Q: Are you learning more about your defensive line than you have probably the last few years, because that's the obvious spot for concern?
Kirk Ferentz: It is. I think the one obvious thing is that we're going to be young no matter who ends up playing for us, it's a very young group. There's good things and bad things there. We'll go through an adjustment period early like we did with the offensive line in 2003, and I think we went through the same thing, whatever year it was, 2001. I think once those guys get their feet on the ground they'll be fine. Ron (Aiken)'s an excellent teacher, I think we've got an able and willing group of guys, and some pretty good players around them. It's not like they'll have to hold the fort totally, we'll have to play great team defense, I'm real confident that's going to work out. As long as we can keep guys healthy, again, that's the big factor.
Q: Is this going to change the way you guys do things, except maybe the rotation?
Ferentz: I don't think so, we're not talking about it at this point as far as blitzing more or being more active. Our plan is to keep playing, we're comfortable with our scheme, our coaches do a great job of coaching it. I don't see any radical changes on the horizon, I really don't.
Q: Did you ever worry that Chad (Greenway) or Abdul (Hodge) were going to leave early?
Ferentz: Not overall. I communicate with those guys not infrequently. We had a conversation about it as much as a year ago and they never gave me any indication that was on their mind. We've had two players leave when they could have come back. In both those cases, Dallas (Clark) and Fred (Russell) were both a year older, and it was kind of a natural progression for them when you talk to them. When you look at Robert (Gallery), it was pretty much said and done that Robert was coming back when he could have left. I think Chad and Abdul are those kind of guys who feel like they still have some unfinished business. They realize they can improve an awful lot as players, and they can. That's where their focus is, they really want to try and elevate themselves, but they want to do it in a team framework, and obviously I appreciate that.
Q: Have you guys heard any more on the medical (red shirts)?
Ferentz: Not yet, no.
Q: The offensive line situation, is that pretty fluid? Brian (Ferentz) maybe working at center, has Mike Jones kind of been ticketed for tackle?
Ferentz: We're going to start him out out there, that's the plan. We're going to play around with different combinations, look at some things. We're going to try and find our best five first, and then find out what their best positions are. I think it's going to be fun, again if we can keep people healthy every practice, it'll be fun to watch those guys. Our numbers are a little better than they have been. I think one thing we did with both those groups and through recruiting, if things pan out and we're pretty right on with our evaluations, in the fall we should have a good group of young players on both sides of the ball. Hopefully we've laid a good foundation for both lines, not only for next year, but it'll be able to carry over for a few years.
Q: Who are you looking at medical red shirts for?
Ferentz: (David) Walker's one, Albert (Young)'s one.
Ferentz: Yeah, I think that one's probably a long shot. I think David and Albert have the most legitimate cases of everybody. Marcus' I'm not as optimistic on.
Q: Why is that, he was the first one to go down?
Ferentz: I'm not an expert, but he's had one injury, basically, where the other guys have had multiple injuries. We'll throw it in there, it doesn't hurt to ask, you know? In David's case, 17 plays, then Albert, back to back injuries. That's such a long way off for Albert, six years. I think in David's case it's pretty pertinent.
Q: What about Jermelle?
Ferentz: I think that's a done deal.
Q: What are some realistic expectations for Albert Young, two injuries, two years, running back leg injuries. Have you guys kind of counseled him, brought him along mentally?
Ferentz: I think he's doing fine. The first injury's just one of those injuries, they happen, it's a little bit of a freak thing, no residual effect at all. I think again, fortunately with is ACL, those are very repairable, and the rehab's going well, everything's in good shape. If we were in season, maybe you'd play him right now, I don't know. We're not in season, so I think it would be silly. Our goal with the guys who have had surgery is "Lets make sure they're all 100% on June 1st when the summer program starts, give them every opportunity to have a good year next year." We'll probably do some things with them, throw balls to them, things like that. The thing he has going for him right now is that he's had two years in the system. He's gotten a lot of work, maybe not as much a year ago, but this past year, past spring, past summer, he's gotten a lot of work. He won't be like a freshman from that standpoint, this will be his third year on campus, so we're hoping he can step in and play.
Q: Is (David) Walker back to full speed?
Ferentz: Yeah, he seems to be doing well. We haven't blocked anybody obviously, but the out of season program is going well, now the big thing is just for him to move forward. It'll be good to get him on the field again.
Q: Bradley Fletcher is a name that's popped there at corner. It's a little different for you guys with a guy with size. What's he shown you?
Ferentz: Yeah, lets hope he can stay out there. We tease him about it a bit, maybe he's too big to play corner for us, breaking the mold. He's still a young guy, he did a nice job last year on the scout team, and did a great job in the December practices. A lot to learn, but this will be a big spring for him, certainly.
Q: What do you say to Iowa fans who expect nothing (less) than ten victories this year?
Ferentz: (Laughs) I hope they're right. It's like every year, right now high expectations are natural and great and all that. We haven't won a game yet this season we've got a lot of work. As I think we all found out last year, a lot of things can happen during the course of the season. That's about as vivid an illustration as you can get. I think our challenge is just to focus on what's in front of us, right now that's having a good spring practice, period. If we get through the phase, then we'll start thinking about the summer, and that type of thing. It's just like last season, our team just needs to worry about what's in front of them, in the immediate future. Realize that if we're going to have any chance at all, there are a lot of good football teams in our conference and on our schedule, if we're going to have a chance, we're going to have to go about our routine; we saw that last year.
Q: Any change in the level of excitement in fans, just around town?
Ferentz: The decibel level's been pretty good around town the last couple years, and it seems to be growing. I don't mean this in a negative way, but I'm not sure everybody understands or appreciates just how hard winning can be. Certainly last year we had our work cut out for us; that was hardly a routine day at work, let alone a whole season. It's an illustration of just how hard it is, things had to fall right for us last year for it to work out the way it did.
Q: Is that part of what you're selling your team right now? You guys always talk about mountains and rocks, now it's a mountain of people telling you how great you are.
Ferentz: It's a little different, and there's always a great illustration when you look at the NCAA tournament. A couple teams that, not that I have a bracket, a couple teams that maybe under estimated or didn't appreciate their opponents early. It's nice that it (the NCAA tournament) always times up with our starting spring practice. That's a great visual aid to draw upon. There's nothing routine, there's nothing automatic when it comes to athletics, especially this day and age.
Q: Do you ever bring out game tape from 1999 to give your team that perspective?
Ferentz: I've never thought about that. I don't know if I have the stomach for it quite honestly. (Laughs) All we have to do is go back to last September, that's about as thorough of a kicking as you can take. Apparently we needed it, it worked.
Q: Do you reflect back to that point, to think just how amazing it was to achieve what you guys did?
Ferentz: Oh yeah, all the time. We were underdogs 6 out of the last 8 games, and deservedly so, it was just that kind of season, that kind of team. The beating we took down there, we earned it, they were waiting for us, they gave us a good one. In retrospect, maybe that's what we needed, to get us in gear a little bit, I think it served its purpose. Oh yeah, I reflect on that all the time.
Q: Is Brock Ita practicing?
Ferentz: Yes, he will be, he should be 100%. He has been during the out of season program.
Q: How's Norm doing?
Ferentz: He's finally had a chance to catch up now, he really didn't until after the bowl game. He's ornery and ready to go, he's ready to go.