Q: What did you see in the guys right away, I know there's a mentality linebackers have to have.
Kirk Ferentz: A total contrast to me, that's what I saw, which is good news. Players like me get coaches fired. They're different yet they're similar. Abdul is a middle linebacker, he wasn't the biggest strongest guy when he got here, but he's grown into that, worked hard to get into that situation. He just knows how to play that position, he's got the instincts I guess, some guys just have some savvy and he's got it and he's got the leadership skills necessary. Chad was a little bit more of a project, Abdul really knew how to play the position, not that he hasn't improved. Chad is a wildcard, being a safety/cornerback, and he's an athlete that's learned how to play linebacker, and is still learning.
Q: Most of the linebackers you've had, going back to Fred (Barr), he played LB all the way through little league football. Chad's the exception to the rule, he picks it up in college, was that behind the curve for you for a while, he's still learning?
Ferentz: He is, the great thing about him, the mistakes he makes, he can make up for them, cover up for them with his athleticism. We've had the discussion on him. If we had three of him, we'd have one where he's playing right now, one at outside linebacker, and one at tight end, and he might be all conference at all three positions. I think he's got that kind of ability and athleticism. I still think the most outstanding thing about him is his attitude, his energy, both these guys, they just can't wait for Saturday, they love the competition.
Q: How do you prepare for AJ Hawk, talk a little bit about what he brings to a defense.
Ferentz: He's an excellent linebacker too. We're talking about three top quality players there. I think he made not quite every tackle two years ago, but maybe about 90% of them over in Columbus. He certainly had a great season also as a sophomore. I don't think there's any one thing you can do, you just need to take players like that into account. Especially with linebackers it's hard, they're in the thick of things, so there's not alot you can do other than make your players aware that we can't let this guy run unblocked, we've got to try and get a body on him.
Q: Do you sense there's a healthy kind of rivalry?
Ferentz: No, I don't. I don't think so, there may be. They've let their play speak for themselves, and they've done a pretty good job of that for two year, as has AJ Hawk, and rightfully so. To me, conceiveably, if I saw an All-American team that had all three of those guys on it, everyone would cry it was a homer publication probably but it would be very valid. I can't imagine there are many linebackers better than those three in the country.
Q: You haven't talk alot about Ed Miles, has he taken that next step, the progression?
Ferentz: I talked about Mike Jones a little while back, I think Ed did the same thing. I think Ed has flashed during his career, but this has been by far the most consistent stretch of practice he's had, which to me is maturity, concentration, those kinds of things. I think maybe he's found himself a bit as a football player. He really had a nice spring, which is encouraging for us.
Q: What do you think about next year, going to the 12 game schedule?
Ferentz: I have been in favor of twelve games all along. We met as coaches in May. Our preference is to put that 12th game at the front end and not eliminate the bye week. I think the bye week is extremely important. I know some conferences like to play after THanksgiving, as a conference we don't necessarily feel that way, none of us are in favor of that, I think that's important for the players to get out of town, off campus. I think all of our players have that same sense. They would all rather come in earlier, they don't mind that at all. Take their thanksgiving break, they'd really object to that. They all like the bye week as well, I think coaches do as well, it's a nice thing to have.
Q: Do you guys have that spot filled for next year yet, a preference?
Ferentz: I don't think we do. I still think we're trying to merge with the MAC, that's my understanding. (laughs) Possibly maybe Missouri, we'll check with them, see if they want to play a 12th game.
Q: I'm sure they would. Maybe not football.
Ferentz: We'd be happy to play their baseball team. Maybe they'd come up.