Coach Ferentz: On The Side

In this week's extended press conference, Iowa's leader comments on his struggling offense, problems on special teams, personal fouls, the recoveries of his son Brian and Jason Manson, the progress of Eric McCollom, the status of A.J. Johnson, the possibility of taking the redshirt off of Damian Sims, and much more in this jam packed premium Q&A.


Do the special teams problems start with Schlicher not having Kaeding depth on his kickoffs?

No. His kicks have been OK, for the most part. His hang times have been...we're just not covering. We're not covering. And boy, (ISU) went right at us.

On his field goal that he's missed low, is that as simple as backing up a yard maybe?

No. It's technique. To me, it's technique and focus and confidence, all of those things. That being said, our protection was awful, also. That was just one ugly attempt. It was a team effort on that one. We got a full team effort.

Will you spend more practice time than normal on special teams?

I don't know if we'll spend more time. We need to pick up our habits and our intensity. And we have to carry it into the game. We've really been practicing fairly well. But there are just too many things going hay wire, together, combined. That's a concern.

Our punt defense and punt return teams are doing pretty well. Our kickoff return team is doing pretty well. Our PAT block team is going well. But the other three areas we've got a lot of work to do.

A lot of the guys we've seen making mistakes, we've seen doing it right. They need to start doing it right again.


The offensive line problems that you're having, you being an offensive line guru, what kind of problems are you seeing?

Unfortunately, we're in a little bit of a developmental mode right now. That's good in the spring. It's bad in the fall. Like I said the other day, all we can do is just try ot make sure that we have the best possible plan for our players. Then, we just have to keep working hard, realizing that we're not going to go 180 here in two weeks time. It's just not going to happen.

The big thing that we have to do is just be as good as we can be each and every week. It sounds so cliche, but it is true, that's all you can do in situations like this. If we get some guys back healthy, also, that will supplement things. But there are no guarantees with that. We've known that from Day 1. It would help, too, if we had no more injuries. But there's no guarantee on that one.

Is it individual things or is it cohesiveness?

It's both. We were in the same boat last year at this time. We were a little more veteran, though, at that time. We were in that boat in 2000. I guess it's fair to say that we're a little bit like we were in 2000. But it all worked out.

How do you look so sharp like you did on the first drive, and then struggle like you did for much of the rest of the way?

Even with your whole team, that's hard sometimes to explain. Sometimes you come out and look like world beaters for a couple of series. Then, boom, it leaves you. We did have some tempo. We had sharpness coming out of the gate. Then it just kind of fell apart.

There are a lot of factors involved. If I was smart enough to pinpoint them all, we'd probably be playing a little better.

Is there anything that you can do to push the devlopmental process along?

We do about all we can do. It's always a fine line because you can only practice so many hours a day. The time that we use, we had to make it really productive.

How long can you afford to stick with the running game?

I've always believed and always will believe that if you can't run with success it's going to be hard to win consistently. I also believe that you try to do what you can do the best.

The challenge for us right now is finding out what we have the best chance of executing. If you get to basic or simple, than you really box yourself in, too. It's a fine line. It's a tough equation sometimes. Sometimes it takes a while to discover what those things are, too.

Could you see you team throwing more than running?

Hopefully not long term because it's an inherent belief that I don't think that you can throw the ball 70 times a game for a season and be a successful team. I know BYU won a national championship in 1984 doing it. They played a Michigan team (in the bowl) that ended up 6-6. (laughter)


Have you toyed with the idea of taking the redshirt off of Sims?

It's a possibility because, and I don't even want to talk about the subject, but if something were to happen (with injury), there aren't may alternatives right now. Either that, or maybe we can get Bob Sanders to volunteer to come back and be our running back for the rest of the season. I don't think he'll go for that one.

Do you have any athletes that might fit that bill (of playing RB)?

We've had that discussion. Like I said, Bob Sanders, I don't think he'll come back.


Do you feel better about Eric McCollom now that he's has a couple of weeks with the second team?

Yeah. I do. With all do respect to our No. 2 quarterback, I'd rather see our starter play the whole game.

But yeah, certainly, he's a little bit more comfortable than he was. In time, I really think that he's going to be a fine player for us. But we can't get three of them ready, at least we can't. We're not at that stage yet.

Have we kind of forgotten about Manson? Is he a week away?

Jason is really doing well. They're going to have him run on Friday and Sunday. We'll probably know more after he runs on Sunday. But so far, so good. Everything has been very, very positive. He's eager to get back out there. He's not ready yet. But he's eager. We have a chance to say a week from now, "Yeah, he's going to practice this week."


Is Brian (Ferentz) still coming along?

He's getting closer.

Do you anticipate him playing this year?

I think that he has a realistic chance now. If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have said probably not.

How would he change things? Where would he fit in?

That would be a nice problem to have to address. The big thing is that he's played. It's a real commodity you have when you have guys that have played. Both he and David offer that to us.

In a perfect world, we would have had both of those guys in the spring where they had 15 days of work. That's not how it panned out. Both of them, if they are fortunate enough to come back, will be playing catch-up. But it's different when you have guys that are older that have played. It's a good addition.


Does it strike you as odd that there are a lot of things going wrong, yet you're still 2-0?

Yeah. That's the good news right now. I checked. The (Cy-Hawk) Trophy is still up there. So, we're doing OK there.

I think we're probably fortunate to be 2-0 right now. There are different categories (problems). The offensive line concerns, they're not going to evaporate in a week's time or two week's time. Those are things that we knew coming in were going to be areas that we were going to have to work on and address.

I'm not as concerned about that as I am areas in special teams, personal fouls on defense, those kinds of things that are correctable. Those are mental. It's not an ability or experience issue. It's that we're not doing well enough concentrating at the level that we need to concentrate or executing to our capabilities.

Is there a reward system for personal fouls?

No. But I might take some suggestions on that. That might be an idea.


Is A.J. Johnson still on indefinite suspension?

Still indefinite. He is not part of the equation right now.


Have you talked to Drew about settling down and not wasting energy in that area?

I think that I would be wasting syllables on that one. It's like telling Matt (Roth), "Hey listen, we just want you to watch the draw, watch the screen, all that stuff." It's not how he's built. That's one of the reasons that he's a good football player.

It's like anything. You just kind of learn. He did it in high school. He got himself comfortable and into a routine. He'll do the same here. We're probably beyond all of that really.

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