Kirk Ferentz's Opening Statement:
Welcome. Things are better weather wise when last week we met. We started with some good, hot weather and then it broke by the end of the week, so the players got a break there. In all, I think we are happy with the progress that the team is making. The guys have worked hard, they have been concentrating when they are supposed to and the little free time we have given them, they have handed that well, too.
We had nine workouts in last week as an entire team and we have nine this week, finishing up with the scrimmage on Saturday; it's a big week for us, then school starts. Just a couple of names that I will throw out there right now that are guys that have gotten off to a real positive start.
Mike Follett; we have been pleased with the transformation that he is making and really thought that the last couple of days have showed that he is getting some feel for the defensive end position. Miguel Merrick has been doing a real nice job. Ettore Ewen, I would throw him in there also, a guy that missed a lot of time last year with the knee injury, he has been getting a lot of work and showing some signs.
On offense, the two tight ends; Ryan Majerus and Scott Chandler are doing a nice job. Ben Gates has done a nice job at the offensive tackle position. Tom Busch is practicing like a veteran guy; he had some good experience a year ago and is doing a good job. Herb Grigsby is continuing to show us some things that he showed us in the spring.
Those guys are off to a positive start, and we have a long ways to go. The first week at least was very productive.
We have had good retention where you would hope it would be. The experienced guys are using their experience, not sitting back. The younger guys are making their moves and they are coming along. We have had injuries but nothing overly significant. That can be disruptive. But the flow of practice has been good and the guys have had a good attitude and they are working hard, have been good in the meetings. So far so good. This week will be a challenge, as the volume keeps going up.
What things is Herb doing well? In Spring, Tate said he was making the biggest impression of the new receivers?
The biggest thing is that he just knows what he is doing now much better than a year ago certainly. He is more confident, more decisive; he is running good routes, he is catching the ball well. The only thing is that he is not a big guy. I don't know if he has cracked 150 yet. He is not the biggest guy in the world, but he just seems to be coming into his own. He is maturing. The time that he has been here is starting to show up now, instead of just staying on the same path.
How have the players with the ACL injuries from a year ago looked?
They have all looked good. They have all looked healthy. With Marcus and Albert at running back, Ettore is coming off of one…Champ Davis is a guy that we thought would be maybe a couple of months behind the other guys, but he is escalating his activity a little bit and he is handling things well, and that is encouraging.
How are things looking on the defensive line?
It is still wide open. Mike (Follett) is one guy that…starting last Wednesday and Thursday, he was making some plays every day that indicated he as getting a feel for it and showing some potential there. He is getting more comfortable with the move . Ettore is a guy that we were high on last yea rand he missed all that time, but he is getting some of the rust off and getting back in it. The other guys are about where they were in the spring as far as things being wide open. Alex has gotten good work; we didn't get to see him go full speed in the spring. Probably what we said a week ago, we are looking at six to eight guys playing and contributing. What the rotation is remains to be seen.
Have Iwebema, Kroul, Follett and Ewen moved ahead?
They started out doing well. Kenny has been in and out and he is back today and looked good. He has not played. That is the same thing with Matt (Kroul). The good news is that Bryan Mattison is practicing full speed.
What was wrong with Kenny?
He had a couple day injury. Bryan has showed no signs of any problems. I don't think that anyone has risen out of that pack, so it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.
Have any of the true frosh caught your eye yet?
As a group they have been doing well. A couple of them have been doing better than others, but until we scrimmage, we won't know for sure so I am a little guarded. They are getting good work and they seem to be keeping up pretty well, but they don't get as much work as the older guys. That will clear up more in the next week. This is a big week for that whole group.
Will you have a chance to experiment with new kickoff returners this year?
What we are doing right now, when we do specials period, the good news is that we have long lines at both stations right now, so that is good. We will start to pare that down as this week goes on as well.
Like last year, we know what we have with Ed at punt returns. Clint has been fielding punts pretty well, Albert Young, Jovon can do it, so I think we have a pretty good bank of guys. On kickoff return game has been tied in with our running back situation. We only had one or two healthy last year, so you are afraid to put those guys back there. Hopefully we will have more freedom to open some things up nad try some different guys.
How is the battle for punter shaking out?
We are about where we have been. They are both competing pretty well and are about the same, so we will pare that down sometime, but right now they are both coming along at the same rate.
Could you talk more about Mike Follett and his development? We are counting on him to get a lot of good playing time this year. It's one thing to have a guy play, but to play well. He will be the only senior in the group (DL), so that makes him a significant player. The other thing we need is a guy with some experience to play and play well. Based on what we are seeing, that will be realistic for him. Bottom line is no matter how you shake it out, he is the most experienced player in that group. You can't underestimate the value of experience, being out there in game situations; that is what the rest of the group lacks right now and that is something we are going to have to grow through. It will be a factor.
Ha there been any news on Atwan Allen's (court) case?
We are expecting to hear something any day. We should know more. I know that the hearing is over now, they completed that last Thursday. It had a second day and we anticipate a ruling sometime this week so we can get it resolved for everyone involved.
How has Calvin Davis been progressing, coming off last year's knee injury?
He is in the mix. Calvin has been doing well and has been healthy, which is great. As I said back a week ago, when he was injured last year, we really thought he was making some strides at that point and he seems to be at that same stage.
What are the biggest position battles going on right now?
The tight end position, there is healthy competition going on well. Brandon is still young, but I think he is more aggressive than he was a year ago, and that comes with experience. A lot is going on the defensive line; we are not settled in the offensive line yet. The receiver positions three through five, we are seeing good competition there. The defensive secondary, Marcus isn't full speed yet, so there are some guys vying for some time at positions there. Our starting linebackers are pretty well settled, but we are thin behind them. We are working on that.
Do you begin to game plan yet?
Not at all. This is like spring practice for us, the first two weeks of fall practice. This is the second year now where we have had two weeks of class rather than one. It used to be you start class Monday and play Saturday. When it was like that, we would start our game planning a few days prior to the end of camp. These two weeks are strictly Iowa vs. Iowa. I don't even know who we are playing; I mean I do, but we have not talked about that at all. Next week we will have a chance to turn our attention to not only the first game, but the first couple of games. We will have more time as a staff; we don't have office time right now. We practice, we watch our practice, install and meet then practice.
How much will you scrimmage on Saturday?
We will probably get each of the first two strings will get 30 to 35 snaps. It will be like a half of a game for them, and we will do some other drill work, too. There might be some ones against ones, ones against twos, a little bit of each.
How ‘live' will the practice be?
That remains to be seen. We are going to scrimmage tomorrow, so we plan to do things live. At some point we have to make a decision as to how much we will tackled and let our guys get tackled. Right now we need to do that defensively. We have not done any tackling yet. We drill it, but not any live situations. We probably do less of that than most people.
We had nine full practices last week, we had one freshmen practice, using one of our 29 from freshmen only, and we have nine again this week. So as of Saturday, that will be 19. We always use one for just freshmen.
How are things looking for your team academically? Will everyone make it to the season this year?
I think we are in good shape; I think we are home free (grades). It really wasn't a big issue. This has been the best summer I can recall as far as our academics. I wasn't sweating anyone this year at all. It has been nice. Our counselors have really done a great job.
How hard is it to evaluate players when you have yet to go live, especially the running backs?
It's hard. It's like our backs right now. They look good running around, but it's hard to evaluate them until we start tackling and see who can make someone miss, who can break tackles, etc. I think we are all kind of curious to see what those guys look like. That is one group of real interest, and then to see the other guys, the newcomers especially.
Would it surprise you if a true freshman played a lot of offense?
It could happen. We are not ruling anything out; if someone can help our football team. The tag would be if they are going to help us on offense, they have to help us on special teams, too, outside of a lineman. I don't think we will get to that point, but you never know.
How much work do you get in with Special teams now?
In the spring, it's pretty much punt and PAT/Field goals. Now, we are in a grading. We continue to put real hard, PAT/Field Goals, we have been working the kickoff team in drill work to try to evaluate guys. Kickoff return and punt defense are the ones that we will get to the latest in the practices, but we have attention on all of those right now. We tell our guys all the time that we are evaluating them in all areas. We are trying to figure out who can help us in different areas.
There are no more position moves in store for Mike (Follett)?
He is probably glad to have it settled. I think that he realized last spring whether he was going to be an outside linebacker or defensive end. We had a need with all the graduation on defense, and Norm has been advocating for him to be on defense for a couple of years, so it was a matter of us doing it. We felt good about the younger tight ends where we could make the move for Mike without hurting the offense and helping our defense. He is enjoying it. He took this summer to get his body conditioned to where he could compete a little bit better. I think he seems to be having fun out there. We strictly see him playing outside. We could see a three man rotation with he, Bryan and Ken.
I still remember the first time we moved him. He thought we were going to ask him to go to quarterback. So he does have a very wry sense of humor. That thought has not entered our mind at any point during his seven moves?
Will Mattison see some time at tackle?
It's possible. Right now, if we were playing tomorrow, our one, two three punch would be the three I just mentioned. We would have to have someone else in that mix before we fooled around there.
Who are the two tackles?
I don't know. Matt Kroul is still there, and there is a group of six guys in there competing. It's still wide open.
Who would start if you played tomorrow?
I know you like those hypothetical games (laughs)
Who would be the running back?
That is a good question. Since we are not playing tomorrow, we will know more after tomorrow's scrimmage. That is my answer on that one. Next Monday I will have a better grip on that. But the good news is that we have candidates and plenty of them.
What could push one back ahead of the rest?
Just seeing how they all compete, seeing what they do in a scrimmage situation. They are all practicing pretty well. That is not an issue, and it is a test of time. That is one nice thing about camp; over the long haul of time, things come clear, both good and bad. Things tend to sort themselves out and we will let that process take place.
I don't think I see us in that situation at this point, and it is still early. Someone really has to elevate themselves from the pack. I am not sure that I foresee that, but you never know. It was pretty clear with those two that they were the guys at that point.
Will it be based more on the situation and/or the opponent?
We have not given it a lot of talk yet. We are waiting to see where we are at. It would be a great problem to have in contrast to last year. I think all of the guys have a little something they do better than the other, but we will wait and see.
Have you made a decision to redshirt any of the freshmen yet?
A couple of guys have brought it up, not only freshmen. I told the team the other day, don't worry about that right now. We are just getting started; just go straight ahead and we will worry about that more next week when the process takes place. In most cases, it becomes pretty clear.
Do you want fans there for the scrimmage and to play a part in all of this?
I hope that everyone would bring a canned good. Part of the deal for me is that we missed the spring game, and I know that was something everyone was eager to see, but we could not do it for obvious reasons last year and we probably won't next year. Hopefully it's a spring game atmosphere, and I think it will be great for our football team. A few years back, we opened up a preseason practice. I think it's good for younger performers to do that; there will be some distractions; it will be the first time for some of the guys to be in front of people.
I think of Robert Gallery going the wrong way on the first play of his first spring. I got to thinking about it that he had never played in front of that many people, so I think there rare some benefits from that point. IT causes our guys to focus a bit better, as there is more activity on the outside. We will do that Saturday, then the Tuesday after and we will practice in the stadium with the new scoreboard. I don't want to say jumbotron. We will have that on with the noise just to make sure they are not gawking and watching themselves on replays. We will go through that process, too, but we want to get them at least used to being in the stadium. It looks different now, clearly. We want to get them used to it. We want to break it in a little bit so its not so novel on the third.
Outside of vets in the secondary, who are some of the younger guys?
The next group is Shada and Fletcher at the corners, Devan Moylan is at SS and Andy Becker at FS. They are like the linebackers; when you have some guys that have played, it's really intriguing to see how the other guys will do, because we need to be mining that. Charles Godfrey is in that group, and it's not like he has played a lot. It's nice to have the experience, but we also have to make sure that the other guys are coming on. They are all a play from being in there, so it is important.
What are things like along the offensive line with regards to the guard position?
We have Mike Elgin at right guard. Right now, it's the two Ben's, Dave Walker and Marshal Yanda would be the first four I would throw out. Todd Plagman can also play guard. Seth Olsen, he is in the mix, too. We will try to find our best combination. Ben Gates is really practicing well right now. This is by far the best he has looked and most comfortable he has looked. It is not quite the Mike Follett story, but similar. He has not played line forever; this is the best run of practice he has had. Things are clicking for him right now.
With the circus that is surrounding Terrell Owens of the Philadelphia Eagles, does that make you appreciate the college game even more, with a player telling a coach to ‘shut up'?
What do you think. (Laughs). A lot of people have told me to shut up; the wife has, but I would have to think about that one. Is that what he did? I love that disrespectful stuff. It's clearly a circus (that situation). I really feel badly for the Eagles organization. I am not taking sides, either. I am not real in tune with what is going on. I pick up the paper and see glimpses of Sports Center. I know this; Terrell Owens and his agent are getting a lot of air time, and they seem to enjoy that so they are getting what they want. That is the kind of stuff that has to be distracting to the football team. They are taking the company line. All of the good things they have done as a team and you end up at this point. That can't be a lot of fun.
Have you spoken with Nate Kaeding?
No. He will be fine. I heard he missed three, but he will be fine. My guess is that when the lights come on, he will be ready to go.
Do you agree with the TV broadcaster when he sad that Nate's career was on the line?
No, I missed that. I did not watch it. I was trying to figure out who might be watching that game other than family members. I think that is a little dramatic to say that, but they are trying to keep people watching that. I will be shocked if Nate doesn't do really well.