FERENTZ OPENING STATEMENT
I want to congratulate all of the award winners. The Big Ten team came out last week. With Nate and Robert being finalists for the Groza and Outland Awards, (respectively), that's very prestigious. (We) hope things go well there. And also, what came out a little bit before that, was Nate and Jared (Clauss) on the all-American Academic squads. I'm very pleased for all of those guys. I'm very pleased with the results of the season, all in all. We got great leadership from our seniors during the course of the season. That really improved and increased as the year went on.
The team also really grew during the course of the season. They hung together through some adversity, some tough breaks, injuries…those types of things. They really never lost their focus. We knew in August that the conference would be very tough. We also knew that our schedule would be very, very challenging. Bottom line is that our guys competed well. I'm really pleased with where we're sitting at this given point.
We'll have a meeting this (Monday) afternoon. Chris (Doyle) will start them up this week with our strength and conditioning. We'll start practicing here at the end of the week. You guys probably know more about the bowl situation than I do. I know we're going to end up somewhere nice. It would be hard to screw that up. I also know we're going to play a tough opponent.
Is there a preference? Florida and the SEC looks pretty good.
Yeah. That looks like the layout right now. We don't know where in Florida. You could probably say a certain percent here, a certain percent there. If we play any of those SEC teams, I had a chance to watch all but Georgia this weekend; it's pretty obvious that all three of those teams are extremely talented. I guess I didn't see Tennessee. I just saw clips on them. But I've seen Tennessee during the course of the year. We know the kind of players that they've recruited.
Do you do anything different in bowl preparation from last year?
We spent some time on it this past spring and summer talking about it. We threw a couple of schedules together. Actually, we laid out a schedule for the seven bowl games for the Big Ten. The big factor last year was that we had the extra week of a layoff. We were not sharp in that football game.
Do you start work on the field sooner?
Not necessarily sooner. Our approach will be a little bit different. Last year, we finished up after finals and let the guys go home for Christmas for a couple of days. With our finals' schedule, I just don't think that's feasible. What we need to do is make sure we're getting in quality work the two weeks prior to the game. That's probably the biggest thing that stands out.
How much do you think this team improved as the season went on?
They improved immensely. As I said during the year, we didn't have the continuity you really need to see some of the improvement, more so on offense than defense. Offensively, it was basically whatever parts were healthy that week is what we went with. Defensively, up until the latter part of the season, we were in pretty good shape. When you factor in all the injuries, and I'm not complaining about the injuries, it's remarkable. I don't mind saying that I was a little bit concerned about Minnesota coming to town with the rushing attack that they had and knowing what our defensive line depth was. For us to be sitting there at 40-6 with whatever it was left in the game, that's really remarkable. That says a lot about the guys on our football team. That was a big point in our season for us.
How difficult is this waiting period?
My point of reference isn't great. In the ‘80s, we found out a little bit sooner. But as I recall, it was so much more political. Things seemed to be a little bit more laid out. Although, it's hinging on the BCS as I understand it. I guess you just sit around and wait. It's probably tougher on people trying to make arrangements and get good flights than it is on us. Probably the only dramatic difference would be if we ended up in San Antonio just because of the date. That would change our schedule pretty dramatically. We've got a plan for that. We're in good shape no matter what.
So, you're getting work done right now?
Our early part of practice won't really focus on an opponent anyway. Well save that until finals week. The coaching staff will have a chance that week to study tape and get a game plan going. The initial parts of practice will focus on fundamental work. It will be a little bit like spring ball or early preseason work.
Is there an advantage to working with the younger kids during this time?
I don't think there is any question about that. It's huge. That helped us be successful this year. There's only so much you can do on the field, but it just gives you some opportunities to get some things done. Our last two weeks of the season, we cut back on some of the developmental work with some of our younger players. I was pretty confident at that point we were going to be playing in a bowl game somewhere and some of our younger players were in the two-deep at that point. It's nice to know that you have one in the bank. You can kind of structure it, and it will give us a chance to move forward towards next year. All that being said, our focus, primarily, is winning the bowl game.
There's a chance that the Capital One Bowl will pick you over Purdue. What does that say about how the Big Ten does this bowl thing? Is it fair? The head to head thing is obvious.
You could probably build an argument either way. I have no idea how it's going to turn out. There is no perfect system. We all know, too, probably outside the national championship game, trying to get the two best opponents there and all of the things that factor into it, such as crowds. We all learned that lesson back in ‘83. We beat Ohio State on the field. We ended up with a 9-2 record. They were 8-3. They went to the Fiesta Bowl. We got sent to Jacksonville in 32-degree weather.
Those people that went to Miami last year, is that kind of your trump card?
It's not going to hurt us. You can't blame a community for factoring that in. The reason they're having a bowl is because it's a boost to the economy. It's a great opportunity for them. Our fans have proven that they'll help boost anybody's economy. They like to travel, and they like to spend money.
Any players ruled out for the game at this point?
Other than the flu bug, we really seem to be going in the right direction. We got positive reports after both games. We have two guys that we know right now that are going to have a meniscus repair. That will be after the bowl game as long as they can keep playing with the tears. They've been doing that for a couple of weeks.
Can Brian come back?
He won't have a chance. He is off of the crutches as of yesterday. When we get back together here in January, he should be pretty much full flow with the rest of the football team. Jonathan Babineaux might have an outside chance at the game, but I'm not counting on that. We're not going to take any chances. I'm more worried about his fifth year.
Are you shaking your head about the Frank Solich thing?
I'm not over at Nebraska first hand. I probably shouldn't comment. But sitting here in Iowa watching that, it's interesting to say the least. It's unfortunate. I don't pretend to be a great friend of Frank Solich's. I know he and Barry (Alvarez) are good friends; teammates from college. Frank has got a lot invested in that program. But Frank probably would be the first to tell you, hey, he's a Division I head coach and anything can happen. That's part of what we do. But yeah, I worry about it a little bit. But their athletic director has every right to do what he thinks is best for their program there. It makes the job interesting.
How has the reception been on the recruiting trail with two banner seasons?
It's been good. And every week is important that way. We've probably had 15 prospects on campus for official visits already. That's a higher count than in the past. They watch the scores every week. It's not the biggest factor, but it certainly is a factor. If we can be fortunate to be in January bowls back to back, that really gives us some credibility. The fact that we've won 20 games in two years with a chance to win one more. All those things help. You factor that with a great university, a great campus, we've got some real positives to sell right now.
How many kids will you sign?
We'll probably be right at 25.
Do you find yourself battling the talk/rumors that you're leaving?
Yeah. That will be out there. We try to be proactive with it. It's going to be out there as long as we keep winning. Maybe 10 years from now it won't be. Recruiters use whatever they can to get guys thinking.
What priorities do you have for recruiting?
Two things that jump out to me right now would be our offensive and defensive lines. We haven't signed all that many offensive linemen. We need to get a good core group in this year. Not to help us next year, but to help us down the road here. We're going to have some vacancies in another year's time. The defensive line, we graduated a bunch of guys last year. We're going to graduate a significant number this year. I'd say the receiver position is a very important area for us as well. You can probably throw in the corner position as well. We've got two guys that are playing pretty good, but they're both going to be juniors this year. Those would be the ones that jump out at me right now.
Bringing in the kids during the season is kind of a departure for you guys. How is that working out?
I hate it. If I had my way, there'd be no in season recruiting. That's one person's opinion that counts for zero. That being said, we're going to have to do it. The only reason that I hate it is that you hate to divert any attention from your football team. To me, that's why we're here is to coach our players. That being said, we explain that to our recruits. The visit will be a little different because our focus is on coaching our team. But we're able to do some things that make it a little unique from a winter visit. As long as the players come in understanding that we're not going to hold their hands all 24 hours, it works out pretty well. I just hate getting off the schedule, off of the routine. That's just me. That one is going nowhere. The trend right now is going exactly the opposite. We're our own worst enemies as coaches.
What are your thoughts on the Hawkeyes being represented on the All-Big Ten teams? Did you think that Greenway should have made first team?
You could make an argument for that. Probably the biggest surprise that I had was Sean Considine not being listed on any of them. That really shocked me. Maybe we have a higher opinion of Sean than some other people around the league, but he's a pretty exceptional football player. But all in all, that's how those things go. I don't worry too much about it.