Q: Has there been anything sad, I know Greenway's really good at putting stuff up in the locker room, I know Dennis Dodd had you number 2 or 3, I can't remember which, anybody say anything that stuck?
Kirk Ferentz: Not really, no. I remember the Greenway quote, I think players draw on stuff if there's something good but I haven't heard any juicy stuff this year. That stuff about Greenway was true anyway, I don't know what he was so upset about. (laughs)
Q: Might we see some rotation at running back or are you looking to find a solid number one?
Ferentz: Right now we'd be happy if everybody's healthy and playing well. We really don't know where it's going, that's part of August too, to find out where we're at, who's healthy, who can do what. All the guys bring a little something different to the game. I think a real positive right now, the three guys that practiced in the spring all made great improvement, Marques (Simmons), Sam (Brownlee) and Damian (Sims), they really made strides. The bad news was that we didn't have Marcus Schnoor, or Albert (Young) out there but the good news there is that both of those guys have demonstrated to us, we had good confidence. Going into last year we really thought they knew how to play, understood the system, knew what they were doing, they were dependable guys.
In their case, it's really more a matter of getting their confidence back, moving full speed, obviously they have to get reads down and all those things. The good news there is we're not coming from ground zero with either one of them. Based on two practices, they both look like they're ready to go. They're not ready to play yet, but I don't think it's going to be a big project. The good thing out of all this is that we're going to have some tough decisions to make, that would be wonderful. Last year wasn't tough at all, it was "Whoever's healthy, you're playing", pretty simple, even if you don't want to. (Laughs) Which I think happened a time or two.
Q: Can you say with plausible confidence that you're not going to be 117th in the nation in the run?
Ferentz: We're confident we'll be in the top 100 this year, we really feel good about that. (Laughs) I'm making a big prediction there, you guys like predictions, right? I'll go with that one.
Q: Preseason big ten, do your players have any type of ideas as far as being behind Michigan and Ohio State?
Ferentz: As I said last week, I think both those teams belong, they're noteworthy. The team that should have been mentioned, in my opinion, I don't know who's 1, 2, and 3, if I was handicapping 3 I'd pick the two favorites plus Purdue. If you look at Purdue's ball club, not only how many players they have back, sometimes that's a bad thing if you have too many guys back from the year before, but they've got a lot of excellent football players back. If you look closely at Purdue they've lost 5 games I think it is by 12 points. The game I'd point out is that Wisconsin ball game, an unusual end to say the least. The way that thing ended up, if that had gone the other way I think Purdue would be the one maybe that was knocking on the door in November, instead of Wisconsin, with all due respect. That's funny how a season goes sometimes, sometimes you go back and look at one play and how it can impact your football team. I think they were extremely close last year which was amazing, I think they had 6, 7, 8 guys drafted off their defense from the year before and they played like that last year. You factor in their schedule with the guys they've got coming back, I really think they've got as good a chance as anybody to win the league. Ohio State, Michigan, what can you say? The Ohio State team we saw in Kinnick last year, don't count on them being the team we play this year. The team we saw at the end of the year, pretty good.
Q: Do the players take that to heart at all, taking an underdog role?
Ferentz: No, I mean again, we're one team of (many). I think Penn State is going to have an excellent football team. You talk about the luck of the draw, they're going to be a tough out, they had as good a defense as anybody last year, they're very veteran on offense this year, something they haven't really been. I really think they have a chance to have a great year too, Wisconsin, Minnesota. We still haven't tackled Maroney, I don't think. You go right down the list, I don't see any easy games out there. Northwestern against Ohio State last year, you look at our road trips, forget it. Every one of them starting with the trip to Ames, we start out there, then go up to Wisconsin for Barry Alvarez day. Luck of the draw, right? They just haven't decided if they're going to give him his car before the game or at halftime, that's the only big decision still to be made.
Q: Can you tell us what's it been like your son, how'd his health?
Ferentz: First of all, he's doing great, thank you, it's the first time he's had a full year since his freshman year where he's able to train and practice, all these things. It's been great. I've been very very fortunate, and fortunately I don't coach him, so that helps too, because that wouldn't work. I think it's been fun for me, you'd have to ask him if it's been fun for him, it's been great.
Q: (On the overall strength of Big Ten QBs, and his confidence in the secondary)
Ferentz: I think it's the first time we've ever had two guys at corner. We've had two guys that have played a lot of football out there, so that helps. There's a lot to be said for experience, especially with good players, and we consider both of those guys to be good players, so that certainly helps. Our big question marks, our inexperience is in the front. I think all the other collective parts, the way Ed Miles played in the spring, I think we have a chance to be pretty strong at all three linebacker positions. It's still a team game and having those parts in place will help us up front, it all goes together.
Q: The way last season ended with the big play to (Warren) Holloway, such an exciting finish to the season, how do you spin that, use that momentum to start this season?
Ferentz: First thing I learned, I learned in 1981, just how tough it is to lose a bowl game, it kind of sits with you for about 8 months, so that's no fun. The next year we went down to Atlanta and beat Tennessee and we learned from that experience how good it is to win a bowl game. It really changes your outlook, you just feel better about everything, I think everybody's a little more optimistic and positive from that standpoint. The biggest thing, I think and I've told our team this, the LSU game certainly the last plays was one of those memorable plays. But I think people lose sight of the fact that our guys, what an exception effort they had to give for 58+ minutes, to be in position for that play to happen. We beat an excellent team, they're very well coaches, it was really a hell of an effort by everybody to make that a football game. Those guys are really a heck of a team and I think they're one of the top ranked teams and rightfully so. This year they should be, they've got a lot of people coming back. If that quarterback plays like they did that last quarter, they're going to be a team you're not wanting to face too many times.
Q: What is your take on some of the BCS changes?
Ferentz: I'm not really sure what they are, I don't mean to be a smart alec. I don't think they did change anything, did they or didn't they, I don't know?
Q: The Harris Poll.
Ferentz: The Harris Poll, okay. Polls are polls. (Laughs) You know? I don't know.
Q: It comes out in October as opposed to July 31st.
Ferentz: I don't really worry too much about that stuff. If our team does OK, we'll probably get what we deserve, that's how I look at it. If we end up being the odd man out at #3, we probably won't be too happy about that, but on the other hand, let's not worry too much about that. The third team ended up winning the championship two years ago, right? Southern Cal is claiming that one, so the third team's not all bad if you win your bowl game. I'll think about that, alright.
Q: The last three years you've been the surprise team. Before the 2002 season, the coaches had a pretty good feeling. Is that feeling at all like this year?
Ferentz: This is probably more like 2003, if you were ranking the feelings at least. It sounds like a song, BJ Thomas, is that the guy's name, do you remember that song? Anyway, we really felt pretty good in 2002, the big question was the quarterback. None of us were smart enough to know that Brad (Banks) was going to go on and play like he did, but he did and that really gave us a great boost. I mean overall, we just felt pretty good, it was a group that had grown, they were doing a lot of great things. We felt pretty good about it, the last two years we've had a few more projects to work on, that type of thing. This one's maybe a little closer to 2002, I wouldn't rank it up there yet, we can't until the season's over. At least our apparent areas of concern, lack of experience, maybe aren't as great as they've been the last two years. I don't know how you factor all this stuff. We've got a quarterback this year, we didn't any of the previous three years, but all in all, we feel like we have a chance. But then you look at our schedule. Like 2002, we had to go up to Penn State, they weren't bad, we had to go up to Michigan, they weren't bad, both those teams end up in the top 13. If you're going to have that kind of year, you're going to have to do things like that. You play in the Big Ten, you play in any of the major conferences, unless you just get a lucky draw, that's how it's going to be, you're going to have to get it done. That's why you play the season, right now we're all talking. As everybody knows, a lot of things can happen as we saw last year, that really alter the way the season's going to look, injuries have a big part to do with that.
Q: How about the contribution of your sophomore class?
Ferentz: We're going to call upon them, especially on the defensive side. Not only in the starting role, because I'm sure are we going to have some of those guys starting. A guy I'm going to single out, Mike Klinkenborg, who we have great confidence in, he had some injury problems last year, he had a tremendous spring, he's playing behind the two wrong guys in Abdul and Chad, but we think he's a pretty good football player. We have some guys in there, that's going to be important, because we're going to graduate guys, some of the guys are going to have to play a key role this year.
Q: Any chance you might mix in some 3-4 defense, having experienced linebackers and a young defensive line?
Ferentz: We dabbled with it, but only with teams that come out with the 4 our 5 wide outs, that type of thing. I think the first time we did it was Texas Tech. We'll probably keep it in that regard, but there are teams in the NFL that do that. I can think of one team in our conference that did a little bit of it last year, that really goes against our philosophy. There are so many adjustments, if you start changing what you're doing, I think what you gain sometimes you lose a lot more, just because of all the adjustments, all the things you have to do. It's easier said than done. You have guys, 9 months a year like the professionals do, that might be a little different story, the same players playing the same positions. It's a dangerous move in college. We don't plan on doing it, to answer your question, sorry. Deviated a little bit there.
Q: Can you compare and contrast the concept of rebuilding your defensive front versus rebuilding a different group, and what your timeline is in terms of how important it is to get them to a point that they need to be?
Ferentz: Hopefully, we're ready in September, because we've got a ballgame on the third. That's not going to change. Probably the best comparison I can give you is in 2003 with our offensive line. I think any time you're talking about interior players, you're talking about not only knowing what to do, but the physical aspect of it, it's pretty demanding in there. Our guys have a certain role to play up front, takes time. We're not going know until we get out there against top competition, and that's going to happen as soon as September, we're going to have that opportunity to see how we measure up. Again I think back in the spring, I think our guys really elevated their play a notch. It wasn't real pretty the first half or two thirds of practice, but the last third I think the last third they really started to get the hang, a little better with their technique and competed a little bit better. We're going to see an awful lot of good, big physical offensive lines, so we're going to have to be ready.
Q: How much pressure does that put on the linebackers?
Ferentz: Well, if the guys up front don't do their job, it's really tough to play linebacker the way you want to play it. The way we're built, our linebackers make a lot of tackles, most defenses that's true. If our guys can't get that job done up front, it's going to put a lot of pressure on them, they're not going to be able to perform the way they should be or can.
Q: (On having Coach Parker since he began at Iowa)
Ferentz: I think it's true with Norm, a great football coach, a great guy. I think it's true with our whole staff, we really have not had much turnover, we've had four changes on our staff, and just like in the 80s, I learned in the 80s how valuable that is. Especially at a school like Iowa, we haven't had 18 straight years of top recruiting classes like some people we play against. The more continuity we have, most important is having good people, and I think we have that. I can say the same about Ken (O'Keefe). For us to be Big Ten Co-Champs with a team that ranked 116th or 117th running the football, it's not much fun to draw up a game plan in that kind of circumstance. Yet our guys found a way to get it done. Our coaches have really done a great job there, I never underestimate that, I assure you. I really consider ourselves very fortunate in that regard.