On The Side: Kirk Ferentz Quotebook

This is the first in a regular installment that we like to call: On the Side. After fielding questions in an open forum on Tuesdays, Kirk Ferentz meets on the side of the podium with various reporters. This is when the questions get a little deeper and the Iowa head coach gives out some of his best information. This week the coach discusses Mike Jones, his son being the starting center, quarteback play, and other topics in depth.

Much of Tuesday's press conference focused on Brian Ferentz becoming the starting center for his father Kirk Ferentz. We start our On The Side Quotebook with that:

Is it awkward to have your son starting at center?

KF: I think we're over that now. I've been around him as a father and now as a coach, that type of thing. So, quite frankly, now I just hope he plays well (laughter). Not because he's my son but because he's our center.

Have you talked with him about this?

KF: Not to a great extent, other than just how I tell a other guys that haven't played, "Hey, just slow it down. Just take things step by step and just do your job. Don't worry about all of that other stuff. Just do your job." And if you do that, that's probably the best approach.

When you moved to town, did you have visions of him playing for you? He told me (Des Moines Register's Randy Peterson) in high school that he wanted to play for Hayden.

KF: That's what he told me when he signed (laughter). I never thought much about (Brian playing for him). I enjoyed tremendously in Baltimore and here watching him play high school football. The first time I ever saw him get excited about anything probably was in ninth grade on the football field. That's the first time I really saw him look like he had a passion for maybe anything, you know, sports, piano, whatever.

Are you worried about him? He's undersized.

KF: I'm not worried about him. To me, he's earned the job at this point. Now it's his job to keep it. He needs to worry about it, not me.

Is the mental part of the game going well for him?

KF:It is. He's got a little bit of an aptitude there. Going way back, he used to come to training camp with me. But I never coached him. He'd pretty intently watch what was going on out there. And then he would jump in the car with Coach (Joe) Moore and head back to Erie (PA.) and get educated in a lot of different ways, not just football. He was lucky to have that great experience. Kids don't listen to their dads (laughter). We all know that. It's not much different at this end.

Did he follow you around Baltimore Ravens' practices?

KF: He'd come up to camp for a couple of days. Coach (Ted) Marchibroda was good about that. He use to come down with Coach Moore for about four days and then go back to Erie. He was fortunate in that regard. That's when he met up with (Ed) Hinkel. The guys were doing the same drills I was doing in high school. It's the same stuff. Nothing ever changes. He probably received it better than if I had taken time. I did take him out in the yard one time just to see if he could snap the ball back in Baltimore. That took about 5 minutes. He could snap it, and that's all I wanted to know.

Will his grandparents be here (for Saturday's game)?

KF: No, not this week. I don't even know who is coming. We've got a bunch people, and I don't know who they are. I won't be there anyway.

Is this awkward for you to talk about your kid now?

KF: A little bit, yeah. And I'd recently appreciate not too much of the spotlight being on him because all he is is a new player. He still has to prove himself just like a lot of other guys. (About 5 minutes later, Brian Ferentz was surrounded by a hoard of media outside of the football complex. The young Ferentz answered more questions than his father and way more than any other Hawkeye. He was interviewed for close to an hour).

How much do you actually talk to him or see him?

KF: Not that much. He's just like any other player basically. I wander through the weight room and see him out on the field and have exchanges with guys, but not an awful lot.

He doesn't have privileges?

KF: No.

Does Mary (Kirk's wife, Brian's mother) ask how he is doing?

KF: Occasionally. I don't get to see her very much. I haven't for the last three weeks. So, we're all kind of on different tracks right now. She's curious, but I think she asks him. She doesn't ask me. And that's probably better that way.

Are the people back home (in the Pittsburgh area) excited about this?

KF: I think they are. I'm sure the grandparents are. But you know, it's one game. -----

Who are the other walk-ons that have gotten scholarships?

KF: I'd probably rather not go down that route. I like to keep that stuff in house. But there were five guys that I think were rewarded. That's a pretty good deal (We did confirm that Marcus Schnoor and Ma'Quan Dawkins were two of five to get schollies). -----

How many walk-ons came out this year after the 105?

KF: We're probably going to add about 10-15. We'll be at 115-120 players before it's all said and done. -----

Early in camp, you were talking up some true freshmen receivers. Now, they're not on the depth chart. Have some guys played well?

KF: Yeah. Right now, those guys have been in and out of practice a little bit too. It's really going to depend on our older guys, how they're doing physically. If they're ready to go, we'll probably go with our older guys. But, we're still looking at one or two (true freshmen) at that position. We'll make a decision here in the next couple of three weeks how we're doing. -----

Is the injury the reason that Bob (Sanders) isn't returning kicks?

KF: That would be my No. 1 concern. I think we need to be real smart to pick and choose how we use him on special teams. That's tough because he really could help us in a lot of areas. But we needed to go into the season smart and seeing how it goes for him. He does (want to do it). And I think he'd be a pretty good one. But everything has to be negotiated through Norm and Phil, the Parker family (laughter). That's been tough. -----

Can you talk about the guys making their first starts on Saturday?

KF: We've got quite a few of them. We have quite a few guys that will be getting their first college football snaps. It's just "Do your job. Concentrate on your job and do your job. Hopefully you'll play like you practice." But I'll never forget Robert Gallery's first spring game back when he was a tight end. We ran a play left. He went right. So, some funny things happen sometimes for first-time starters. We've got to be ready to adjust to that. Guys get big eyes sometimes. -----

Are your new offensive linemen in sync?

KF: Not yet because we've been shuffling people in and out. We maybe doing that for a while. We're not totally in sync. There's no question about that. When you lose that many seniors, we went through that back in '84, you have to ride the wave a little bit.

Have you simplified things?

KF: We'll be careful about what we do. I don't think we'll go in initially here with as much on their plate as we did a year ago at this time.

The things that your offensive line does, are they complicated?

KF: They can be. We've gone in with some interesting plans. But the guys last year could handle that real easily. So we just have to gauge what our guys can do best and go from there, both physically and mentally. -----

Sean Considine will be making defensive calls on Saturday. Does he fit in well in doing that?

KF: No question. And Sean has been in the program longer and he's been out there practicing longer. Brian (who will make offensive calls) missed a whole spring and a lot of last fall. So, he's playing catch-up a little bit. But I feel real confident about Sean. He's ready to go as is Abdul (Hodge). Abdul went through a year of training. Those two guys are right on board. -----

How has Mike Jones done?

KF: Real well. We're very, very pleased. He's going to be a very good player for us.

Is it almost impossible for a true freshman to come in and play right away?

KF: Almost, but I wouldn't rule it out with him. We haven't ruled it out totally. He's done a very nice job. We'll see how things pan out. We'll throw a little bit more on his plate to see how he responds. But he hasn't been quite like Albert (Young), but it's kind of like that. He doesn't seem to get too fazed by anything. He thinks a lot about football. I know that.

Where have you been working him out at?

KF: Everywhere other than center. But we're floating him around, mainly at tackle, right and left. -----

Is Richard Kittrell on scholarship?

KF: The way it works is until the (NCAA) Clearinghouse OKs everything (he is not). If we weren't confident that everything was going to be fine, then he wouldn't be here. And that was not my decision, I can promise you. That's out of my hands totally, like it should be. Our folks are 100 percent confident that he's going to be cleared. Whenever that happens, it's a retroactive scholarship.

He can't practice?

KF: He can't practice until he's cleared. And he had that injury in the all-star game as well. So, we need to get that looked at. He hasn't been looked at. That's on the agenda this week too. -----

Have you ever had a situation while you were in college where you've had a true freshman one snap away from being under center?

KF: Probably not. I'm trying to think. What was (Dan) McGwire? I can't remember if he redshirted or not. But hey, it's next man in. Basically, it's like every position. We try to look at things for 2 1/2 weeks and then try to make an intelligent decision. -----

Was there a time when you could say that you weren't really happy with (No. 1 QB Nathan Chandler)?

KF: I think everything kind of improved the second half of camp for all of the quarterbacks. It wasn't like anybody was setting the world on fire at that point. And let me qualify that, I mean we're looking at receivers in and out with injuries. We're looking at a multitude of lineups up front. And then you've got guys like Hodges and Roth running through there too. So all of those things kind of clutter the picture. But the last week or so we've gotten the chance to evaluate things a little clearer.

Was he given an ultimatum?

KF: No, no, no, no. Not at all. Nobody was really stepping out front that first week. We were doing OK, but it was just OK. OK ain't good enough.

We're you comparing it to last year?

KF: The last two years. I thought Kyle (McCann) came in humming pretty good (in '01). But it's kind of funny. I noticed this watching our (Miami) game tape from last year. It's funny how you forget some of those bad plays that took place. The AP Player of the Year (Brad Banks), I saw him do a couple things last year that were like...you know. He had some beauties against Miami (laughter). He had a little more adversity, but then he came around. That's what you hope for. -----

Are you surprised that you guys have only sold 45,000 seats for the opening game (as of Tuesday morning)?

KF: I sure hope that those numbers go up. I really do. We have fantastic fans. It's a holiday weekend. That probably factors in a little bit. But we've had great fan support and I'm real hopeful that the numbers go up and we have a great environment on Saturday.

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