Kirk on the Side: 9/20

Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media once again following his weekly press conference. Read what the coach had to say in this premium transcript

Q: (On the touchdown pass to Marv Cook)

Kirk Ferentz: I think it was third, but I might be wrong. It was the last play, that's all I know. If it was incomplete, we lose. If it was complete and short, we lose. The clock was going to run out. I think it was third down, third and 25 on the 27, I think we could get a first down and lose. Does that make sense? Why they went to the coverage they went to, that's their question.

Q: One of those 'prevent' defenses?

Ferentz: Two deep safeties and they manned underneath, so the guy covering Marv (Cook) was like, face guarding him kind of. The ball was under thrown so because the guy was figuring him, he just kind of waited until the last minute, stepped around and made the catch. They'd been blitzing us and we'd been going backwards. They decided to cover. Worked out OK with us?

Q: Are you bringing both punters this Saturday?

Ferentz: Yes

Q: Speaking of blitzes, how would you assess what you guys have done there?

Ferentz: Some good, some bad. Some painful. We're just going to keep working and improving it. Try to make sure we have everything smoothed out, in anything we're doing, including our blitz package.

Q: With your defense, is it like teaching and old dog a new trick, because you guys hadn't really?

Ferentz: We've always practiced stuff, we practice things all the time. It's like offense. The fans or people watching a game, just what you see on Saturday doesn't mean that's all we did during the week. It's just how games play out. It dictates what percentage of a certain thing he may use. It's one of the tough things in coaching, you practice certain things and they never make it to the game field. We spent x amount of minutes on this.

Q: When does it become more instinctual? You can do in practice all you want, but does it take a few games to really cement it?

Ferentz: I think it's just a matter of, just maybe on the same page, good communication and making the proper adjustments. That's the hard thing when you start getting too multiple. The teams you play are pretty multiple too. It's a matter of how many different factors can you handle. It's got to be all 11 guys, not just one or two, so that's a challenge, same thing on offense.

Q: Some players after Saturday were saying they weren't on the same page, communication, it was in the blitzes where you guys broke off.

Ferentz: We've blown a few calls. You can't do that and be effective.

Q: You've been saying 'on the same page' all year, but some of these guys are veterans, is that a little disappointing that veterans are doing it in addition to the newcomers?

Ferentz: Again, it's just a little more complex than that. We've had older guys make mistakes too. All of us have made mistakes, and that's the thing we all have to improve. We all have to get a little bit more cohesive.

Q: What kind of a practice team has this been?

Ferentz: Okay, Okay. That's probably been typical of the last 5 or 6 teams. The challenge new is do we pick it up, do we learn as we're going along here. Fortunately, the last four years we've been a team that's improved each and every week. That's really where our focus is. It sounds really mundane and generic, but that's really the challenge ahead for us. We're exactly a ball of fire our best year, 2002, we weren't a ball of fire the first month. It took a while to get it down. That's what we've got to do. We've got to push forward here.

Q: How do you keep from getting a sense of awe? You've got two veteran cornerbacks to cover Holmes and Ginn. Can there be part of that which is a little awe-ing?

Ferentz: I'm hesitant to use the 'awe' word. We have great respect for those guys, but that's one good thing about playing in our conference and playing the schedule we play. We play teams that are pretty impressive. Nobody has a guy that runs as fast as Ted Ginn, there just aren't many guys in the country with his kind of speed and upper end speed. That part's hard to simulate. One week it's this, one week it's that. We get our fair share of challenges. One week it might be our secondary, the n ext week it might be the defensive line or the linebackers. Again, when you play in a conference like this, it's part of the territory.

Q: How do (Santonio) Holmes and (Ted) Ginn make each other better?

Ferentz: You can't load up on one, that's one thing on offense. If you've got two pretty good receivers, it gives you a great chance, it just helps things out. Throw a good tight end in there, it's pretty helpful. Anything you can do to keep a defense from ganging up on a given player, that's helpful. It's hard to gang up on one receiver when there are two that are pretty good.

Q: When you guys had four seniors on the defensive line, you knew behind that was sophomores, freshmen, how does that happen to a team, going from seniors to freshmen?

Ferentz: We've had some attrition, obviously. There's one player right now who obviously could help us an awful lot, but just chose not to go to school anymore. Those things, you can't explain them. Obviously it's not a perfect design, you'd rather have more balance in your depth chart and all that, but it didn't work out that way. That's how it's turned out. I feel good about the group though, all that being said.

Q: You guys could see it coming though. How do you resist the quick-fix juco, or moving guys around?

Ferentz: We just haven't had much luck going that route. Our program philosophy has been more so to recruit high school players at every given opportunity and try and find the right place for the, manage the roster from within. That's our preference, if possible. I'm really optimistic, especially about the defensive line. I think we've seen a lot of good things in 3 games from these guys. I've talked about it before, when you have younger players, they tend to improve more dramatically than younger guys. As long as we keep working smartly and working hard, I think we have a chance to really make rapid gains with that group. I'm not looking down the road, but down the road it looks pretty good. We're going to graduate Mike (Follet) and providing these guys can stay healthy and keep getting better, the group will have a chance to become (very good). It's a little bit like, not the same as, but a little bit like Penn State going through that in 2002, they had an NFL defensive line, then the next year they were pretty young. In 2004, those guys were pretty good, they're pretty good right now too. Most of them it's been a 3 year process for them. It happens, you don't plan it that way exactly, but it happens.

Q: You guys did this in 2003 at WR. Is it different with defensive linemen?

Ferentz: Offensive and defensive line, you're talking about 22-year-old guys and 23-year-old guys banging on 19, 20-year-old guys. Physical maturity shows up closer to the football. Both lines of scrimmage.

Q: Those years are where it shows?

Ferentz: Exactly. Especially at a place like Iowa. Alex Karras's grandson isn't coming here, he's probably going to UCLA now. We don't get many freshman phenoms where they just come in and line up and play. That's the difference between us and Ohio State and Southern Cal.

Q: That's the idea behind the more blitzing, more pressure?

Ferentz: We have pretty active linebackers, so it makes sense, I think. If we can highlight those guys a little bit more. It's not like anybody's going to mistake us for Jerry Glanville's Hawaii outfit or something that like. It's not one of those deals, we're not going down that road. We're just mixing it in a little bit more, that's all.

Q: You guys are hitting Ohio pretty hard this year in recruiting. I know you have several, you can't talk about individual kids. Does this game put a premium on that?

Ferentz: Our philosophy there is, "They can't take everybody." Maybe at times we've forced them to take guys that they were sitting on the fence with. Ohio's a great football state. There are more players there than they can recruit, that's really our rationale for doing that. We have some connections in there that we think are worth following up on.

Q: Those connections, did you build those when you were in Cleveland?

Ferentz: No, not at all. I was traveling in a completely different circle. When you're a pro coach, you might as well be living on the moon or somewhere else. You know your neighbors, kind of. My neighbor in Baltimore thought I was a baker for three years. He asked my wife if I was a baker one time. (Laughs). So, you know. No, to answer your question, no.

Q: Two years ago, in this game, it was Mike Jones coming in for you guys.

Ferentz: Yeah, Eric Rothwell's first game at center.

Q: That's a pretty tough spot, can you say how he's progressed, how hard that must have been for him?

Ferentz: (Whistles) Wooooooh. It was absolutely the worst possible way. Steinbach had a better chance in 1999, at least he'd been here for a year and a half. He'd been through spring ball the year before, more pertinently. It was impossible. Plus, we had an inexperienced center which really compounded things. It's one thing for a new guy to jump in there and start, now we had Eric Rothwell who'd been a guard and all of a sudden he's trying to make calls, it was a very tough situation.

Q: How is (Mike Jones) different now?

Ferentz: He's experienced. He knows how to practice a lot better, he knows what everything means and just I really think he kind of turned the corner back in the spring. You'd watch him practice you'd say, "OK, this guy's an experienced player now." He knew how to do things day in and day out. Whereas he was kind of feeling his way around the first two years.

Q: You guys had Gates, Steinbach, you had a good string of tight ends going to offensive linemen now. DO you have a few guys now? Do you try and turn that light on anymore?

Ferentz: I don't think so much right now. No, not so much now. On the tight end pool? No, not really.

Q: You don't have any toolbox guys right now?

Ferentz: No, not really. Chandler's job is safe, he's not moving in. Not this week, no, not this week.

Q: Not to say coaches don't have colorful personalities anymore, you think of the Lou Sabans, the Bum Phillips'. Where do you think that's gone? They've all kind of followed that Bill Walsh mold, why is that?

Ferentz: I don't know. I guess they're not hiring Bum Phillips and Lou Saban anymore, I don't know. There are some guys that are funny, aren't there?

Q: Tiller is a little bit, maybe.

Ferentz: Yeah, he's a funny guy. He had a good quote about the schedule. I never thought of that, in our league? Coach Paterno, you think he cares? It's nice to be in a position where you don't have to care about what you say. He can, I mean, what are you going to do, what lesson are you going to teach him right now, think about it. Probably just the nature of our business anymore. You just have to watch what you say at all times. Everything is out there. There's just so much information out there. If you say anything that's misconstrued or anything that's little biscuits. That to me is probably a pretty good illustration of why you can't be colorful anymore, you'll have someone mad at you. You've got to watch what you say. No different than being a politician. Somebody's going to be nipping at you if you say the wrong thing, which is easy to do.

Q: How do you think you've done special teams through three games?

Ferentz: Okay. We can do better. One of the pleasant things has been our punting game's been good. It was a concern coming in, I think both Andy and John have done a good job, that's a plus. Kyle hasn't had many opportunities but he's done a good job when he's been in there. That was maybe the only highlight at Iowa State, he drilled that ball pretty good.

Q: (Phill Haddy interrupts: "Schlicher and Hinkel are outside")

Ferentz: Speaking of Kyle, how about that? Good timing.

Q: There were a few instances on Saturday where a few UNI receivers got past the secondary, considering the speed of Ginn and Holmes, how much of a concern is that for you?

Ferentz: UNI had real good speed, we respected them coming in, we know Ohio State has better speed. Any time a defender lets a receiver get behind them, that's a concern. That's football 101, 7th grade. It starts there. Defense starts with not giving up big plays. If you don't give up the big play you have a chance to be successful.

Q: Is that something you've been addressing practice or will address?

Ferentz: Since the start of time and till the end of time. That's certainly something we were always (pushing). Again, it's just a matter of a little better attention to detail?

Q: How important is it to a program to get on national TV?

Ferentz: It used to be a bigger deal, probably, when there was one game on a week or a couple games on a week. It's still exciting, I think everybody, be it ABC, be it ESPN, that's exciting. It's a little different.

Q: Does it have an impact on recruiting?

Ferentz: Yeah, it helps, no question. Especially if you play well. If you don't play well... It's great. If you're on network TV or ESPN, that's always exciting for everybody.

Q: Are you concerned at all about Shonn Greene's fumble issues?

Ferentz: Sure. You guys wondered why he wasn't playing at Iowa State. You always worry about a younger player and ball security, at any position. The good news, hopefully, is that you learn from your experiences. That's what we're encouraging Shonn to do. We don't think it's a chronic problem or anything like that. He's getting his feet wet right now.

Q: It hasn't shown up in practice then?

Ferentz: No, not at all.

Q: Is that going to impact his playing time this weekend?

Ferentz: We'll see how the game plays out. But we have confidence in Shonn, we've got a lot of confidence in him.

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