Coach Ferentz: On The Side, Ohio State

The Hawkeyes will feature a pair of running backs not thought to be in this season's picture just a few months ago, when they face Ohio State on Saturday. Read what the head coach thinks about Marques Simmons and Damien Sims toting the ball, the impact his son Brian's return had on the O-Line and more in this weekly feature.

Do your tailbacks wear knee braces at all and have you considered that?

Nah. And I don't think that we will. I don't see that happening other than maybe guys that have had injuries and they're rehabbing. But once they get fully rehabbed, those come off. Most guys with ACL repairs will tell you that after the rehab is done that they're stonger than they were before.

How has Simmons practiced, and what are you expectations?

He's done well. Marques has practiced well since the beginning of camp. He practiced well in the spring. He's very conscientious and works extremely hard.

One thing about this when you hit bumps in the road because of injuries or whatever, it provides an opportunity for guys. Sometimes that can be a real neat thing. That's why the guy comes here. That's why anybody comes here to play in a game and do well.

We need some guys doing that on special teams as well. Those guys are a little more faceless, but we need guys taking advantage of those opportunities.

He described himself as a downhill runner. What does that mean?

He's not spending a lot of time reading. To me, if he sees a crack, he's going to try to hit it. That's more of his style of running where as Fred and Jermelle were going to read things out a little bit. Fred was extremely patient back there and kind of hid out because of his lack of height maybe.

Is he more humbled by having to walk on here after leaving Nebraska?

I don't think so. Our approach is that anybody that is on our football team they count. We treat everybody the same whether they're scholarship, transfers or the last walk-on on the roster. If the guy is willing to put the time in and dedicate the effort necessary we treat everybody the same.

I don't want to answer for him, but I don't think that he felt uncomfortable. I think our team accepted him very warmly. It's just been business, all business.

Did he call you right after he left Nebraska to express interest?

I can't even remember the sequence. He sat down with Coach Solich and it was a mutual thing. I think everybody knew he was leaving. It was just a matter of where he was going to go.

How is he at pass receiving?

Not bad. I wouldn't say great at this point. It's not a big part of his background. Albert Young was very natural at that, but he did a lot of that in high school. Marques hasn't done as much of that.

How about Sims? You've described him as a cool customer.

(laughs) I'm only laughing because I'm thinking about the first time that he gets nailed by a guy like (A.J.) Hawk or one of those guys. "Whew, they didn't have one of those in high school."

He's just excited. He's been that way since he's got here. He was that way when he came up on his recruiting visit. He's a very charasmatic, energetic guy. He practices that way. He loves being out on the football field.

It's probably good in some ways. What he doesn't know might be good, also.

Did he want to play?

Oh yeah. Are you kidding me? I haven't asked him, but he's probably mad at me because he isn't starting right now. That's kind of his attitude. Not in a bad way, he just likes to play.

You said he has quick feet. What does that do for a running back?

If there is a hole, it enables him to get there a little quicker, find the right one. He appears to me to have good vision and good feet. But again, that's practice. We'll see what happens.

Does he compare to anybody in the last few years?

I'll let you know when we see him go.

You make him seem like he's a loose cannon.

No. Not at all. I like him. I like his personality. He's a high-energy guy in a good way.

Did you find out about him through C.J. (Jones, his cousin)?

I don't think so. I think we were just looking hard at running backs. He appealed to us. I think we found out (about the family connection) after the fact.

Did you look at him as a running back all the way through?

Yeah. We thought that he had good feet and maybe could play somewhere else. But our intention recruiting him was for him to be a running back.

Does Tom Busch have a good feel for what he is doing?

He's gaining ground. He unfortunately missed significant time this spring. He missed some time in preseason. All that being said, he's really making progress. We're really pleased with what he's doing. He's a high-energy guy and a high-toughness guy.

Is it kind of awkward for him to carry the ball?

I don't know if we'd describe him as a natural at that position. That being said, we're not afraid to give it to him. He did a nice the last game with it.

Was he recruited as an athlete?

We took him as a LB. We really liked him as a linebacker. We also knew that he had a chance to be a fullback. Any time you recruit a player that has a couple of possibilities that's advantageous.

How can a team like Ohio State with their tradition lose two games in a row?

They have excellent players, but they don't have great experience right now. That's what I'm seeing right now. That's probably the biggest difference, the whole cohesiveness of the group. We're going through the same thing. We're not the most cohesive offense in the world. It's hard to lose that many good players even though if you have good ones coming, which they do. They had 14 guys drafted.

Are they not at the point where they can just plug players in?

They lost two games, but I don't know if I'd say that this is a trend yet. There's a lot of football left. I wouldn't be surprised if they standing right there near the top if not at the top when it's all said in done. I wouldn't write their obituary yet. They've got some talent.

Have you seen some things during the time off that your offense is starting to come around?

We're practiced fairly well. But it's not the same as playing. The most positive thing that we can do is play well and continue to take positive steps on Saturday. We've helped ourselves with the four workouts that we've had. Hopefully we have a good week this week. That's really going to be the key now.

How much has the return of Brian (Ferentz) meant to the offense in terms of stability and knowledge and experience and so forth?

It certainly helped the last time out. He's not an expert guard, but just to have a guy out there that's played some and had a little confidence. I'll give him credit for a lot of things, but one thing that he's really done is during the time that he's missed he's probably seeing things a little different light. He's been able to focus in the visual and the mental part. He's really improved his game from that standpoint even though he's lost ground in a lot of other areas.

Is Brian making calls?

Nah. Elgin is way smarter. I mean, that's not even a race. (laughs) You can blame that on genetics.

Is (Brian) the leader of the offensive line?

I don't know if he's the leader. But he probably has some intangibles just because of the experience. And he's been through some stuff now. He's got a little different perspective on things than he did a year ago.

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