Coach Ferentz On The Side: Ohio State

The latest edition of a standard Tuesday feature, <i>exclusive to Hawkeyenation subscribers</i>, that we call: On the Side. After fielding questions in an open forum, Kirk Ferentz meets with reporters on the podium side. Questions get deeper and the coach gives out some of his best information. <b>This week, he discusses the return of Jermelle Lewis, the chance of true FR OL Mike Jones playing at OSU, and much more.</b>

How many players would have been out with injuries had you played last weekend?

It would have been significantly more extensive. Jovon could have never played last week. Ed Hinkel wouldn't have been ready. But not only the guys that couldn't have played, it also was the guys that were nicked-up, nagging things that have been going on. It would have been tricky. It would have been a light week of practice.

Is David Walker ready to go?

He is back. Hopefully he'll get through the week and be ready to go.

Is Brian OK?

He's doing Ok. Yeah, he's doing OK. He's sore.

Those guys are ready to go and will be in the starting lineup?

We'll wait and see. We'll see how the week goes. It would be great to get them all back for significant playing time. But we'll see how they do this week.

You do understand the questions though. Who's in, who's out is a lot bigger question than it was last year?

I looked Saturday during the downtime at our press guide from last year. I think Howard might have missed a game. Fred missed a game and D.J. missed two. And Mo Brown might have started for C.J. one week. But basically it was the same script every week, totally opposite here. That's football. One year is always different than the other.

Were you rooting for Ohio State so you wouldn't be playing an angry Buckeyes bunch?

I didn't have any strong emotions either way. I just wanted to watch the football game and see what was going to happen.

Was it encouraging for your team to see Wisconsin's No. 3 tailback and No. 2 quarterback be successful against Ohio State?

I would hope so. We've had guys doing it on our team. Certainly I would hope that we draw some inspiration off of that.

Is a win against Ohio State another notch in this program's belt?

Yeah, I mean, they're you know...throw in Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State...Penn State has slipped a hair, maybe at this given moment, but those are the three traditional powers in our league. Just look at the talent they have on their roster. Look at the draft every year. Ohio State has just got great, great personnel, they're very well coached and they play hard.

Their running game has struggled. Is that mostly the absence of Clarett?

I'm sure that's affected them. Whatever commentary you want to give on Clarett, he is a great football player. He's a phenominal running back. They've got very good running backs now, but that guy was very special.

Does the situation with Reynolds happen a lot and people just don't get caught?

You usually don't see things on film. Typically they get caught, but in the pile, things happen that are tough to detect. They're going to happen. It's unfortunate. You hope that things like that don't happen.

Does more of that go on in the pros?

I don't know that it does because in the pros it's cha-ching, cha-ching. They hit you in the pocketbook and they'll suspend you as well.

Coach Tressel's involvement in close games goes back to Youngstown. Is that just a style of coaching?

I think so. I don't know much about his dad, but his dad was a coach. He grew up in Woody Hayes territory in the state of Ohio. Jim coached at Ohio State. You can't argue with the results, I think four national championships at Youngstown State and one at Ohio State and he's still a young man.

How much did you follow the Clarett case?

I didn't have much interest in it, quite frankly.

Initially, this was supposed to be his first game back. Did that enter your mind?

I said, 'Wonderful.'

Were you relieved to find out he wasn't returning?

I wouldn't say relieved. I didn't get too emotionally tied to it.

What are the chances that Jermelle would go back on kicks?

Probably this week minimal. Down the road, I think it's a distinct possibility. The thing that we have to do with him, and it's the same with the other guys, they got through last week and now they've got to demonstrate they can keep improving and really cut it loose with confidence. I don't see anything right now to say, "Hey, it's not going to happen." But how soon? I don't know.

Have those guys (Lewis and Young) been hit yet?

Not tackled. Not live tackled. They get bumped around a little bit. In Jermelle's case I'm not as worried about it. And Albert got tackled in camp. It looks like he can hang onto the football.

What exactly are you looking for from them?

They're medically cleared which means they're not at risk. Now it's just a matter of them operating at full speed from a coach's perspective. Also coming back the next day and doing it again without needing a day off, those kinds of things. So far, so good. I'm surprised. Nothing Jermelle does really surprises you, but I would not have predicted it based on my minimal expertise.

Did he go through the same rehabilitation process that Chad Greenway did?

Yeah. He sure did. Everybody's different. This is way off of the charts now.

Are you concerned about him reinjuring himself?

Again, the medical experts have saif that he's out of that danger zone. To me, the big things is can the guy play with confidence, the confidence that it takes to play in a game like this? That's what you kind of have to gauge at this point. As you guys know, Jermelle doesn't lack confidence. That's not a problem for him.

Does it help that he can squat a Volkswagen?

Yeah. That's part of it. He's not your average bear. I think we all realize that. That nickname of "Skills" sure fits. He's got skills and ability.

As you said, you don't see him being the cavalry, right?

We're not going to throw him in there for 30 carries. That's not going to happen. We might pick some spots or something like that.

Is Mike Jones starting Saturday?

I don't know about him starting. But Mike is a guy that we've been high on all of the way through.

Is there a chance that he's going to play?

There's an outside chance. Yeah. I'll say that I'm worried about our depth on the offensive line. It's been that way for about seven weeks now, not including camp.

Has he played his way into the point where...?

He, to me, has always been in the mix.

Is he the true freshman that you've been trying to convince to remove the redshirt?

You can read between the lines.

Fans might wonder why he would take off the redshirt and lose half of a season. How would you address that?

It's like all of the freshmen that are playing right now. You can look at it and say, "Oh geez, they're missing out on a fifth year." But the way I'm looking at it, the guys that are redshirting, mostly on defense, it's just a year for them to get seasoned. The other guys are in the accelerated program. Yeah, maybe they're not getting a lot of production. But I look at them being that much further ahead when we get going in the spring and then next year. They're serving a purpose. They're helping our football team right now. The other thing is that it accelerates their development as players. That being said, that's not our primary goal. Obviously I'm not really worried about next August right now.

Are we close to the "It's too Late" point?

I think in some instances, yeah. I go back to Albert. We may be there because it's not just Albert. It's also the situation where Jermelle might be coming back sooner than we anticipated. You want to be smart also on that one. We'll cross that bridge when we have to. I think that bridge is coming quickly. We probably need to make a decision. Albert may not look 100 percent in the next few weeks and there is no decision. I think he's getting closer so we've got to address that when it comes.

This season comes first correct?

We're all living for today. Believe me. I think you have to in sports. I think you have to in life. It's my job to work for tomorrow too. Ultimately, that's my responsibility. But we're living for today. We have six games left. There's a good chance we'll have seven. We're hopeful of that. That's another month, you know what I mean. So, there's still an awful lot of football ahead, not only in terms of games, but also weeks. That all factors into things into our decisions.

Would there be an opportunity to redshirt someone like A.J. Johnson next season?

There's always a possibility. You always have that option if we choose to do it. That's something that we'll visit with players about. But right now, it's not first and foremost in our thoughts.

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