On The Side: Purdue 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 is a buffet of interesting topics from plans to resurface the bubble to the health of star skill players Mo Brown and Jermelle Lewis. The head coach also dives deep into the preparations for Purdue.

Does the bubble need an upgrade on its playing surface?

It does. And that's in the plans. The one thing our players like it for pro timing day. It's a fast track. Other than that, it's not the most...It's fine for our out of season workouts, but it's time for...And we have it in the planning stages of getting that turf replaced.

How will your football be outside today (in the rain)?

It's good. That stuff (field turf) is good. Ideally, that's what we want to get in the bubble. That's what we're looking for here down the road.

Might you get (field turf) in Kinnick>?

I think it's a possibility. It seems like everywhere you look it's just popping up. And everybody I've talked to is very favorably impressed with it. The players love it. They really love it.

How did Mo and Jermelle respond to more activity on Saturday?

Both of them are good. Jermelle is a little sore. Mo really wasn't. But Mo wasn't at 100 percent. Neither one of them were quite there yet. They're both in good spirits. The question is now, how much can they improve this week?

Is (Mo) your starter? He isn't listed that way on the depth chart?

We started him Saturday because of the three wide thing. But he's our starter if he's healthy. I'm not big on that other stuff. It's just a matter of how healthy he can be. If he's 100 percent Saturday, he'll be out there every play. But we'll play him as much as we can.

You're getting close to being in uncharted waters with Fred (in terms of carries). Does that concern you?

Oh no. Not at all. We just go on a week to week basis and he's feeling better than he's ever felt. We're trying to be smart in terms of how we use him. But this is going to be a big three weeks, for not only Fred, but everybody on our ballclub. I think he's up to that.

Do you need him more so this week to keep Kyle (Orton) off of the field?

That would help us if we could run the football. I guarantee you. That being said, I think they give up about 2 yards a carry. So, it's going to be a heck of a challenge. But if we could keep them off of the field, it would be a great advantage. We didn't have much luck last year. I think they had 15 or 20 more snaps than we did. So, it would sure help us. But again, easier said than done.

David Bradley had a tough day last time you were at Purdue (2001). Do you say anything this week to him this week?

No. We've grown a lot as a football team since then. That was 2 1/2 years ago. That was like his fourth or fifth game as a player here. I think he's grown immeasurably. If he has any thoughts about that, it's silly. That was light years ago as a player.

Joe (Tiller) said that Iowa will be the second best defense is team has faced this year. How do you think your players will take that? How do you take that?

We'll find out, I guess. I wasn't aware of that. I guess two is better than three, right? Or four? Or five? Or six? We've been there too. So, we'll try harder.

Purdue has moved a little bit away from the basketball on grass and uses the run game more. How does that help?

From my viewpoint, balance is a great thing. I'm not sure I'm buying their version of it. We'll be ready for the pass. Let's put it that way. And lots of them.

How has Orton progressed since last year?

To me, immeasurably. Last year, it was a see-saw with he and the other guy. Right now, there's not even a discussion about who the quarterback is. A lot of that is just because of the way he's playing. Joe is going to put the best guy out there. He is clearly the best guy. He's playing very well.

Has Calvin's development come quicker than you thought it would?

Yeah because I didn't think we'd be playing him as much. What happened is he's had an opportunity to play and practice a lot more than maybe we would have anticipated. To his credit, he's taken it and run with it. So, he's getting better every week. That's critical.

How do you turn this great athlete into a football player, a wide receiver?

It's just practicing. Lester does a good job coaching those guys. It's just drill work, fundamental work and then situational work. It's just doing it and doing it and doing it until you get it all done. Knowing the protections, what the hots and sets are, it's really complicated. Guys just don't jump in there and do it efficiently. He's making good progress with each week.

Did you view him as a project when he came in?

Oh yeah. We knew that when we recruited him. He skipped his junior year in football. The upside was obviously the good physical skills, but also he's a tremendous young man. I think that's part of the reason he's able to move forward the way he has right now.

Does Purdue's defense have more speed than anybody you've faced?

I've always felt that they're a lot like Michigan. Ohio State is pretty fleet of foot too. But they're a little different style. To me, I couple Purdue and Michigan together a lot. I think they're very similar.

Do you have more speed on your defense?

I don't know if we have more. It's the fastest one we've had, but I don't know if I want to rank them. But we're moving in the right neighborhood. We're getting closer.

How is the matchup with your corners against their receivers?

It's tough because these guys have both caught a lot of balls. There S&S guys have each caught like 50 or 60 balls. So, they're going to complete their passes. I know they'll run. But they're going to work in a few throws this week. And they're going to complete them. Just like some guys are going to score points in basketball, Purdue is going to complete X amount of passes. What we need to do is make sure that 5-yard pass we gave up last year that ended up going for whatever it was, we've got to make sure we don't let the little ones become big ones. That's what kills you. Like Norm says, there are teams that pass and catch well, like Miami of Ohio. They do it like we drive a car. They just get out and go.

Do you alter your defense a lot?

Yeah. We'll try to adjust to what they're doing a little bit. And these guys make it tough on you because they get into run groupings, and run it. They can throw out of those run groupings. But they're probably more diverse than anybody in the kind of players they put on the field. One minute they're in this personal group, now they're in another. They threaten you in a lot of different ways out of every group. It's a pretty sophisticated offense they've got.

Did what they did to you guys on the short and intermediate routes put guys like Hodge and Greenway on the fast track?

I wouldn't say it fast tracked them because that's been our goal from Day One is to keep getting guys that are a little bit more nimble up there instead of playing just goal line defense. That's the name of the game on defense is getting some guys that can match up a little bit better underneath. We've probably upgraded a little bit there. Hopefully that will pay off. We'll see. You still have to know the matchups though. You have to be in the right spot.

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