On The Side: Kirk Ferentz Quotebook

This is the second in a standard Tuesday feature that we like to call: On the Side. After fielding questions in an open forum, Kirk Ferentz meets on the podium side 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 the program's relationship with NFL personnel and the commitment Iowa has to prepare players for the league, Jovon Johnson's wild clothes and much more.

Q: What is Ben Sobieski's future with the Buffalo Bills?

KF: Ben is really in the developmental mode. My guess is, and I'm not speaking for Buffalo, they're probably trying to develop him right now. The danger is if you've got a guy an expose him and try to put him on your practice squad, somebody else could grab him. There is such a shortage of linemen in the National Football League right now. If you have a good prospect, you better take a roster spot and protect him. My guess if that's probably what they're doing.

Q: There is some development. It's not all about getting on the field right away?

KF: Typically, we used to dress seven or eight linemen. The eight and ninth guys are usually on the developmental program. They're working against the first-team defense. They do extra work after practice. The strength coach beats the heck out of them all week.

Q: You guys have a pretty open policy with scouts. Does that help guys like Colin (Cole) and guys like C.J. (Jones)?

KF: I don't think that it hurts at all. Our building is open to the NFL people at any time. We don't close practices at any point of the season or spring. And when they're here, we treat them extremely well. That's been a tradition here. They have a room with heating and air conditioning. You can watch tape instead of some dungeon like some places. We feed the guys when we do pro days, things of that nature. I think if you talked to most of them, they'd say that this is one of the better stops on the tour. The one thing that we promise every young man in recruiting is that we're going to do everything that we can to develop them as people; academics, football, all that stuff. They don't come here to be NFL players, but to me we're cheating them if we don't give them every opportunity to get the exposure and a chance to chase their dreams. I don't see anything wrong with that.

Q: What are the chances that Fred (Barr), Brad (Banks) and David (Porter) will get picked up?

KF: There's a chance that they may or may not get picked up. I know Fred said last week that he had gotten hurt during camp, a hamstring or something like that. That's the kiss of death because life moves on in the National Football League. They don't hang around waiting for you, especially if you're a free agent.

Q: Was it a tough situation with Joe (Philbin) being up in (Green Bay) and having to cut David (Porter)?

KF: I'm sure it was. I talked to Dave last Friday. He's disappointed. You're always disappointed. It's a hard thing. Cutting guys is a hard thing. It's not easy for anybody. That's a young guy's dream to play in the National Football League. So, it's not fun giving the news. It's less fun getting the news. But going in, you know that's part of it. Sooner or later, it's going to happen. And that's part of coaching.

Q: This year you gave more prominence to your guys in the NFL in the media guide. Is that something that you guys want to spark?

KF: Oh yeah. There's no question about it. We'll sell that. I think our systems - offensively, defensively, special teams - are very similar. I remember Matt Bowen coming back from his first practice and saying "Geez, it's so much like (what he did at Iowa)." This was at St.Louis. We tell young players that if they're interested in playing in the National Football League, our system is going to help move them along. But that's not why we run our system. That's not the objective. We think it's the best way to do things. The other thing is, I think we have a pretty good relationship with a lot of the people in the National Football League. There are guys that will call myself or guys on our staff and I think they know they're going to get an honest answer from us, how we feel about a young man. I know we had a half hour teleconference with Bill Polian and Tony Dunge of the Colts the Monday before the draft. You can imagine why they were calling. They were calling about the one guy and they were interested in a safety too. So, they called about Derek (Pagel). I think they know at least that we're going to tell them the way it is. We tell our players that. We're going to tell them the truth. So, if you work hard and do a great job, you're OK.

Q: Is that the way things are for you with high school coaches when you're looking at a prospect?

KF: You know who you can trust and who you can't. ----------

Q: Matt Roth was in there against Miami but just missed a few times. You said on Saturday that he might have been a little over eager. Can you go into that a little bit more?

KF: That's probably first-game stuff too that you have to work through. But that's a good kind of problem to have, when a guy is just so anxious and aggressive out there. That's Matt's personality. He's going to chase that ball no matter where it is.

Q: Do you have to slow him down a little bit?

KF: He'll figure that out. He already has. That first game you're out there over-swinging at the ball and stuff like that. And then you get back into it. I think we'll see him be a little more calculated in his angles. ---------

Q: Last year before the Miami game you said that if anybody says anything about Iowa State, they go to the back of the bus. Is that policy still?

KF: I didn't even think about it until one of the questions was asked today. I suppose at maybe 2:45 today or 3 o'clock when I talk to the team briefly, I might mention that. But I'm kind of hoping that we don't even have to talk about that anymore, especially after last week. Our focus wasn't the best. So, to me, this week it's just on us to do what we need to do and worry about getting better. I really think that that's kind of our deal every week anyway. But I might have to mention that I guess.

Q: Do you worry that they're going to hear (about Iowa St.) on the outside?

KF: Yeah, that's the reason that I need to. Part of my job is to try to figure out what they're hearing on campus and then counter that a little bit. ---------

Q: Has Lee Gray progressed faster than you had anticipated?

KF: Yes and no. He missed significant time in the spring because of academic conflicts. He had some class, and I can't even tell you what it was, but it conflicted with practice. So, he was kind of like a guest participant. We got some some flashes on him in the spring, but I'm really pleased with what I saw in the preseason. I think he's got a great future. I think he's in the right spot if he'll work hard. These are just critical times for him right now because he's really young as an offensive player. He needs to take advantage of every opportunity. He's got to go out on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and approach it like a game day. He's not the only guy in that boat.

Q: What made you put him on that side of the ball?

KF: It's not the same as Dallas (Clark) but kind of like it. We thought that he was a better athlete than he was showing on defense. He just looked like a guy over there, basically. We thought that he was a little bit better football player than that. So, sometimes when things aren't clicking, maybe a change of scenery is good. That was out suspicion at the time. It's kind of proving to be a good move for everybody. ---------

Q: After watching the tape, did (Nathan) Chandler grade out as you thought that he would?

KF: Yeah, about what we thought. It really was. As I said the other day, I was really pleased with his decisions other than the one fumble. I'm confident that he'll learn from that one situation. When you leave the pocket or the pocket breaks down, you've really got to make sure you protect that football because people are going to be swatting at it. Other than that, I thought that he really did a pretty good job. There's a lot that he can clean up. That's really the challenge ahead not only for Nathan, but for a lot of the younger players.

Q: Can size substitute for what Brad has last year in elusiveness?

KF: Yes and no. You choose your poisen a little bit there. Certainly that play the other day when he looked like a jungle gym out there, big guys can make that kind of play. I was with Vinny Testeverde for a couple of years. Vinny just had phenominal strength, especially his leg strength. He could squat with our linemen. If a DB came in and hit him, it looked like a guy running into a car or a truck. There are some advantages to that. Those guys are a little tougher to bring down. It's like anything, you play to your strengths. ---------

Q: How is C.J. Barkema's back at this point?

KF: He's getting better with each week. He phased in last week and did more work than he's ever done. Part of our plan was to be careful in two-a-days. We wanted to make sure that we didn't overdo it early. Now, he's going to have a chance to really start phasing in a little bit. He's probably not ready yet. He's a little rusty and that type of thing. But realistically in the next couple of weeks we could start to see him get back in the fashion that he was. ---------

Q: Are you anticipating rotating more receivers in this week?

KF: Part of it was that we didn't play a lot of three wideout sets. Part of it was down and distance. No. 1, first and foremost, we want to get Razor (Ramon Ochoa) back in the game more. He only had played about 13-15 snaps. And then yeah, we'd like to get Calvin (Davis) out there and Matt Melloy. I'm hoping that we can get to that point a little bit. But it wasn't so much the plan, it was just how it worked out the other day.

Q: Do one of those guys have to develop to keep Mo (Brown) from being double and triple teamed?

KF: Yeah, and eventually we'll get into more three wides as the year goes. But right now, clearly one, two and three are the starters plus Ramon. The next tier for us right now would be Calvin and Matt. We really need to get those guys into the flow of things.

Q: Does that mean that the freshmen receivers are pretty much redshirting?

KF: Not totally. It depends on how things are going. We'll keep an eye on that too. But we haven't ruled that out yet. ---------

Q: What does Jovon (Johnson) do that allows him to be in position to make plays?

KF: He's not a burner. He's not going to win any track events. But he just studies the game. He's got instinct out there or football smarts, whatever you want to call it. There's just something about the guy that way. He's got a moxie. Some guys just bring a little something to the table that way. The interception that he made last year at Minnesota against that tall receiver defied physics. Yet, someway he found a way to do it. He does it every day in practice. He'll do something that will just make you shake your head.

Q: Is it little man's disease made into a positive thing?

KF: It is. It's probably like that, who's that little point guard? Mugsy Bogues. There have been guys like that. Pitt had a nice little point guard last year, Knight, who wasn't recruited by anybody. Guys like that bring a little something to the table. It's fun. It gives you a little personality.

Q: Did he dress like that during the recruiting process (Jovon wore a red suit and red shoes to Saturday's postgame press conference)?

KF: That was the first time that I had ever seen that. I like that. I like that look. I can't wait until this week.

Q: You didn't rush out and buy one did you?

KF: No, I didn't rush out. I've been exposed to some fashion statements before and i thought that it was kind of nice. I thought thathe looked great. I'm curious if he's got a color for every opponent we play.

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