Q: How much time off will you give the players this week?
We came in Sunday like we normally do, as we wanted to get through the game tape; I think that is critical. We made up the corrections, and got on and off the field Sunday just to stretch them out and run them a little bit. They had a relatively shorter day, they were off Monday and yesterday's practice moved pretty quickly. We had a brief meeting before we started and I think we were done at 5:30, which is half way through a normal practice. Today, we shortened all of our meetings down, so the guys are on and off the field a lot quicker, that is the biggest thing. They will be off Friday and Saturday, then they will come in on Sunday and work more extensively than we would on a normal Sunday.
Q: Has Drew Tate developed quicker than you thought?
Oh, he is not out of the woods yet. He had an excellent game last week, which is the first thing I would say. But I don't think we want to right his name in ink as a hall of fame candidate yet. I hope it works out that way, but he is still a young guy. He has started, what, five ball games now? He has had some ups and downs and some learning experiences, and I am sure that he is going to have some more, that is just part of the deal. That being said, we are real happy with his progress and as I have said before, he really works at it hard from a mental standpoint and when he does make mistakes, he tends to learn from them pretty quickly. He is getting a lot of valuable time and experience right now. If he can perform like he did the other day, which would be a valuable benefit for us.
Q: Did your son (Brian Ferentz) come through OK?
He did. He was a little sore, but the mental happiness he is experiencing eased that pain a little bit. We will have to watch him all season long. There are a couple of concerns, but one of the main concerns was his lack of training over the last eight to ten months, however long it has been. It's probably been almost a year, I guess, where he has had serious training. You wonder about the residual effect there and how he will be able to hold up. I never envisioned him playing the entire football game, and secondly we have six more weeks to go. I think we have to be real smart with what we do with him, recognize that he does have some deficiencies and try to be intelligent. On the other hand, he wants to go, so that is a good problem to have, I guess.
Q: Are you going to have a rotation there with Ben Gates or Todd Plagman when they get back?
Oh god, that is a great thought. You are an optimist to think that we might have six guys that we can put in a game (laughs). Hopefully we will get Ben and Todd back. They are working on a limited basis this week. They could probably do a little bit more, but we are going to take the conservative approach. Ultimately, the goal is for those two guys to be fully healthy next Sunday or Tuesday, where we can really let them go in practice without any setbacks. We will cross that bridge if we can get to it. It would be a great problem to have right now, but it has been in flux every week. One good thing is that we have had a lot of guys that have gained some experience (grunt). They have been in and out, but they have gained experience.
Q: Do you envision Brian back at center, or do you not want to mess with what Elgin and Tate and what they have going on?
He may end up fooling around as a backup center. I did give it some thought, and I thought about fooling around with it this week in practice, but I am not sure we want to go down that path. Mike is really doing a good job. I had great feelings about Mike Elgin last December, just with the way he was practicing and coming on. He has gone through the process that Brian went through a year ago. The first five games, it's like a new quarterback. It's a little bumpy out there and there are some things they have to go through. But he has improved every week. I felt a year ago that Brian was primed to have a good second half of the season; that didn't work out. But I do think that Mike has that opportunity now to take his five game experience and build on it. We probably won't fool around with him. Maybe after the season if over, we will see how things are going.
Brian felt more comfortable at guard than I anticipated. I had great concerns about that, because it's easier said than done to just move a guy to a position he has never played. I think we have gotten through that stretch and can settle in now.
Q: What do you get out of the Big Ten so far?
I am anxious to watch this weekend, as there are a couple of excellent games. I will be a fan this weekend, so that is kind of a nice thought. I have not paid to close attention other than what has been in front of us, other than I did peak at the Ohio State-Northwestern game. I couldn't stay awake, but I did wake up for the overtime and the missed field goal and Northwestern's last possession.
Some people are playing good defense, Purdue has a great quarterback. I think it's like you would expect; you have the two usual suspects, you have three teams that have had put a strong showing out there in Minnesota, Purdue and Wisconsin; a couple of us hovering underneath that group. This month will tell us an awful lot, because we start playing each other and it will get real interesting. I am sure there will be some surprises down the road. It will be real interesting.
Q: What are the advantages to having the extra week to play Ohio State?
It wasn't a big enough advantage last year. We couldn't muster much offensively at their place, and our defense played outstanding. What hurt us most in that ball game was our special teams. We anticipated difficulties offensively because of our personnel situation and their personnel, which was outstanding. To answer your question, I am glad we have the bye week, because I know that they are a tough opponent and we need some time to regroup right now, so it's beneficial. It's beneficial from a selfish standpoint; our team could use that time right now.
Q: Will your coaching staff get out this weekend and see some high school players??
We will be on the road Friday night. I think one of our rivals was in a school this Monday. There are two schools on that. I am not a big one for having guys go all over the country during the season, and that includes game Fridays. I am not a big believer. You work so hard and you only have 11 games most years, sometimes 12; those are special and precious. The whole objective of recruiting, to me, is to get players in here so that they are on our team. I struggle with the concept of coaches leaving on Friday's and going out and watching prospects and not be around our team.
To me, the most important things we have are the players on our team. It is tough, because if you don't recruit, you are in trouble there, too. We tried to spend a portion of this week evaluating players on tape, making calls to coaches, trying to get information on that way and we are trying to get information and we will be out Friday afternoon and Friday night. To me, it's more important to get a lot done from home base other than we are not physically in a guys school. The efficiency of your time is not good. That might hurt us, but we will see.
Q: Is that why you went away from official visits this fall?
Yes. The upside is that they get to experience Kinnick and the environment; what a special environment that is. The way that our crowds react, that is a benefit. The downside is that we as coaches don't get to spend near as much time with them. I don't think they get an accurate picture of what a slice of life is for a student athlete here. It is more glamorous and exciting, but it's more of a glamorous portrayal. That may hurt us, too, because I know a lot of people have gone that direction for obvious reasons. But it's hard; as a coach you cannot spend quality time with prospects during a game week and I don't like that. That is not how we operate.
Q: What are your thoughts on the NCAA is moving towards a 12th game in the regular season?
It's only a matter of time. I think I am the lone ranger in the Big Ten…we talk about that at meetings all of the time. It just doesn't seem like there is much support from coaches on that. I think I might be the only dissenter or one of the few dissenters in the group on that (meaning, most Big Ten coaches don't want it, Kirk does).
All I care about is what our players think and feel, and every player that I have talked with on our football team, and I have not surveyed everybody, but I have surveyed the leadership group and the seniors; those guys like to play football games. They work so hard all year round, and if you have a chance to play 12 instead of 11, that is fun. As coaches, I enjoy every phase. Spring ball is great; it's pure teaching. But it's fun to do the game preps, because nobody calls you on game weeks, its beautiful. There is no bull crap stuff, so it's kind of nice. I think it's coming and I am in full support. I think it's a great thing. It's fun to play games…most of the time. Not all of the time.
Q: What would you say to canceling spring practice and playing a 13th game?
Catastrophic mistake. Spring ball is critical in college football. Teams and players change so much. Players change dramatically as they go from one year to the next and it's a great teaching period. When I was here in 1989, we had 20 days of spring practice, which was overkill. The way we have it now is excellent and it's very, very valuable.
OK, hopefully I will have some new stuff for you next Tuesday. Some good stuff.