Ohio State Week: Ferentz Presser Part 2

Weekly interview with Kirk Ferentz

Q: You and Jim Tressel have a similar demeanor…

Kirk Ferentz: He dresses better than I do. You have to admit that. I put a tie on for you guys once a week. It's special company here.

Q: Are you both sort of like ‘CEO's' of your teams?

Ferentz: Don't take this the wrong way, but I hope that I am never referred to as a CEO, and that is no disrespect to CEO's. We all have organizational responsibilities. We have to make decisions we are responsible for more than a small group of people. But I still think of myself as a football coach and nothing more. That is kind of the fun of coaching. If I wanted to be a CEO I would have majored in business and gotten a job in business. Whatever you have to do that allows you to coach football for a couple hours of the day. That is a fun part.

Q: Do you get to coach as much as you thought you would when you were just getting into the business? Meaning, the time you get each week to coach?

Ferentz: It's a different kind of coaching. I found out my first year in Maine, because I was overwhelmed, I spent 90 percent of my time on non-football things. Through experience you learn to get around that and alter the percentage. But if I could not coach, I would do something else. That is assuming I could have gotten into business school and passed.

Q: Going against teams like Ball State and UNI, throughout your tenure, do you go out of your way to not run up the score, and from that perspective, can I get your reaction to both Coach Leach and Texas Tech talking about putting up 100 v Indiana State this weekend? Is that good for the game?

Ferentz: They have a fast break offense and that is how they are built. I suppose they probably try to do that against everybody. Everybody has their own way of approaching things (grunt). I guess that is all I would say on that one. I have been on the other end of those and I remember that. To me, if you get in a game that becomes one sided, it's a great op[opportunity to play a lot of guys, which is good for everybody.

Q: Talk about Ohio State quarterbacks.

Ferentz: They have two different styles. Troy Smith is a bigger threat using his feet and I think you could probably argue that Justin Zwick is a better thrower, a more accurate passer, a more consistent passer is a better way to say it. That being said, you look at last year they beat Michigan with Troy in there and came back and played great in the bowl with Zwick in there. I am looking at it that they are efficient and effective with both guys; they have both played and been successful. It sounds like they are committed to Troy Smith, but it would not shock me if you see both in a game. That is a luxury they have with two veteran guys like that.

Q: On Saturday you mentioned this team maybe not having an identity…how do they get it?

Ferentz: It's a process. It's like anything else, every season is new, it will have its own identity, its own twists and turns to it. Teams develop personalities like people do, I think. This is a new venture for us, a totally new group of people from a year ago. Not totally new, but the chemistry is different. I think you develop your identity as circumstances present themselves; that shapes you good or bad and how you will be remembered.

Q: Do those circumstances usually occur in big games?

Ferentz: It can happen at any time. IT can happen in practice, on or off the field. Everything goes into it. It's never stagnant. You are either going up or down; it's the good thing about sports, it keeps it interesting.

Q: What kind of opportunity is a game like this to find out what kind of hand you have been dealt?

Ferentz: I reserve judgment until November. We will know more about them then, but this is a big step and a challenge for us. We have already failed at one challenge or test. Not so much on the scoreboard, but the way we performed that day just wasn't what we were looking for. We have accepted responsibility for that. Every game is a challenge. It's just what it is about this game. We only play 11 games. We don't play 162. Every step along the way is interesting and important.

Q: When Ohio State sees film, they will see Drew Tate's 300 yard game against them last year and a solid game last week.

Ferentz: They will also see two weeks ago where we did not perform too well. When it's all said and done I am not sure what their thinking will be. The one thing they have in their camp is a pretty talented group on defense, with experience. My guess is that they will play their game. They like to get those linebackers active. They are tough to contain.

Q: Do you expect them to blitz?

Ferentz: They will do their share of that. They like to feature those guys, and rightfully so. They are really effective. Carpenter is right there; they have three guys that are worthy of their recognition.

Q: Is it going to be a case of which comes around first, your defensive cohesion or their offense?

Ferentz: That is one of the factors. I am not as worried about them, as we have no bearing on that. What we really need to worry about is us. This is going to be one more measuring stick. We have to worry about fixing our problems and we have plenty of them. That is all we can focus on. No matter how we match things, if we are not executing, where everyone is in synch, it will not work.

Q: Can you feel a difference beginning conference play?

Ferentz: I think you can. This is a heck of a challenge to start, but it's always great. I assume everyone in the conference feels the same way when it begins. There is a special significance. If you are in a conference, you want to be in the race. You give yourself an advantage by getting off to a positive start. It's an exciting time for everybody.

Q: Have you ever allowed revenge to enter into your team's focus when preparing for a game?

Ferentz: I don't know. Nah, I don't. Maybe you can point for one game, but it is a dangerous practice, I think, if you just point for a certain game. What do you tell your team the next week? This one is not quite as big? They all count for one. I have never bought into that one. Some people try to do that. I think Arizona State was playing for us last year, that was pretty good. Maybe we will try that.

Q: Do you think Ohio Stat will bring that?

Ferentz: I am sure they will. They will do one more piece of motivation for them. But the bottom line is they are excellent, and they want to win them all. We are on the schedule this week and that should be motivation enough. That is how we try to look at it.

Q: Talk about their running backs.

Ferentz: Pittman is an experienced player and is good. He is really good. Again, I am trying to think of an Ohio State team that I have seen that didn't look talented, and these guys are the same way. But they are extremely well coached. They have been as consistent as anyone in the league since coach Tressel has gotten there. The team we saw last year was not representative of the five or six years he has been there.

Q: How close is Walker to being back?

Ferentz: Dave had a full week of practice last week and he played a little bit in the game, I think three snaps. He has just missed so much time, so it's like Chris Brevi; whenever he gets cleared, which might be next week, now you are talking about a guy that has missed 50 practices. It's tough in season, because you only work hard two days a week physically. It's not like camp where if you miss two days, then you are right back practicing every day of the week. It's tough for a guy to get back into game shape and get his skills down. But the good news is that he is experienced, so it should come a little quicker. He had to demonstrate he can stay healthy and practice and get better.

Q: Mitch King gives you an extra motor in there.

Ferentz: Mitch is doing a lot of good things. He is a high effort guy, he is not as big yet as we hope he will be someday and he will be. But it's like the entire line. If you look at our top eight or nine, Mike Follett is a senior and everyone else is third year or less. We are just young up there. The rotation we had Saturday was good. I don't know if anyone played more than 45 or 48 snaps. We give ourselves a better chance by rolling through guys until they get that physical maturity and experience. It will take time. I think all of the guys are doing some good things and we are pleased with Mitch's progress since switching over.

Q: Should we read anything into the freshmen on the depth chart?

Ferentz: They are probably going to be in the rotation a little bit. I don't know how much. They are still behind the back, but they had some snaps the other day and I think that is realistic.

Q: Can you feel difference between a crowd of 70,000 and 105,000?

Ferentz: Yes and no. The stadiums have as much to do with it as any. If you get into Ohio State, Penn State where the structures are going up, it is noisy. People tell me it is as noisy in Kinnick as any place. Wisconsin is pretty rowdy, too. All four of those schools are different. A couple of 100k+ and 80k at Wisconsin. We are at 70,0000. Those are probably the noisiest venues in our league, I think it's fair to say. It's more the structure.

Q: You will be right there in central Ohio, a place with a lot of football history, the Hall of Fame, etc.

Ferentz: I don't know if we are into the historical part of it. They are an excellent big ten team, we are going to their stadium and we are going to play them. We are not going to stop by the Hall of Fame on the way through. Like an idiot, I lived there three years and didn't go once. We are not going down Woody Hayes Drive or take any tours. Maybe we are going to Woody Hayes Drive. I say that with all reverence, he was a great coach.

Q: Jim Zabel said the Ohio State game in 1987 was his best moment…where does that game rank for you?

Ferentz: It ranks up there with last year's deal. I think it was 3rd and 25 on the 27. It didn't matter because we had to score due to the time. It was a pretty good moment. It was a great win. To win there any way is great, but to do it like that was fantastic. It was a storybook play.

Q: Will you tell your kids that you have not won there in almost 15 years?

Ferentz: We will throw it out there, more importantly we have not won there since any guys on our team have been here. We didn't play there a few years ago. I look at this series now, our first two years we were at best on training wheels on a tricycle and they were driving a truck that knocked us aside. The first game is when we threw Steinbach in the lineup at 250 pounds at left guard as his punishment. Then we had a two-yea hiatus and the last two years it's been an even series. If we do our part it should be a good game. But it will be a tough game.

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