. He's a very coachable young guy. He has a knack for making some plays. He's a very tough player out there. We're really impressed with him.
Eric Rothwell being No. 1 at two different positions (center and right guard) is that more that you're trying to get the best five guys out there?
KF: It is, exactly. As I said about 10 days ago, Eric really had great spring. He's definiteky taken another step. So, we feel very confident that he'll do a good job at center or guard. It's just a matter of trying to find out what our best combination is.
What do you guys do from here on out?
KF: We're done scrimmaging. We got cut short (Wednesday) It was probably for the best. It was pretty hot in the morning. The guys lost a lot of energy and what have you. We were going to do a little work on Miami (Wednesday) afternoon. That got pushed aside. So, we'll probably come back and pick that up (Thursday) afternoon. Friday will probably be our last Iowa versus Iowa day. We'll have some pretty good work against each other, some pretty good intensity. And then Friday afternoon, we'll do what we call mock game, just basically touch on situations. We'll run them through a half of football, take a halftime and then do another series. You do weird things like, what if a dog runs on the field? (laughter) That kind of stuff. Some things that never happen in a season, but you know if you don't cover them, sure enough they do happen.
Have injuries touched any other positions, like fullback?
KF: Aaron Mickens got dinged in his shoulder probably about four or five days ago. I suspect that we're probably not going to let him really go full speed until next week. That kind of factored in there. But the other two (No. 2 FB) have really come along nicely. We're really pleased with what we're seeing there.
Is it pretty safe to assume that the only true freshmen that might play are on the offensive side of the ball?
KF: So far, it looks that way. We're very pleased with all the freshmen. That's probably more of a reflection of our depth (being better on defense). We've got a little more experience on that side. We have some (freshmen) doing some good things (on defense), but at this point I don't think maybe it's in their best interest to come out here. Not only on defense, but I think we have some depth on our special teams where we're not going to have to call upon a guy. And then the guys that we're maybe looking at to play on offense, I think can help us on special teams too. That will kind of take some of the pressure off there.
Is kick returner really wide open right now?
KF: It is. Like I said, we were sure that Albert was going to be one of the guys. Having Fred and Albert kind of gave us that luxury where you could maybe slip Fred in there on occasion. We'll probably back off of that and reassess it right now.
Anything new on Richard Kittrell?
KF: I think we're working towards a resolution. I hope it's a happy ending. I wouldn't want to comment yet. But I think with school starting here on Monday, we're probably at the point where something is going to have to happen here pretty quickly. And I think it has a chance to, which is nice. I wasn't sure about that a week ago. Good, bad or indifferent, we'll know something here in probably the next 5-8 days.