Kirk on the Side for 8/15

Kirk Ferentz met with the Iowa Media on Monday following the first week of team practice. In his more candid 'On the Side' report, Ferentz gives a rundown of the latest going on in Iowa City...

To listen to this interview with Kirk Ferentz, CLICK HERE

Q: (On Terrell Owens' contract gripes)

Ferentz: ... a shorter contract, you take a smaller bonus. First graders know that.

Q: Could you handle a player like that on a daily basis?

Ferentz: You do whatever you have to do, but would I want to? (Laughs)

Q: Have you ever had to call a player by his nickname, like TO? Some guys it's a natural thing, but this one's kind of a pain in the ass.

Ferentz: That's a demand you mean?

Q: Not really. "I prefer you call me this"

Ferentz: I've never had those kind of guys. Let's not even talk about this guy. He's a hell of a player, I will say that, he's one heck of a player, can't deny that.

Q: That's probably the only reason he's still in this situation, I'd assume. Offensive linemen don't make enough money to get that.

Ferentz: Ogden did. He was a delight to coach. The bottom line is, (Terrell Owens) isn't going to win. They've got all the cards, and he knew that a year ago when he signed that contract, that's just how it works. He is not going to win that battle, I'll make that prediction. Unfortunately, the Eagles might not either, it's a lose-lose situation.

Q: Is there something that you need to see yet that you haven't seen as far as tempo, mood?

Ferentz: So far, so good. The thing about preseason is that it's a four lap race, and we've only take one lap. It's just a matter of how we finish the rest of the drill, we're just getting started right now. We're off to a good start, which is obviously better than getting off to a bad start or a so-so start. The key is how do we sustain this thing through the rest of the pre-season.

Q: Don't teams frequently kind of hit the wall during the pre-season?

Ferentz: It could happen, any time. We handled the weather well, which was a positive, the team didn't wilt during the weather. This is a week of a lot of work, and it's the second week. The hotel gets old, a lot of things get older, teammates get old. Things that weren't bugging them last week are going to start bugging them this week, but that's all part of the process, it's a test.

Q: How's the (Ben) Cronin (David) Walker battle going?

Ferentz: Ben's still running with the 1s, we're still lining up today like we did a week ago, things haven't changed. Same thing, we'll let that one run its course. That's how we're working on it right now, they're all practicing well.

Q: You don't know what you have on that defensive line until they hit, and they haven't hit yet...

Ferentz: (Interrupting) No, we're hitting, we're not tackling. We're going at a good tempo. We're getting good evaluations right now, I wouldn't want to handicap it at this point, other than things haven't changed an awful lot from the spring. We've got Alex (Willcox) and Ettore (Ewen) back, that's a positive, and we've got some younger guys in there working with the 3s that we're looking at too. It's still early to say, "Here's a lineup", we're not there at that point yet.

Q: Have you ever had to reconstruct a defensive line like this, in your tenure?

Ferentz: Not totally. We had four guys that played just about all the snaps. It's a little bit like our offensive line situation in 2003. We had (Robert) Gallery back, but the other four spots were pretty much guys that hadn't played. It's similar to 2003 in my thought that if we could get through the first couple weeks, we'd have a chance to be OK, I think if Brian (Ferentz) had stayed in the lineup that year, we would have had a pretty cohesive group. That didn't work out, so we had some problems the first couple games after the bye week. I think we'll be in kind of similar situation. We've got to be able to hold the fort in September. The good new is, when you have inexperienced players, they tend to improve more dramatically than guys that have played a lot.

Q: Will you keep closer tabs on the running back situation tomorrow than you normally would for a first scrimmage?

Ferentz: Yeah. it seems like in years past, we've gone in kind of knowing what the deal is, what the lineup is and who's who. Right now it's a tough one to call, it really is. Like I said, the guys that practiced last spring and the guys that were practicing in December, they've improved, they've all improved. Now you're putting Marcus (Schnoor) and Albert (Young) back in that mix, and I think they're about where they were, but the other guys are a different group than they were in September when they were all together. We're going to watch it real closely, we're watching every day certainly, but right now it's encouraging to watch them, I think there's a lot of good competition.

Q: Is tomorrow the final mental hurdle for those guys coming back (from season ending injuries)?

Ferentz: It's another step. Outside of Champ (Davis), they're all basically 100% healthy. Kevin Sherlock is another guys still kind of wading his way back in there.

Q: Will tomorrow's scrimmage be a breath of fresh air, you were talking about staying in the hotel?

Ferentz: It breaks the routine a little bit. It's a single practice tomorrow, normally we go in the afternoon, we're going to go in the morning, it's a little different routine. We try and throw a couple curveballs in there.

Q: The scrimmage will be tomorrow morning?

Ferentz: Yeah. Hopefully that'll get them juiced up a little bit.

Q: You've got two or three areas where you've got a lot of competition and some questions, is it safe to say, of your time here, no matter how these come out, you're going to feel pretty comfortable about it?

Ferentz: I'll know that better in October. (laughs). For the most part, yeah, we've got good healthy competition. Again, the two areas where we had senior graduations were the punter thing, until we get that going, and the defensive line. Until we actually get out there and play some games, get those guys some needed experience. I'm not dreading it, it's not a situation where "Holy Smokes, are we gonna get in trouble".

Q: The same with the offensive line and the running backs?

Ferentz: We talk about guys with a little bit more experience, so I think it's a pretty healthy situation there. I think it's good healthy competition. The defensive line, no matter how we shake it out, we're going to be inexperienced. There's no way of getting around that. That's something we're going to have to overcome once the season gets going.

Q: What did you project (Mike) Follett to be when you were recruiting him?

Ferentz: First thought was outside linebacker. That was our first thought, a linebacker, probably outside linebacker. That was our deal, then we flipped him over to the tight end position. You said seven times, I'll have to check my notes on that one. It was kind of grudgingly, Norm (Parker) advocated for him all the way through. it's not like he's just getting chased around this joint, he's a guy we're really looking at hard.

Q: What are some of the logistics for camp, you guys are staying at the Heartland Inn I think, can the players leave, are they stuck there the whole time, how does that work?

Ferentz: We've got them tied up just about every day, just about every hour. They had a night off on Saturday. One rule that we have is that they're not allowed to drive cars. Unless I give them permission, they're not allowed in cars, period, during camp. They had the night off, so I let them get in a car, but they couldn't drive. We gave them curfew, obviously. last night they went to a movie, so that was good. yesterday we didn't have a practice. With that new (NCAA) rule, it's the first time we had a day away, without putting helmets on, it was a good break.

Q: Is it just 24/7 football for two weeks?

Ferentz: Yeah, basically two weeks. They all checked in last Saturday, we'll break camp after the scrimmage on Saturday this coming week.

Q: I've seen some of those checking into camp deals, do they have to turn in their cell phones?

Ferentz: We let them have cell phones. They can have cell phones, the cars are parked out at the Hall of Fame right now, but we let them have cell phones.

Q: Video games?

Ferentz: Yeah, the video games. Civilization as we know it would end, if we took that away. (Laughs) We'd have serious problems.

Q: What's curfew?

Ferentz: Typically, they've got to be in bed 11, but they're in the hotel by 10 every night. Pretty much they just get in the vans here (at the football complex) and go right to the hotel. If they're lucky, they've got an hour. One night was 11:30, Saturday night.

Q: They can go as far as they can walk?

Ferentz: Most of them use those cell phones as soon as they found out they had the night off. I think they had their sweeties waiting for them, some of the lucky guys did. We had vans going out to the mall, some of the younger guys, if they want to go see the Coral Ridge Mall. I don't know, whatever. (Laughs). I wasn't going to drive them.

Q: Going back to your first couple years here, what was your biggest transition from the pro game to this?

Ferentz: Probably the biggest thing is the time constraints are a lot different. Your job as a college coach, your responsibility is totally different. If you're a pro coach, you're responsible for the guy as a player, their production, that's pretty much where it ended. Here we're basically surrogate parents. We've got to worry about how they're developing as people, their academic progress is still the most important thing that happens during this four or five year period, then football on top of it. You factor in recruiting, that's another thing. You factor in four things as opposed to one thing, it's a total different division of time. That's why this period here, this two week window is about as enjoyable a time as we have as coaches. It's basically all football, very little interaction with anybody else, any other segment. This is one time where just kind of have them, they're football players, we're football coaches. Everybody understands it, that's how it goes, and it's nice to just focus on one area for two weeks. That being said, we still bring in outside speakers and talk about other topics, but other than those 4-6 hours, it's football.

Q: Did you get a chance to follow what Nebraska went through last year?

Ferentz: Just how their season went?

Q: Yeah, and the transition that the staff had to make.

Ferentz: Not totally. One thing I can speak to there, again the time is different. The meeting time you're allowed. In pro football, it's basically football every day of the week, other than 1. Every hour you have, which means you've got them for a prolonged period of the day, that's different. One parallel I think we had was Bill (Callahan)'s staff came from all different directions. I think it's a lot easier, like when Randy Walker went to Northwestern, basically the core of his staff from Miami (Ohio) came with him. Huge difference as opposed to bringing guys from all different places, and you've got to get on the same page too, it takes a while. Just like a team has to pull together, a staff takes a while to develop that, your own playbook, your style of play, your philosophies, all that kind of stuff. You can't underestimate it, it all takes time.

Q: Did you implement the no car thing as soon as you got here?

Ferentz: Yeah, you're just asking for trouble. In the pros, the guys keep their cars. You talk about guys with meeting getting done at 9:45, curfew's 11, (tires screeching) they're out of there. Shooting in there at 10:55 on two tires, you know. (Big laughs) You're just asking for a million problems. This is two weeks were we've got them, we've pretty much got them. Even when they have a little time off, they know if they screw that up, it'll never happen again. We have them for two weeks, we've got them.

Q: Do most of your players have cars, if you were to guess?

Ferentz: I'd say half, my guess is half. We've probably got 40 or 50 of them parked down there now.

Q: Scooters too?

Ferentz: No auto -- The only thing they're allowed are the vans. They've got the nice school vans, the ones you hose out. They're all vinyl inside, you just hose them out when you're done, nice hot seats.

Q: Coming off the summer program, has anybody made a big leap physically?

Ferentz: I think the guys I mentioned today, Mike Follet being one, the two tight ends, they look different than they did a year ago, it's pretty dramatic there. A year ago (Scott) Chandler didn't even know he was a tight end, he found out about this time, so he's had a chance to work. He's growing up, he's going into his third year. Mike Jones, the same thing. That third year is a big year for guys, and Mike Jones now, looks like a Big Ten guy, he looks like a Big Ten player, an older experienced big ten player. Those are some guys, I think they're all making those steps.

Q: How's (Eric) McCollom progressing?

Ferentz: He's doing well, he catches the ball very well, when he concentrates. Every now and then he'll lose concentration, the big thing for him is the repetition of it. He looks like a receiver, but he looks like a receiver who just moved to receiver recently, if that makes sense. He doesn't have it nailed yet, but he's working at it.

Q: Talk a little about John Gallery, he comes in, everyone knows his brother, but he insists he's the first on in his family to have the long hair.

Ferentz: It's funny, I remember doing the home visit for Robert, January 99, I remember his Mom and Dad saying (John) was the most talented athlete in the family. Nick had already been here and Robert was coming. I can't remember his hair when I was in the house, but I remember the apple pie I ate better than I do his haircut. They thought he was the most talented guy in the family, and John is a good athlete.

Allrighty, we'll try it again Saturday.

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