On The Side With Coach Ferentz

This is a regular Tuesday feature Nation members can expect each week throughout the season. After the coach finishes his formal press conference, he meets "On the Side" of the podium to discuss in further detail some of the hotter topics surrounding the team. Today, Kirk talked more about the Manson injury, new No. 2 Qb Eric McCollom, emerging OL Todd Plagman, the expected return date of David Walker, his RB situation, Champ Davis, Clinton Solomon and much more.

QB CONVERSATION:

Do you have any idea how Jason suffered the injury?

Ah, no. To answer your question, guys get stepped on all of the time out there. He had a little soreness in his foot. According to him, it started hurting a little bit more Saturday and Sunday. That being said, if he ran straight ahead...We ran on Saturday. No problem. I think he woke up (Monday) morning...he just came in for treatment, basically. Then, Paul examined him and said that we better check it out to be sure. It's one of those deals. Those happens sometimes. Probably somebody stepped on him four, five, six days ago, and it's just one of those deals.

Did Bob Sanders have that last year?

Howard Hodges had one like this. Bob did have a screw stuck in his. His was a little different scenario. And then, the injury that's causing him to miss time right now came from the Senior Bowl. But that's a good illustration because the Senior Bowl was in January then he went down and set a record in the 40-yard dash and vertical jump (at the combine). Imagine if he was healthy. That kind of illustrates that you can have something wrong with you structurally and still be able to perform. We could have let Jason try to go through the season, but you're rolling the dice. You're really rolling the dice. It was described to me...What was the guy's name at Duke? Brands, the basketball player? He had a similar thing in the tournament. At the end of the year, it might be a different story. But right now, it just doesn't make sense not to be aggressive.

Is Eric ready for the backup role on Saturday?

We have no other choice. I'd rather not, obviously, because he's been working No. 3. Jason and Drew have gotten the most work. But that being said, by week's end hopefully Eric will be ready to go. We would limit some of the things that we did with him on because of his exposure. But if he goes in, we're going to count on him to do a great job. The most important thing is just making good decisions and then protect the football.

Is there anything that he does better than maybe the other quarterbacks?

He's the best athlete of the group. It's not even close. I don't think that we've had a better athlete than him at that position in five years, going on six now. And, he's got a very strong arm. We were just so impressed with his high school tape, and we have not been disappointed. Now, it's just a matter of him fitting into the way that we're doing things. It's an adjustment all players make. Drew has had the advantage of being No. 2. So, he's got a lot more work at that.

He said at media day that his problem is that he makes as many bad plays as he does good plays.

That's fair. And that ratio is changing a little bit, fortunately. (laughs) But, that's always a concern in a game.

Did he realize picking No. 7 the comparisons that might be made?

Oh, he probably didn't. I imagine he wore that in high school. I can't remember. I'm sure he had a single digit number. If we had 90 single digit numbers, they'd all be full. I promise you. That's what everybody wants. But hopefully he can just go out and be Eric whenever his time comes.

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RUNNING BACK ROUNDUP:

No matter what happens Saturday, will Jermelle be back in the starting spot the following week?

We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I would anticipate that, but if somebody rushes for like 400 yards Saturday... All that being said, in our minds right now, we think that we have three quality tailbacks; Jermelle being one of those three. So, I would expect that.

Jermelle violated a team rule. Can you tell us any more about that?

Yeah. He violated a team rule. (laughs) No. I really can't. He made a dumb decision. Hopefully that's the last of it.

What is Marcus' mentality like heading into Saturday?

He practices the same all of the time. He carries himself well. I'm sure he'll be a little extra excited about things. But he'll be ready to play. I'm real confident about that.

Do you anticipate them getting a similar amount of carries?

I think that's probably fair to expect. We probably get both of them a lot of work. It would be good for both of them. Marcus hasn't played an awful lot. And Albert certainly hasn't played at all. We're all sort of anxious to see him out there in game circumstances. That's out plan right now is both guys will work an awful lot.

Is Albert close to being a born tailback? He's run the ball since like 105-pound league.

He really is. It's kind of interesting. Abdul Hodge, we thought that he was a pretty good linebacker on film. When he got here, he was quicker than he looked on high school film. And one thing about Albert, you saw him do a great job in the passing game at his high school. He's really turned out to be a better running back than maybe I anticipated at least coming in. It's nice to get those pleasant surprises. He does a lot of things well.

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WHO IS THIS GUY?:

Did you guys miss on Plagman?

Yeah. I guess the whole world did. To me, Todd Plagman is a Division I football player; you know, a major conference football player. Apprently, a lot of people didn't. As you know, we're the kings of finding guys; you know, Considine and McMahon and Luebke, to name three guys. We couldn't be playing without those guys right now. Noboyd recruited those guys to speak of. It's, hopefully, another great story in the making.

How do you find a guy like that?

Reese covers every corner of the state. He'll be embarrassed, but he really does a great job. My most vivid memory of Todd Plagman would have been the spring of his senior year coming to a prospect day here. We did a little cookout after the practice. He and his folks must have stayed here for like three hours after the scrimmage. It was a long day, and then they stayed here for three more hours. I remember that day. But as far as telling you that Todd Plagman was going to be a good player for us, I had no idea. That's just how it works out sometimes. If you would have asked me last fall, I would have said, "Well, yeah, there's some love for him by the coaches." But to predict that he'd be fighting for a starting position, I wouldn't have predicted that.

It's not like McMahon because McMahon had to sell himself, right?

Yeah, I guess. Pete might have called us. We called Todd, at least, or called his coach. And he showed up. But it's kind of a similar story. It wasn't like we were knocking the door down, "Hey, you've go to come here." We were happy to have him come, don't get me wrong. But it wasn't like...I'd like to say that we were that smart. You just never know. That's the neat thing about this.

Have you been to Carson, Iowa?

Not yet. I've been close. I flew over top of it this spring. Does that count? Reese was kind of pointing down there, "There's were Plagman lives."

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ODDS AND ENDS:

Where are you at with the kick and punt return teams?

The guys that you'll see out there the most, initially, probably, will be Ed Hinkel and Albert Young. They'll be back on kickoffs. Starting our the game punt returning would be Ed. Albert will be his back-up. We'll probably fool around with Marcus Schnoor as a kickoff returner as a back-up also. And then maybe a couple of receivers. Then, the only other guy on punt return, maybe, would be Jovon and then possible Walner Belleus.

How has Clinton Solomon done so far?

He's really doing well. It's just a 180 from his departure. He knows he made some mistakes and bad choices. He's really trying to make the most of this opportunity. We're really pleased with what we're seeing him do out there. He's really been working hard. He's making plays. And he's giving us leadership, too. We need that. We're a young group out there. He's capable. this is his third year out of high school.

Is there another segment where you wish that you had another week to work on?

Yeah, just about every one of them. The guys that have played we feel pretty good about them. It's pretty safe to predict how they're going to play. I'd love to have another week for our offense. I'd love to have another week for the new starters on defense. That being said, it'd be counter productive. You get to a point where just practicing loses it's appeal to you. We need to play.

Is Champ (Davis) still in the picture?

Yeah. He had some injuries coming in. I think that he missed about a week; somewhere in that ballpark. But he's starting to progress back.

Is there any thought of those guys that played as true freshmen last year might redshirt this year?

It could happen. Champ would have been a possibility. He had that injury. But he was able to come back. He might have missed half of camp. Give me a little license on that. We had that conversation. First and foremost, is he going to help us on special teams? I did have that talk with Champ, for instance. He wants to play. So...There are no guarantees how many reps he's going to get at TE, but he'll be helping us on special teams, certainly.

Some of the other guys, we'll look and see. A.J. Johnson, I didn't talk about him, he's had a nagging injury right now. I don't think that he's going to play this week. We'll see where that porgresses. But yeah, it's a possibility with all of those guys.

Where is David Walker at at this point?

He's been doing individual work. This week we're going to start to get him in some group work on a limited basis. He's not ready to play. But at least if we can start getting him involved more extensively, realistically maybe by the Big Ten season things will be working.


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