On The Side: Coach Ferentz PSU Pregame

The latest edition of a standard Tuesday feature, exclusive to Hawkeyenation subscribers, 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. This week, he discusses his name being linked to other jobs, his thoughts on playing backup QB Drew Tate, and much more.

COACH FERENTZ...ON INJURIES:

You seemed to get a little choked up when you talked about Babineaux, Brian and Ma'Quan having surgery today. Is that one of the toughest parts of your job?

One is not fair. When the guys have two of them...

As a father, it's got to be even tougher. Do you want to be there for him?

I'll shoot over there in a little bit. But there's nothing that I can do right now anyway. But Mary is there. You know, that being said, it's hard for kids like Jonathan. His parents can't be there. John Strief is right there with those kids that are going in. From that standpoint, they couldn't be in better hands. And Dr. Amendola, as a coach I feel fortunate to have him. As a father, I'm really glad to have these guys doing the work because he's the best. He's outstanding. We're very fortunate. But any young guy that gets hurt, and in Brian's case and Jonathan's case, for a guy to have two of them, that's disappointing. It's tough for those guys because they've worked so hard.

Does it seem like you're just snake bitten in the injury department and can you ever remember a year like this before?

You know, it's part of the deal. Some years you just kind of roll right through without any thing real significant. Then other years, in snowballs a little bit. There's no way to predict it. I don't think there's any science to it. It's just the way things go sometimes. Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way. So, you keep working.

...ON PATERNO AND PENN STATE:

This year there has been a lot of Joe Must Go talk. Does that make a team even more dangerous?

I think so. I was entertained before the Michigan Game Coach Corso was giving advice for what Coach Paterno should do. I chuckled a little bit because Coach Paterno has 300 and X amount of wins under his belt. I don't think he needs advice fron anybody right now. He knows what he's doing. There's no question. He's got a young football team in certain areas, and they're growing weekly. They'll be dangerous. Again, you look at the statistics and who they've lost to, that could happen to anybody, basically. So, it's going to be a tough ballgame.

Were the Pittsburgh writers asking you about your job situation and if you'd go out there to coach someday?

I was told by my parents that there was an article Sunday morning that hinted on that. My response there is: A) I've got a great job; B) I feel fortunate to have a great job. And you can see, I'm very happy in this job, personally and professionally. You know, we're trying to build something here. That's where our thoughts are.

For a coach, the exit is the hardest thing. What is a good exit for a coach? Can you plan your exit?

If you can, then you are lucky. If you can leave on your own terms, it's a great, great thing. If anybody in this game deserves that, it's Coach Paterno. Not only for what he has meant to this sport, but what he's meant to intercollegiate athletics and Penn State University. Growing up in that part of the country, I'm well aware of that. He's been a giant figure in all of sports, not just collegiate sports.

Do you think people use his age against him in recruiting and has that hurt them?

It's possible. But it doesn't seem to. They've recruited a lot of good players last year, the year before and they've already got a lot of good ones committed for next year. I imagine there are some people throwing it out there.

People have used the NFL against you. What do you guys use against them?

We don't. We sell Iowa. We try to sell our program. We think that we have a lot of things to sell. It's not for everybody, but there are a lot of good things to sell.

...On MIKE JONES AND THE OFFENSIVE LINE:

What did Mike Jones show that allowed him to jump over some guys with more experience in the program?

He's just been performing well. That's what you can judge things on is what you see a guy do. Certainly during the bye week when I watched him perform against our first defense, we consider them to be pretty good players, he's out there holding his own against those guys. You try to go with the guy that gives you the best chance to win.

Did he come in in better shape techinically than you thought he would?

He's ahead of most guys. And part of that is having a brother that has played college football and been to a couple of pro camps. That helps, no question about it. But he's a very serious-minded guy, a very serious guy. He was that way during recruiting. It's hard to get a smile out of him. He's always focused. He carries that attitude on the field. It's serving him well.

Does he remind you of anybody?

I don't think we've ever played a true freshman in the line. Bob Kratch was a redshirted freshman. I know we had to throw him in against Michigan in '85, I think. It's unusual. It doesn't happen much anywhere.

Where are Blake Larsen and Felder and Cronin in their development?

Those guys are still moving on. I'm not sure when the tide is going to turn for them. But I'm confident that it will. We're going to need those guys. They still have plenty of time ahead. We're very hopeful and confident that they they'll play a kep role for us in the next couple of years.

Is Larsen healthy?

Yeah, he's been pretty good most of the season now, which is good. All three of those guys, for the most part, have been healthy. So, they're getting valuable time out there.

...ON MO BROWN:

What are the remaining hurdles left for Mo to get over?

It's just a matter of now...he's working out on the field. He's running. It's just a matter of just getting that comfort level. Bob went through the same thing. It's not the same exact injury, but similar. You're talking about a lower extremity for a guy that has plant, cut and do those kinds of things. I'm not sure that he's ever going to play pain-free this year, but play where he's productive and efficient. The one thing about Bob, you watch Bob on tape right now you would never guess that the guy had ever been hurt. He just doesn't show it. But it was like we were sputtering, sputtering, sputtering, and then all of a sudden it happened. I'm thinking that's probably what's going to happen with Mo. It's just a matter of fighting through it. It's kind of like those quarterback-center exchanges. You can only do so much without being counter productive. So, it's just nature having to take its course a little bit.

Is his recovery taking longer than you thought it would?

There was no way to know. You kind of throw numbers out there, and you always try to be optimistic and hopeful. Just like Jermelle, who is the other end of the spectrum. His recovery went maybe a little bit quicker than everybody thought. When you deal with medicine, every individual is different. You just never quite know. The big things is as long as they're not going backwards. That's the thing that you're hoping for.

Can you describe more specifically his injury?

Yeah. He's got an ankle problem. It's more ligament than anything else. That's the thing that's holding him back, not unlike Champ Davis. It's obviously a little more severe than Champ's. But when you get involved in those things, there's no magic formula. Sometimes you're better off having a broken bone, quite frankly, not that I'd wish that on anybody.

Has his presence on the sideline helped the young receivers?

We try to keep all of the veteran guys around. We did the same with Bob. Basically our policy is that guys that have started we like to travel and have them on the bench to try to help the younger guys. That's an obligation, part of your role as being a team member. Our guys have been super with that. Certainly in Mo's case, where playing a lot of young, inexperienced guys. He's been able to help those guys a little bit to be eyes for them and relay messages to them when they come off of the field.

...ON PLAYING DREW TATE:

With Nathan hurting a little bit, do you want to try to get Drew Tate in there a little bit right now?

No. Nate, I don't think he's hurting that much. He got dinged on the knee the other day. It was a bruise. I think he's fine, doing fine. We're going to keep playing as the situation dictates, and get the best guy in there. Right now, Nathan's our quarterback.

...ON INJURY TO MIKE FOLLETT:

I think he's going to be OK. He and (Jensen), you know Jens got dinged up there too. It was like there were land mines out there at one point. Maybe on one hand it's good that we didn't get to the goal line because I'm not sure we had the right personnel to handle that situation. It would have been nive to find out. But it got a little tricky there from a personnel standpoint. But I would expect both of those guys to be out there today.

...ON HIS NAME COMING UP FOR NFL JOBS AND ITS IMPACT ON RECRUITING:

Do you get a little tired of the NFL beat writers throwing your name out there?

Yes and no. If we lose every game, we don't have to worry about it. That being said, I think I'd prefer having those guys doing that. That must mean that we're doing OK. Otherwise, they wouldn't be doing it. That's no problem other than my only concern being with recruiting. I think we've been very proactive, in that regard, addressing it. We have to be because of they're not doing it, other recruiters are throwing it out there. That's one of the first things we try to lay out to the prospect.

Do kids ask about it much?

Some do. You can usually predict who would just by pesonalities. But most of them are kind of bashful about it. Or, they're too respectful. So, we're going to throw it out there because I know it's being put out there. One thing in recruiting, after awhile, you kind of figure out what everybody else is saying about you. We usually take the offensive as fast as we can and just reassure them that that's not the case.

ON JOVON JOHNSON'S INJURY:

How is Jovan Johnson?

I think he's on the comeback trail. He came out of the game the other day, but he ran Sunday and seems to be doing a lot better. We're getting some good news other than Ed Hinkel took a step backwards and Townsend took a step backwards.

Did James get hurt on that play where he fell?

Yeah. I guess. He may be OK. But right now, he's not going today. I know that.


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