Ferentz: Good Week of Practice

"It was good for us to have a bye week, I think that came at the right time for us, just like it did last year. We have been nicked up, and it gave us a chance to regroup and rest some guys. I think the guys did a good job with it overall, and now we are busy trying to prepare for Ohio State this weekend." - Kirk Ferentz. Read the rest of Kirk's comments from today's Big Ten Teleconference...

KIRK FERENTZ OPENING STATEMENT

It was good for us to have a bye week, I think that came at the right time for us, just like it did last year. We have been nicked up, and it gave us a chance to regroup and rest some guys. I think the guys did a good job with it overall, and now we are busy trying to prepare for Ohio State this weekend.

Q: Has it become harder to find high school players that are extraordinary pass rushers?

I don't have any scientific evidence, but I think it has always been hard to find those guys. To me, great pass rushers, great cover corners, great left tackles and great quarterbacks are pretty hard to find. It seems like there is more high school passing, so maybe quarterbacks and receivers come in a little better prepared now than in the past. Maybe the pass rushing element will catch up, because a lot of it is three step (drops) and shot gun. Maybe it is a lost art now, I don't know.

Q: The Big Ten has five teams ranked in the top 25 this week; what would it mean to league to have another team in the BCS title game?

To be honest, I have not given that much thought. I think that when it is all said and done, the chances are always good that the Big Ten will have two teams in the BCS. I haven't seen the polls yet, but I am not surprised we have five teams, and I would guess that when the end of November comes around, we will still have five teams in the top 20 and that we will have a couple that are BCS worthy; it seems to be that way every year.

Q: People tended to think the Big Ten was down this year, because everyone lost QB's…do things look fine now?

I am always laughing. The 2002 media luncheon, the sky was falling. There were no good quarterbacks in the league…I can't even remember the rest. I think there was one guy coming back that year, so it was a matter of ‘what is wrong with the Big Ten?'. I think we ended up with four teams in the top 13, two teams went through the league undefeated that year and played in BCS games and Ohio State won the title. That makes good talk, but the bottom line is that our conference is usually pretty tough, and from where I am sitting, it looks to be that way this year.

Q: What adjustments have the injuries caused you to make from the standpoint of how you play offense and defense?

(Laughing) Number one, we are afraid to practice. You get shell-shocked after a while. But you can't do that. Basically, there is not much you can do with injuries, and unfortunately we have had more than our share this year. Those things balance out over the years, I think, and the biggest adjustment we have had to make is that we have had our top three running backs go down. That is not something you can ever plan for, so you have to react the best you can. We don't have four former Parade All American running backs playing other positions here; we just don't have that. Our number four guy has moved up to #1 in Marques Simmons. Sam Brownlee is a tough, hard nosed walk on guy from Emmetsburg, home of famous walk ons from Iowa, as you had Bruce Nelson and Grant Steen, a four year starter and a three year starter, both walk ons. So maybe there is a little Emmetsburg magic left here for Sam. And the only big thing we will do is take the redshirt off of Damian Sims, who is a true freshman.

Q: How many guys who would not have been able to play last week, will or might play this week as a result of the bye?

Oh, we will probably have a couple, but that being said, we lost a couple of players last Tuesday. Jonathon Zanders, who is a backup safety and a special teams player, fractured his clavicle, and we lost somebody else, too. It has given some guys a chance to gain ground. I don't know if they will be ready this week, but we didn't waste a week where guys couldn't have played for sure.

Q: Is it media types who believe that you might not want to see an opponent lose a couple of games in a row before coming into your game, or is there anything to that?

I don't spend much time worrying about that, because needless to say, I had no control over what happened last weekend. I think people sit around and say ‘it would be good if they won by 40' and that kind of stuff, but I don't spend too much time thinking about that, because I have no bearing on that.

Q: You have talked a lot about offensive line cohesion this year, or lack there of, for your team. During the bye week, did you take steps in the right direction?

I told the team Sunday that I felt we practiced well through the bye, so I was pleased by that. Bye weeks have not always worked out to be the best things, that is probably from personal experience and is probably true in football, but we did some things this last week maybe to become a little better football team. Because as you know, we really need that because we are so young and inexperienced right now. So any chance to teach and practice is good for our team.

With Drew Tate being from Texas, and not the biggest player, are there any similarities to Drew Brees?

I hope in the there are. I think they wear the same number…I think…I am not very good with that stuff. They are both from Texas, they are both under 6-2, both like to throw the football. I don't know what Brees did in high school, but I assume he threw the heck out of it. Our Drew grew up throwing the football in high school and has some savvy. They both have a good head for being a quarterback. He is a competitive guy and a tough guy, but all that being said, he is a young player. He is making some mistakes, but the good news is that he learns from them and takes pride in trying to improve his performance.

Q: Does having to take the redshirt off Sims cause you to change your thoughts on the five years of eligibility proposal?

I still haven't given it much thought. I need more information on it. Right now, for the next six weeks, that one will be down my list of priorities to give thought to. The little bit that I know about it, there are some positives and some negatives. I am not worrying about it right now, because it's not going to help our situation.

Q: Given that you will undergo some stadium renovations this offseason, have you given any thought given to artificial turf over grass, and what are your thoughts on the artificial turf?

Yes, there is consideration, because they are going to go to work right after our last ballgame. I think like that evening or afternoon. Other schools in our conference have gone through the same thing. It's going to be a sprint just to get the south endzone ready for the next season. The concern from our end is that there will be a lot of heavy equipment out there on the playing field, then the next question is can we get our grass in good enough shape. Our field has been in pretty good shape the last couple of years and we owe it to all of our players and to everyone in the conference to make sure that we have a great, playable surface, so if that is in question, artificial surface becomes a realistic consideration. Our experience on it has been fantastic. We practiced on it down at the Alamo Bowl in 2001 and we played on it at Nebraska in 2000. Both our indoor and outdoor practice facilities have the same stuff and I think it's a fantastic product, way better than what we had years ago.

Q: Would you rather have grass?

I am old fashioned, so what is better than a great football game or baseball game on a beautiful field. But that being said, it's really a challenge to maintain a great field in this part of the country, and then couple that with our challenges with the stadium construction. With the new surface, you have a very viable alternative. The old surface was tough to deal with. The NFL Players Association last year ranked Seattle's field (that has the new breed of fake turf) third best out of 32. NFL players hate everything, so for them to say that was a good product, that was a pretty good endorsement.


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