Q: Will Shonn Greene play?
Kirk Ferentz: He will play. He will definitely play. Younger players, especially during the course of camp, he just kept climbing the ladder and looking comfortable and really hasn't hit the wall. It may happen in the future, but I think he is ready to go. We keep seeing him improve in practice and look more comfortable in practice. Shonn and Tony are both in the 3 or 4 spot. They are down the chart, they are definitely not in the two deep at this given point. But again, those positions, we really anticipate playing more than two guys so that opens the door for them. It's not like the punting situation, but it is a little like it. You see guys playing in games and the picture becomes clearer. Everyone has a different role in the backfield. I think each of the guys that we have has some different strengths and weaknesses, so we will try to get them in a position that works for them. You can say the same about the tight ends, we will play to strengths.
Q: Talk about Albert Young and how he has come along.
Ferentz: He is looking good. He is practicing well, and he looks like the guy we saw before either of his injuries. The first one is totally healed, that was never a big concern. The guys are coming back from the ACL's pretty well. He looks like he is playing with confidence, so we are enthused about that.
Q: Will there be any true freshmen in the two-deep on the offensive line?
Ferentz: It's possible. We have been impressed with the entire group. Five guys and throw Marshal, in there and that makes six. It's tough on that offensive line. If one guy does play, that would be it. It's tougher to make that transition.
Q: Talk about Marcus Schnoor and what he brings to the table.
Ferentz: He is just a football player. It starts there. He does a lot of things well. Maybe he is not the flashiest guy, not the guy that jumps out at you. But if you watch him over time, he impresses you. From the first time he got into a game, he just knows how to play. Basically every time he has been in there, he has been productive and he makes yards. He is maybe a little better than people give him credit for.
Q: How has Calvin Davis been performing?
Ferentz: Calvin has been well. A bump or a bruise a time or two during camp. We really thought he was making strides before he got hurt last year and I think he is right back at that level, so w e are hoping that he will continue to take steps as we go along.
Ferentz: He is closer to Clinton in that regard, but right now we have those two guys that have played then after that, Calvin, Herb, McCollom have not played much, but they are there. Brodell will play some as he has made some strides. We will have to sort that out a little, as we are not there yet with a total evaluation.
Q: What is it that you like about Tony Moeaki?
Ferentz: He just acts like he belongs. Some guys have that uncanny ability to walk into a situation and look pretty good at what they are doing. Not that he is there yet, he is not. There is still a difference between a junior or a senior and a true freshman. He just kind of handled everything pretty adeptly. He doesn't seem to get too rattled; he seems unfazed by the challenges. But again, he will be a lot better player in two years from now than he is now. But I think he is in the mix.
Q: Does it feel different to have a returning starter at quarterback?
Ferentz: That part is a little different to have. Not only Drew, we all feel very confident in Jason Manson. He has practiced really well. He has improved his physical and mental skills, though he as solid mentally a year ago. I don't think there is a question that if he gets in there he will do a nice job. But it is a different feeling for us. We have not been in this position. All of us have been pleased with Drew's approach to practice. That has not changed from the spring. He is really working hard on expanding his picture. You combine that with his nature, it's a good combination.
Q: Do you put last season behind you, or does it provide a springboard into this year?
Ferentz: Again, anytime you win a bowl game, it's a positive. I don't care what bowl it is. I go back to the Peach Bowl, which gave us a great push going into ‘83 and that gave us a good year. The Freedom Bowl in 84; our record wasn't the greatest in 8'4, but that was a big boost for us. It is a different mindset and I think that the biggest thing about that last play again is that basically, all 11 guys did what they were supposed to do when the ball snapped, and our opponents different. I keep reminding our players; it was not a fluke play. They did what they were supposed to do.
Q: You have used starters on special teams in the past. Will you do that again this year?
Ferentz: In a perfect world, we would like to get the younger guys out there and have some ownership and get involved. But there are some instances where we will have some starters. Abdul Hodge is our protector on the punt team, the quarterback if you will. We will have more starters on that team than any. Abdul Greenway would love to be in there. When Dallas was here, he bugged us to be on different teams. But we have a big picture, too. IF we can cut their reps a little bit, it is a good thing, especially if someone can do a job just like them.
Q: What has Robert Gallery meant to the program in terms of a role model and in recruiting?
Ferentz: One of the great things that has happened for us, is that our best players have been our best guys. Robert, Kaeding, Sanders right down the list. You are not going to meet a better person than Brad Banks. When you have guys that have success stories, and all came the hard road. Brad certainly did, Robert was not real pretty there in 2000 when we threw him in there at tackle and he labored that season. Those guys have been great illustrations, great role models to talk about and I think if you talk to some of our seniors we have now, their observations of some of the guys that have come through the last four opr five years,; Aaron Kampman is invaluable what he is doing in Green Bay…a lot of great examples. Will Lack is a great example for players in our program. He never played a meaningful snap, but he is doing a good job at Harvard Medical School. Everyone is in this for a different reason, and that is the exciting thing. A lot of guys are in coaching right now; they did that against my advice, but they are still doing it.
Q: How has the defensive line been coming along?
Ferentz: They have been working hard since the spring, all of them. It will be a collective effort. It has been and will be. I think they have a lot of pride. They don't want to be the reason that we don't do well this year. I am speculating on that one, but I am sure that is how they are thinking. We are going to be young, but I think we will be aggressive and I think if we can rotate enough guys through, hopefully we will have the energy necessary to play a higher level, as that is what it will take. We will still be young.
Q: The Ball State offensive line will be young, too.
Ferentz: They are the same way, so it will be a battle of inexperience. They are talking about playing a couple three freshmen…which is scary. I talked to a writer from down there and told him it would be a match of the inexperienced players, as we don't have any with experience either..
Q: What do you want to see beyond the scoreboard in this first game?
Ferentz: Our attitude. Playing a clean game, because we have not been clean in practice and hopefully showing some signs of consistency. We have not excelled in those two areas in practice. Not having penalties, turning the ball over, those things that get you into trouble. They can hurt you fast and I don't care who you are playing. Respecting the game. If you don't do that, that long list that we give our players of MAC teams beating Big Ten and big conference schools, we will be on that list, too. We have been there.
Q: Have players in the past really solidified their spots and roles from the first game?
Ferentz: I guess you always feel better or worse, but if you look back last year, Tate was not so…was I the first game where he tapped out? Yeah, that was the first game, then the second game was not a lot better…I think he IV'd at the half and we wheeled him out there for the second half. So it was not like he made a grand opening in Kinnick the first two games. But you always learn about players. That is something we talk about all the time; they are being evaluated on everything they do. It's important, but it's not the whole story. We won't know the whole story after Saturday. It's always changing. It's not always fun, but interesting.
Q: You are coming off the great bowl win, ticket sales are fantastic, a renovated stadium and a lot of excitement from the fans. How does that make you feel? Does that trickle down to you?
Ferentz: I don't mean this disrespectfully, but there has been so much talk this year, more than any other year…I am not complaining, believe me. But I think that I speak for most of us here involved with the team, that we are anxious to move on. It's time to start the 2005 season. There has been so much talk about the end of the season, about last year. It was a fantastic story, but it's time for us to move on. We are excited about the stadium; that is just fantastic. But as a team, we need to start playing games and find out what this team is about, because last year is last year. We are anxious to not just turn the chapter, but to shut the old book and start a new one.
Q: How does having to mix and match along the offensive line impede progress?
Ferentz: It's a concern and I know that Ball State is going through the same thing now, shuffling guys. I imagine that is a high percentage of teams. I don't know what it is on the offensive line, but you are trying to coordinate five guys. We are not unique. Everyone goes through camp shuffling players in and out. But it takes time. I remember when I was in Cleveland, Ernie Adams, who does a lot of research with Bill Belichick made a comment to me that typically in the NFL, the offensive lines do not hit stride until October. I was thinking about that last night and I think there is true to that. It's one of the last units that really clicks. You factor in injuries and it makes a big difference.
Q: So you want to close the book on 2004; is the message to the fans then ‘cool it until you see it?'
Ferentz: Uh, you know…Yeah, probably. I mean, talking about 2004, that is a good thing about being a fan, you can do that. You can live all spring and summer watching the tapes from 2004. If I wasn't coaching, I would be doing the same thing. It's good. If you are a fan, you can get caught up on the what ifs of this year, but the reality is that we cannot be fans, we have to worry about doing some work here and that is where we are at right now. It's time to start playing a little bit and find out what is going to happen.
Q: What are your thoughts on Ball State's quarterback (Joey Lynch)
Ferentz: The first thing that jumps out is that he is a smart player. He is from a coaching family, which sounds familiar with our quarterback. He just plays smart, he is productive. Not to minimize, but some guys can just do things pretty well, I am not saying it's instinctive, but some guys make better decisions than others. Some guys never learn how to do that. This guy knows how to play quarterback and he can lead his team. That is how you evaluate a quarterback. A guy can throw it through the wall, but some guys can't play quarterback and he can. A lot of it is the neck up.
Q: Do think Chad Greenway handles the hype in a good way?
Ferentz: He does, that is the way he is built. Chad, Abdul and Drew have gotten a lot of attention. I don't worry about the three of them, because they are so competitive and they are proud players. Kind of like Gallery; to me when a player ahs great pride, they don't fall into traps. They have the ability to focus on what is important and how hard they have had to work to become good. If a guy really has pride in him, he is not going to sit back and that is the same thing in respecting the game; if you don't respect the game and how difficult it is to win, then you can fall into a trap. But if you have respect for the game, and the pitfalls that are out there, you usually do OK.
Q: It's been a long time since you have had a new cornerback. What do you expect out of Adam Shada?
Ferentz: He is a good athlete first of all. He is extremely smart; maybe too smart. He is really smart in the class room, he is an analytical thinker and we have encouraged him to relax and play a little bit. Sometimes you can be a little too much of a thinker. He has done a good job. He performed well last year on special teams and we expect him to go in and play well. That being said, he is a young guy just like the defensive line, so he will stub his toe a time or two. But I thin he will play well.