Carbon Copy: Ferentz Press Conference Q & A

Kirk Ferentz covers a wide variety of topics this week in his Tuesday Q & A session with the Iowa media, including his talented sophomore linebacking duo, how to focus on Illinois, parity in the Big Ten, his giving some consideration to a change at the punting position and much, much more.

Q: Are you disappointed that Jon Beutjer will not be playing?

"I don't have any emotion at all. We play whoever shows up; whatever team shows up and whatever players show up and we go from there."

Q: Did the win against Penn State rejuvenate your team some?

"I think so. We were all bleeding a little bit a week ago. It lingered all week, I thought, and that is not a bad thing. It is good in many ways, but it can also keep you from moving forward if you are not careful. I think our guys handled it well. None of our guys was real happy about what happened in Columbus and all in all we had a pretty good week of practice and we played hard on Saturday. We could have played a little smarter in some areas, but I was pleased with the week as I was concerned about how we rebounded."

Q: You have seen a lot of linebackers in the league this year. For as young as your guys are (Greenway and Hodge), they are pretty special.

"They have really played well and they have been really productive for us. We had a really good feeling about them even a few years back. It has been fun to watch them and they have been doing some real good things for us and the exciting part is that I think they both can get better. There is something about experience and how you learn to play the game and all of the fine intricacies and those types of things; it is real exciting to think about how good they can become. That being said, we are pleased with what they have done for the most part. They bring enthusiasm, energy and toughness out there and that is a great place to start."

Q: Are they the best in the Big Ten?

"I don't know. I am not very good at ranking things, but we are happy that they are on our team. They are really playing well. They both have great attitudes."

Q: We got kind of spoiled last year on the first drives of the games when you would go down and score. This year, especially of late, you have fallen behind early. Does that concern you?

"When it went 7-0 the other day I was real concerned. I get concerned every time we get behind because we are really not built that way. The other day was really scary and that is one thing about any ball game, when you start turning the ball over and make it easy and give something up…I don't want to say that it's not earned because their guy made a good play there. But you want to make them earn it the hard way is a better way to say it, which we didn't do there. And that is the interesting part about football. When you give up one of those, what is going to happen next? The good news is that we rebounded from a couple of turnovers. It is still a concern. They had a 24-yard touchdown drive courtesy of a turnover. Those things are very concerning."

Q: What can you do to minimize penalties?

"Usually it's a lack of concentration and a lack of effort. Typically, that is what penalties come down to in my mind. The week before…I don't like to harp on penalties too much. But the week before, we didn't have many. I think it was four or five. But the ones we had came at a bad time and they were very hurtful. It seems like a high percentage of them have been very hurtful. In the Michigan game we had a holding penalty on a long pass completion. It's not like we are throwing a lot of long pass completions. That would have been a nice thing. But it seems like we have had a bunch of things that have negated some good plays at terrible times. We have to do a better job of concentrating and being smarter and getting our feet where they are supposed to be. I think a lot of times that is the cause of things."

Q: Talk about Matt Neubauer and Derreck Robinson in their new roles

"They are doing great. I think they have been playing great all year. We saw Matt climb the ladder during the course of the year. We saw Derreck do that during the course of November and December of last year, kind of like Fred did the year before during that time period. I think that both of those guys this year when they have been in there have played well. The concern now is not so much those guys playing, I am not worried about that, but we go from having seven or eight guys that we can put in a ball game down to basically six. We like to rotate guys around, as it is hard work playing defensive line. That is the concern coming from my point of view. That is tough when you start pulling a couple of guys out. It affects things."

Q: Talk about Edgar and his running on Saturday

"I thought he did a real good job. He was trying to make a play. It as an effort play where he was trying to do too much. That happens sometimes in football. It's not like he is a real experienced ball carrier. I think that was to be expected in some regards and I think he will learn from that experience. But that will help us if we can get him involved running the football a little bit. We are looking to balance things out a bit and that is helpful."

Q: Is there a scientific reason for injuries?

"If there is, we need to get that scientist in here to decode it and straighten us out a little bit. I think a lot of injuries just happen. It's the nature of the game and sometimes you are luckier than others. They come in runs sometimes and that seems to be the case right now."

"All of us that have been in it and you guys cover this stuff, some years that is the way it goes. A couple of years ago I thought a lot of it was because we were not physically mature and we were a young team. We had a lot of young guys getting hurt. That is not the case this year."

Q: Given nature of Mo's injury, do you feel lucky to be getting him back?

"Yeah. Obviously it has been a serious setback for him. To me, anything that we get from Mo the rest of the year will be a bonus, or like gravy. We could have better afforded that problem last year because we had more experienced players at that position. I am real optimistic. It seems like he is really climbing the ladder. It is not the same injury that Bob has, but I am hoping that once he starts rolling forward that it will take off for him. I think that is the toughest part."

Q: If he is ready to play, why ease him in?

"To me it's a matter of volume…of what he can withstand. We have been spoon-feeding him in practice. We are going to start to increase his cutting, deceleration and those kinds of things. We don't know how much pain or irritation will be involved with that. That is what is hardest on a guy. That is the thing that affected Bob more than anything else, the starting and stopping."

Q: Are you more cautious with injuries than most coaches?

"Probably. That is probably fair to say. Just from experience. Every injury is different and every player deals with injuries differently. The bottom line is that there is a process where the medical experts do their work and they turn them over to you. Then I think its up to a coach to watch them practice and see if they have the confidence or ability necessary to compete. A right guard might be able to play with an injury that a running back can't. That was our big concern with Jermelle. We were not going to put him out there with a big bulls eye on his back where he would be set up for failure. I guess from experience has taught me that I would rather give an extra week than put a guy out there too early and end up losing three or four weeks in return."

"It is hard to explain that to players, it really is, because the good ones want to play at any cost."

Q: How did Mo handle last week and not being able to play?

"He knew he was not ready. He was cleared to start pushing, but he knows he is not ready to play. Although I am hoping that at the end of the week that he feels right. But he knew at the end of last week that he was not ready and that he had not done enough."

Q: If you get him back, does that open things up on offense?

"I hope so. It gives us an experienced player, which would be a welcomed relief. I say that with all due respect. Part of the reason we are able to keep moving forward is that the guys who have not played much are doing a phenomenal job given their experience level. Warren Holloway jumping in there and making as good a catch as we have seen all season long, what a fantastic way to get things going. That was a big play at a big time for us, so we have some guys doing some great things."

Q: With a win, you would be over .500 here

"I am assuming by the question that we have not gone over .500 yet. We were .500 and went back…I really don't follow that stuff. There have been two phases so far. There were the first 20 games where we got our butts kicked pretty regularly, and then since that time, we have been a team that people have to practice for and get ready for when they play us. To me there are two phases to what we have done and I am enjoying the second phase much more."

Q: Talk about Illinois and some of the early close games that they played

"They were 6-3 against UCLA. I don't coach the team, but injuries can really affect your football team. It is tough when guys are getting hurt. The volume of injuries is tough, but when the wrong guys get hurt that can be a real factor, too. For us to withstand Bob's injury the way we did, I felt that was very impressive. I know we could not have done that a couple of years ago. Just look at he Minnesota game in 2001. He goes down and then we go down. I don't think that was coincidence. So we have grown from that standpoint. When you have the wrong guys get hurt or get enough guys hurt at one position that can really alter your football team."

Q: Do you ever wonder when you have to play the untested guys like Warren or Ramon…do you have the confidence in them when that happens?

"Ramon is a fifth year guy and we have seen him do so many good things in practice. That is the advantage that we have (as coaches, seeing them in practice). We kind of felt that way about Warren. We felt that way early and then boom, he goes down and he was gone for six weeks. Then the question was if he was back at that level and I thought he did a lot of good things."

"It's a little more exciting with guys that you have not had the chance to see over a couple of years. We kind of felt we knew how Mike (Jones) would be; you really don't until they get out there. That is when it gets ‘dicier' I think."

Q: Are you concerned with the punting game?

"In a word, Yes. I think we have tailed off a bit there."

Q: Why?

"I wish I could tell you. I hope we get back to where we were."

Q: Have you thought about making a switch?

"Yes. Emotion goes into that. I gave it consideration this past week."

Q: Is it technical with David?

"I think it is concentration. You have to let your skills work for you sometimes. It's easier said than done. He can do better and he will. If this was two years ago I may have been more worried about it. But he will get back into the groove. He was in a pretty good one there for a while."

Q: How do you keep the players focused when Illinois comes in to Iowa City 1-8?

"If you look in the conference and the country every week, there is always plenty of material. I think you can put two and two together on that one. If you look at our league now, anybody can beat anybody. I know that is cliché, but it is true this year. That is one side of it. The other side is who we are. Nobody is mistaking us for one of those top five BCS teams because we are nowhere near there. We are the type of team that had better be doing everything right all of the time or bad things can happen to us quickly. That was one of my concerns Saturday with two turnovers right off the bat. Our defense is pretty good. I am not denying that. You can't put everything on the defense. Everyone has to do their share. I was worried last week when my dad told me about the point spread. Then I really started to worry, because I am sure our guys see that stuff."

Q: Is there more parity in the B10 now than ever?

"I think back in the 1980's you could sit there in July or August and say that there were four or five games that we had a pretty good chance of winning. Since I have been back, I don't think you can say that. This year especially, out of the five I have been back, this to me is a real strong conference this year. I have seen most of them on tape now. We all sensed that back in July and that is how it is playing our right now. That is great for the fans and tough on the coaches."

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