Kirk Ferentz:First of all, thanks for being here. This is always a festive occasion for all of us. I want to start out by congratulating our players and their families. As of right now we've got eight guys that have opportunities and a couple more, I think in the works. It's an exciting weekend for all of them, they've been very anxious since we got back from Florida and the bowl game. They've been working extremely hard, it's really a great occasion for them, a very exciting time, again very very pleased for them.
It's also a big positive for our program, any time our guys get an opportunity to continue playing, it's exciting for all of us involved. Certainly as I've said every year, it starts with recruiting, we always make sure we emphasize to our players that the most significant thing they're going to do on campus is get their degree, and it holds true.
That being said, that's a lifetime investment, that's something they'll have the rest of their lives, whereas football is a pretty fickle way to make a living, both as a player and coach. To get that degree is first and foremost. Our guys have done a great job in the classroom, that way, but it is exciting for them to have an opportunity to extend their careers a little bit. In some cases it's going to be a great, great opportunity for them.
We're happy about that, it's great for the program, I think we're second in the Big Ten over the last three years in players drafted. We're excited about that, that's appealing to recruits, and I think more importantly it maybe gives the guys in our program more incentive to continue to work hard. It's been proven that our guys do get visibility and they have an opportunity to go on and continue to play if they do well within the framework of things.
I also want to give credit to Chris Doyle and his staff, they do a fantastic job. I think it's been well documented, you can talk to our players about that and they'll all tell you the same thing. Chris and those guys really go above and beyond once their eligibility's over. When they get back in here in January, they start to prepare for the combine, prepare for the all-star games, pro day, what have you, ultimately preparing to get into a camp and do well. Chris and his staff do a great job. All that being said, I'm just really pleased.
It was a long day Saturday I'm sure, for our players more so than anybody. That draft seems to go longer and longer, I think they did say it was the longest one ever, at least the first day, at least it seemed like it. It was fun to watch the guys as their names came across, see them get their opportunities, going into some different situations.
You look at Matt (Roth) going down to Miami, he's joining an excellent head coach in Nick Saban, they're going to go through the rebuilding process just like Matt did when he came here. You look at Jonathan (Babineaux) and Sean (Considine)'s situation, the next two guys that got drafted. I think the one parallel they both have is they're going to places that have great quarterbacks and excellent programs. They're going to have excellent opportunities to play in the post season which is really a nice thing. You look at Sean's case, I think it's excellent that he's got established players in front of him, he'll go in and do a great job on special teams, have a chance to learn from excellent players, and learn in one of the better managed systems in the NFL, a great opportunity there. Jonathan the same way, I think he'll be a great fit with Atlanta.
Then with the last two guys that got drafted yesterday with Tony (Jackson) and Pete (McMahon), it was exciting for them to get picked. Tony's situation, they're looking at him as an H-Back, fullback out in Seattle. A lot of people had interest in Tony for that role, fullbacks and H-backs are tough to find. Pete's being reunited out there with Robert, I think that's a great situation for him.
The free agents as well, so all in all, we're very excited, it's been an exciting couple days for these guys. They'll come back to ground level now and the most important thing is what they from this point on. I think they understand that once you get to the camp, if you're not a first rounder, sometimes a second rounder, everybody's got an equal shot. I've told our guys the great thing about the NFL right now, younger players have a better opportunity right now than they have had at any other time in history. All they've got to do is go in and work hard, if they do that, they'll be fine.
Q: Younger players have better opportunities because of the salary situation?
Ferentz: I think so, yeah. If you look at it now, first of all younger players are cheaper, that's a real benefit, and a big factor now in the NFL. That process kind of began in 1993, if you look over the last 4 or 5 years, it really has become paramount. I think all the guys, in every situation with the free agents Derreck (Robinson), Tyler (Luebke), and George (Lewis) they look at their situation, they're going into situations where there's truly going to be an opportunity for them to compete. Basically if you're in a camp, the numbers are small enough now, if you do well enough they're going to find you. The good thing about the league is that if you get on tape in the exhibition games, you may not make it in your given place, but if you do well enough, somebody's going to find you. It's all about people filling out their rosters, the bottom line, I've told out guys, if they perform well, in time, somebody's going to notice.
Q: How much of the draft did you watch?
Ferentz: I watched a lot of it Saturday, which was fun. I was traveling a little bit yesterday, so I missed a lot of it. Saturday I watched the better part of it. Yeah, it was long. (Laughs).
Q: Were you trying to remember when you were in those situations?
Ferentz: Yes and no. If you're inside the draft room, which in Baltimore the last three years I was. It's really an intriguing process, because you're listening to all the things that are going on, you're watching all the things the other teams are doing, you're trying to anticipate what moves you make. The first three years in Cleveland, I wasn't in the draft room, and it was a long day. You'd go down, get a workout, just make sure you stay somewhere they can grab you if they need you. Otherwise, if you're not involved in the behind the scenes stuff, it's a pretty long, boring day actually. It's really kind of empty at the end, because you realize all the man hours that gets spent, all the money that gets spent on the scouting, the combine, all those things. Then you look up on the board, you might have six names, you might have five, you might have 10, that would be a lot. It's like, "Hey, where's the rest of them?". It's a little different.
Q: Did any teams call you on Saturday?
Ferentz: I talked to Phil Savage, I called him on Friday night to wish him luck, I left him a voicemail. He called on Saturday morning and pretty much said that they were going to take Braylon Edwards if they had the opportunity. He wanted to make sure, just reconfirm his thoughts and their thoughts and wanted to know what I thought about him. Then he asked about one of our players who if it'd worked out, they would have gone on him. There are so many things at play, but I think the guy they were looking at was taken by the time their pick came up. I think the guy that they were looking at was taken by the time their pick came up, so that didn't happen. He's the only guy I talked to. I've talked to several people the last two weeks just specifically about some of our guys. It worked out that one of our guys went to one of those teams, so you never know, they like our players, you never know.
Q: The depth of the investigation into players, how much has that changed since you've been a head coach?
Ferentz: My first experience was 1993. I don't think it's changed dramatically, maybe they're doing a little bit more character/background type of things. The reasons are obvious. Especially the top round picks, the investment is so great, you'd sure had to have any surprises That's probably the one thing I've noticed. The last couple years we've gotten some calls, some teams have sent people into town to do some background checks on some of our players. We've gotten some calls, not so much about the football aspect, but NFL security people calling to make sure they get all their facts straight, that type of thing. They're doing their homework for obvious reasons, it's a big investment time for them. We talked about the combine last time we were together, just how much work gets done at that combine. It's kind of a dehumanizing period for the players to go through. It's a good introduction to the NFL, sometimes it's a little bit dehumanizing to be an NFL player, too. Or a coach.
Q: You guys have had 5 walk-ons drafted in the last 3 years. Do you use that, maybe let them know "You could be the next Sean Considine"?
Ferentz: We certainly do, the first thing we point out to walk-ons are just how many guys have played for us on the field at Kinnick, which is really what we're most concerned about, them reaching Kinnick and being able to help the team win. Then a nice byproduct of that, you mentioned, five guys drafted now. We knew coming into this season, I made a comment back in the summertime, how much trouble would we have been in last year if it weren't for Sean, Pete, and Tyler? They were three guys that were critical to our success who came here basically because they wanted to, without scholarship, and did a great job. You just got back through recent years, you look at Dallas (Clark), you look at Derek (Pagel), right on through Bruce Nelson, it's really amazing. I think the credit, like all of it here, goes to our players because these guys have all come in with a dream and all that, but they've been willing to work towards that dream, they've really paid a price, they've been disciplined. They've worked hard on the field, with Chris Doyle, they've done a great job of learning how to become better players, done a great job in the classroom as well. To me, those are really great stories.
Q: Matt Roth came in as a linebacker, when did you settle on defensive end?
Ferentz: Pretty much when we realized he didn't like to (drop into pass coverage). That was pretty obvious to us. If every play was a run play, he'd be an all-american linebacker. Anytime the offense wanted to throw the football, Matt was still more interested in attacking the front. It was really obvious to us, combine that with his growth potential, we felt like his best strength was going to be to put his hand on the ground, just let him be and attacking player. As you know, that really worked out well for him, that's what he excels at, he's extremely explosive, very relentless, very tough and physical. There's no question in my mind he'll do extremely well. Not to just pick out one game, but that last game we played in Kinnick last year, to me the two most impact players on the field that night were Matt and Jonathan Babineaux, I thought those two guys above anybody else. I'd probably rank Drew (Tate) number three on that list, as far impacting the game. That was a pretty big game, and I told NFL people, that's about as big as it gets in the Big Ten. The kind of impact those guys had on the football game, they were just so disruptive, we start off with two turnovers right off the bat, I think they came away with three points. It was a big, big thing. I just think both of those guys have a great future in the NFL.
Q: One thing, following the draft with Matt and Jonathan, what kind of players do you think they'll be, 3-4 vs. 4-3, that kind of thing?
Ferentz: That was a sticking point a lot of people struggled in the fall with, where they fit, size wise. I think Matt, to me, he's a 4-3 defensive end, an outside shot at a outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. I really think the best thing he does is put his hand on the ground and attack people, I'm sure that's what Miami's going to do, I don't think they have any plans of going to a 3-4. Jonathan was a little different discussion. I know some people were looking at him as an outside linebacker. There were some guys that have made that transformation, a guy like Teddy Bruschi jumps to mind, who was a defensive end in Arizona, then ended up playing on his feet and having a great career. There's some talk about that, there's some talk of him playing inside, a lot of talk of him playing outside, and maybe even some talk about him playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. I think with his athleticism and his style of play, I think he's a guys that can fit in a lot of places. Ed Donatell, the coordinator from Atlanta came up, who had coached Aaron Kampman up in Green Bay, by the way. Ed spent a lot of time on campus during our pro day, he stayed a little bit longer, he'd really done his homework on our guys, so I think he had a good feel. I haven't seen those guys on TV a lot, but just reading about it, sounds like Jonathan's going to be a good fit, they're not necessarily looking for a 320 pound guy, which Jonathan will never been, to play inside. You guys know James Jones, obviously, I've told people Jonathan reminds me a lot of James Jones. That's a pretty complimentary thing to say, James was a true pro, he had a great career on the field, but a true pro.
Q: Any parting advice you give to these guys as they're departing?
Ferentz: Don't take anything personally, first of all. Basically what they've done is work hard, work extremely hard, do they best they can do, and expect some highs and lows, they're going to go through some. Not every day is going to be perfect, they're going to have some steps backwards, just like they did here, especially as younger players. They've all got great ability, they've all got great work ethic, and if they just keep doing the things that made them successful here. It's really not that much different, the big thing is to not take things personally, realize there's a business aspect to it. Realize too, there's a lot of opportunity, there's 32 teams out there, if it doesn't work with one, there's a chance it may work somewhere else. The bottom line is, all you can do is your best. Give your best effort, prepare, give it your best shot, and I think all of them have done that to this point. It was recognized over the weekend, that's a continuing filter process, but they've just go to keep giving it their best shot. If they can go to bed at night knowing they've done that, then you live with the results.