Big Ten Teleconference: Ferentz Potpurri

Kirk Ferentz touched on a variety of topics in his first Big Ten Teleconference of the year; special teams, Kyle Schlicher, where this year's team is at compared to last year's squad coming out of camp, a college football playoff and much, much more.

OPENING STATEMENT

We still have a lot of questions right now with our football team. We are anxious to see how our guys react in game circumstances and how some of our younger players are coming along.

We are anxious to go and we have great respect for the entire MAC conference. I think that everyone knows that conference has elevated itself each year over the last decade or so and they have had some fantastic players. We have had some great games (against the MAC) and Kent State appears to be on the rise right now. They return 17 starters and did some things last year, and it ought to be a challenge for our team.

Q: There are six Big Ten teams in Top 25 of both polls…Two years ago, both you and Ohio State were undefeated in conference play. Ohio State got to play in the national title game and you were able to go to a BCS game, but did not have a chance to play for the national title. In a league where two or three teams could be good enough to play in a title game this year, does a playoff make more sense than the current system?

You can argue it both ways, and I think it has been argued both ways. Bottom line is that I can foresee the day when playoff consideration does come, but I think the bowl system is pretty good.

We were involved in a sticky situation two years ago, if you will, but I have not lost any sleep over it.

You look at last year, there is still some debate about that. At the end of the day, you had two teams that had excellent football teams and both have been recognized as national champions. We have bigger problems in our country than worrying about split national champs.

Q: Can you compare where your football team is right now to the same time last year?

I don't know if I can pinpoint where it is, but I think there are a lot of parallels. We were veteran on defense last year, and that is pretty much the case this year. Offensively, we had a lot of question marks and new players involved. We are at the same point this year, with the obvious difference is that we don't have a marquee guy like Robert Gallery, yet. That being said, we are probably a little more experienced up front than we were a year ago; outside of Robert, nobody had really played, so that is probably a wash.

The major difference is that a year ago, we had Nate Kaeding as a real weapon for us in field goal kicking and kickoff duties. Now we are playing a guy (Kyle Schlicher) who we have high hopes for. That being said, Kyle hasn't played when it really counts. We are like last year, except without the benefit of having a Nate Kaeding in there.

Q: Does that change your philosophy on offense? Say you get to the 35 yard line and it's 4th and 3, and that is a 52-yard attempt. With Nate, you might go for the three but this year it could be different?

When you have a guy like Nate, it's like having a veteran quarterback; you might let it rip a little bit more. We will just have to play that one by ear and see how Kyle does. We are all very confident that he can and will do the job, it's just a matter of when that will happen. Typically when you throw a young guy out there, and Nate went through the same thing in 2000, you are going to have some ups and downs until he gets settled in. I anticipate that we will go through that with Kyle a little bit until he gets his feet on the ground.

Once nice thing is that Nate was a true freshman in 2000 when he played. Kyle has been here for two years and had the chance to watch Nate perform, so hopefully he will work through that quicker.

Q: Special teams have been a huge part of your success, and not just in field goal kicking, but also in the kickoff return game and kick off coverage. Talk about what things look like this year for you.

I think all of our guys have bought into the importance of special teams, especially here. We won't win any beauty contests when it comes to talent; its more of a blue collar area of play and our guys have bought into that.

We have had a lot of guys that go from special teams and have gone on to do great things for us, like Sean Considine, who I think is one of the better safeties around. Sean got his start playing special teams. He is a walk on from Byron, Illinois. He is a good illustration of a guy that paid his dues on special teams, and now he is going for the record in punt blocks.

A guy like Bob Sanders was the same way. He came in and played early on special teams and then grew into a defense role. It gives young players at our place an opportunity to get involved and hoepefully that has helped to equal the playing field for us.

Q: Talk about David Bradley, as he is going to be a senior this year and has punted for you for three years.

He had done some place kicking and punting in high school. He has dedicated his time to punting here, and I felt that he had an excellent year last year. It's like when Jason Baker was here. He did some good things in 1999, but he did an excellent job in 2000 as a senior and he is with the Chiefs right now punting for them.

We are hoping that Dave can have a great senior year and that would be a great benefit for us and ease the loss of a Nate Kaeding.

Q: The players you signed from Omaha (Seth Olsen and Adam Shada, both in the two deeps) have already made a quick impression.

They have been fantastic additions. We felt great about them in recruiting, and even better now having had them here for a month. They are both tremendous young guys and they come out of a great program. Their work habits are excellent and they are real competitive. We have not finalized our decisions on who will redshirt and who will not, but both of them are very serious candidates to play for us this year.


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