On The Side: Kirk Ferentz Quotebook

The latest edition of a standard Tuesday feature, exclusive to HawkTalkOnline subscribers, that we call: On the Side. After fielding questions in an open forum (that transcript below), Kirk Ferentz meets with reporters on the podium side. Questions get deeper and the coach gives out some of his best information. This week, he discusses the possible return of Jermelle Lewis, the status of David Walker, Ed Hinkel and Champ Davis, his decision to stick with Nathan Chandler and much more.

How much room do you continue to give somebody? Like Nathan, do you change up if he struggles again Saturday?

KF: Our plan right now is to: A - Go into the game with the guys that we went with the other day; then B - Our priority is for our guys to play well. That's what we're looking for. That's what I anticipate. You make changes when you have to make changes. Right now, I'm not anticipating that.

Is that a pro mentality? Pros don't change quarterbacks unless Brenda Warner says something.

KF: I read that in the paper. Somebody ought to tell...I won't go there. My wife knows better. Let's just say that. My wife knows to stay out of it. I don't think it's a pro mentality because sometimes...I mean in St. Louis, they changed, right? It's just our situation right now. It gives us our best chance to win.

Last year, critics said your pass defense would be your downfall, but you guys overcame that and got better. Can you compare that to your offensive passing game this year, where people are wondering it it's going to come around?

KF: Yeah. It's like last year. I didn't think it was just our pass defense. I think it was our defense. We knew we'd have some problems or some things that we were going to work on early in the season. Last year, as the season went on, I really felt like we could get better on defense and be good enough in the second half to do what we wanted to do. I feel the same way about our offense. If we can get into a rhythm here and get some much-needed experience and get some guys healthy, I think we're going to be OK. I'm not ready to hit the panic button by any means. But we have to work our way through it right now. It was obvious Saturday that we were not a very good offensive football team that given day. We're just going to keep working at it.

Does giving each freshman (WR) a segmented playbook or whatever make it hard to keep everybody on the same page?

KF: It's probably harder on the coaches coordinating it, getting the guys in for the right things. That part gets a little challenging. But it's probably the best thing to do at this point.

Are there any thoughts to keeping Fred in on third down?

KF: It's possible. It's possible.

Did you expect Bob to play that much?

KF: We weren't quite sure. We knew he was going to play. We didn't know how he'd respond or how much he could play. One thing about Bob, once he gets out there it's tough to get him off of the field. That's just how he's built. The critical thing is how he is after that. That was the problem after the Miami ball game. Wednesday rolled around and he was...that's when we made the decision that we had to do something. This time around, he felt pretty good on Sunday and he felt pretty good (Monday). So, we're very optimistic. And that was the whole idea behind during the surgery was that he would be able to rebound and back in there. So, that was a pleasant return.

He said he tweaked something. Does that mean he's fine now?

KF: Yeah. That's part of the deal. It's just scar tissue and what have you. It's not uncommon when you have that type of injury. We weren't that sure at that given moment. But based on yesterday, it's looks like he's going to play.

Throwing to Fred out of the backfield, would that diversify your offense more?

KF: Yeah, it would help. You can only do so much there too. That was a real strength of Ladell Betts. That was part of his game. That's part of Albert Young's game. It's not as big a part of Fred's game. He's not bad. But the best thing he does is really run the football. We want to make sure we dont' screw him up either as a player. You have to be careful not to create something that maybe isn't there too. We just have to find something that we're comfortable with.

How much more of the playbook does the bootleg open up?

People are obviously focusing in on our running back. So those two things tie in very nicely. It's been part of our attack since we began to be able to run the football. It was even been a part of our offense before we could run. People still take the fake a lot of the times. It has become more affective as out our running game has gotten better.

Have you thought about doing some of the stuff you did with Kevin Kasper, the quick, controlled passing?

KF: Yeah, we might try something like that.

What is the confidence level of your offense at this point?

KF: We're going to be fine. We're going to be all right. The guys know what's going on. They're realistic. We're working with tough-minded guys. They're not going to wither or go climb in some whole. You know, we've done some good things on offense this year too. That's what our guys need to be reminded of, and that's what we need to get back to.

What are the estimated returns of David Walker and Ed Hinkel?

KF: I think both of those guys are close. That's the only reason that I brought them up. I think they're close. But it's probably unlikely they'll play if I had to guess today, based on what I know. They were checked Sunday and Monday. I always try to make mental notes on who we can count on and who we can't. I don't think we can count on either one of those guys. Maybe as backups, but I can't see them practicing this week the way you've got to practice to be ready to play in a game.

How about Champ Davis?

KF: I think we're close there. I think he's going to be OK unless something happens this week. He was much better on Sunday. We didn't travel him on Saturday. He wasn't ready last week.

Is Jeremelle getting close?

KF: We're getting warm. Yeah, we're getting warm. I think we'll know a lot...we'll push him a little bit more next week.

Is Ohio State a possibility?

KF: Possibly post Ohio State. We'll push him next week and see what's going on. There are a lot of questions to be answered yet. But he's progressing really rapidly. It's a very encouraging report so far.

Does that change what you do in the case of a redshirt with Albert?

KF: We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. We may have a choice. We may not. We'll just see wherever it's at. We're not too worried about that this week though because neither one of them is going to play.

Is it a matter of trust with so many new faces on offense?

KF: When inexperienced players play, they may not always react the way you hope they react to what they see in front of them. You may see it differently from what they see. That's part of working and getting experience out there.

Is it something where if you don't see it in practice, you're not going to try it in a game?

KF: That's a good question. I don't know. You hope during the week you see guys doing things that give you confidence. He's got it. He understands. He's ready to go.

Do you remember times when you encountered noise like Michigan did at Oregon like '85 at Ohio State?

KF: That was tough. Illinois in '83 was a tough place to play too. They were pretty juiced that day, and we didn't play every well. Most of the Big Ten venues can get pretty noisy.

What kind of obstacles does that present?

KF: It's hard to hear the cadence. You lose some of that. Audibles become a real challenge. Those would probably be the two most obvious.

Is that a problem for tackles?

KF: That's the biggest challenge because they're out away from the ball. A guard and center can see the ball. For a tackle to be focused on a pass rusher and then also have to know the snap count, it's tough.

What are some tangible benefits of television?

KF: First and foremost is having success on the field. That helps the most. Certainly any time the team is featured, the program is featured, I think it's good for the entire university. I think it's good for our state. And it's certainly good for our football program as well just to have a positive exposure out there. I don't see any way that hurts.

Is 2:30 on ABC still a big deal?

KF: I think so. That, and the No. 1 ESPN games and the evening games. Those are all a little bit more of an elite market, if you will.

Did the way Kinnick rocked for Arizona State open your eyes a little bit maybe to more evening games?

KF: My eyes have never been opened or closed either way. It's a matter of what TV dictates. For the most part, they tell us when we're kicking off.

If last week would have turned out the way you guys wanted to and Gameday would have come into town, would you welcome that?

KF: Again, it really doesn't affect us that much. The fans would have loved it certainly. They seemed to like it last spring. As far as the football team, it really doesn't factor in that much.

What do appreciate the most about Fred?

KF: He does his job. He's a man of few words as you've probably noticed. He's just matured so much. We really noticed it in the fall of 2001. He's taken it to another level starting last spring. He really practiced well in the spring. He's practiced well through the fall. And he's playing very well. He's doing a great job.

Do you expect Hayden to be around practice this week?

KF: I haven't talked to him yet. I will during the week, probably some time tomorrow. From what I can sense, I think there are a lot of people tugging on his sleeve. He'll probably be busier than he's ever been. I'll certainly see him Friday morning. You talk about a veteran of Friday morning breakfast. That would be Coach Fry. It's hard for him to sneak into Iowa.

Are injuries with Fred kind of in the background now?

KF: There's no way to predict injuries with any player. Certainly we're glad that he's been healthy and been able to play every week out there. But there's no magic wand or magic formula for those things. It's part of the game.

Why is it your philosophy to take the kick when you win the coin toss?

KF: The objective is to get the football and go. That's what you want to do, take the football and go. The only reason that I would typically stray from that is the wind being a factor. I thought it was. But probably the biggest play of the day was that 71-yard punt. Where that came from...but that kind of typified the day. Anything that went how you didn't want it to go, that's how it went. To their credit, they nailed the thing and then we fumbled on top of it. My thinking there was strictly field position. Let's get field position and go. In retrospect, take the ball and go. That's what we should have done. That's what we do. And I didn't do what we do, which makes me a dumb ass.

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