Injury wise, we appear to be pretty healthy. We are going to let Marcus Paschal go in practice today and he will be back with us. The only guy really in doubt would be Alex Willcox, who is having some shoulder difficulties. We will see how it goes this week for him.
Outside of that, we are in pretty good shape. We have a big challenge this week and that is about it. We are hitting the road for a big game. I will throw it out to you. I am all out of comments. I have been looking at too many Purdue blitzes.
Q: How do you assess Purdue after their showing against Notre Dame on Saturday?
Kirk Ferentz: It looked like two different football teams. When you read their accounts, for whatever reason and we have been in that situation…Notre Dame is a hot and veteran football team right now. They did a nice job executing and for whatever reason, Purdue looked out of synch. They looked sharp in the second half with 62 snaps. That has to be close to a record if not a record. They have our respect, I can assure you of that. They are talented and veteran and as you know, we have not had great success against Purdue, so they have more than our full attentions.
Q: What is your take on their defense?
Ferentz: It's really hard to read because they have played extremely well at times. You look on that film, there are a lot of guys that have had success against us. They are talented and experienced up front, the linebackers are good football players and their secondary. I know they are having some injury problems on the outside and that is probably a big factor, but it is uncharacteristic, not only yardage wise…you have heard me say all along, that has been one of the great constants over there is that they have played tremendous defense. People talk about their offense, but they play outstanding defense as well and my guess is that they are working hard to get back on track. They did some great things against Arizona where they gave up 15 yards rushing. This will be a heck of a challenge for us.
Q: Iowa has all these players back on offense and Purdue has a lot back on defense, but what are the intangibles.
Ferentz: Every season is unique. You have heard my comments before about preseason polls. You have to base them on something and it's logical to base them on past results and returning players, but every season is different. Every game is different. Just like right now, we are expecting to see the best out of Purdue's defense. I think we saw it out of their offense in that second half. Things can turn that quickly, so we need to be prepared for their best and my guess is that is what we are going to see.
Q: It seems that Purdue got caught a few times blitzing last week?
Ferentz: Notre Dame had an excellent game plan. They executed it extremely well. If they wouldn't mind lending us a couple of those 6-foot-6 receivers that break tackles…they are a good football team. They are well coached and very veteran with a quarterback playing extremely well. They are a veteran offensive line and they have two receivers that were highly recruited. It is your job going in to have a good plan, and it helps to have the right people involved and the right decision makers and the right playmakers. They have all the pieces that you need.
Q: Is that your job this week?
Ferentz: It's our job every week. We try to give our guys a good plan every week. What you have to remember that what is our team and personnel versus…we are not similar to Oklahoma when they had Billy Sims and Jack Milburn. They always looked pretty good, too. You have to do what you can do and what your players can do.
Q: Is it fair to say that Purdue has matched up as good with you as anyone the last several years?
Ferentz: We have had a hard fought series. The games here have been close and the games there haven't been so close. Whatever conclusions you can draw from that, but I think we are dead even the last four years. The last six years, but I don't think I was here for the sixth. I think I missed the Drew Brees era. I am sorry I missed that (sarcasm). It was fun to watch him on film.
Q: Can you talk about offensive line and the differences between tackle and guard and what would make someone prefer one over another.
Ferentz: If you have an hour, I could. The responsibilities are different. If what you are alluding to is our switch last week, the bottom line is that we felt that Mike Jones has two years invested at guard and for whatever reason he didn't look to be as comfortable on game days as he had at guard, so it was simple. We moved him back to where he has performed well. Our hopes were that he would look more comfortable there and I think it worked out. Marshal has been back and forth so much the last 10 months that he is not quite sure where he is at, so it didn't affect him. I think we have Mike back where he is more comfortable.
Q: So it is not unusual for a person to prefer one over the other?
Ferentz: I think it is what you get used to. Since Mike got here, he has been a guard. He is still in the bullpen as a back up tackle. Some guys move around and it does not affect them and some it does; you can't tell until you play.
Q: Does tackle or guard say anything about you athletically?
Ferentz: I don't buy that. I think it's all talk. It's sexier maybe to be the left tackle, because that is what Jonathon Ogden is, Orlando Pace, Walter Jones; that is a sexy position. That is as close as it comes for a lineman for a glory position. I don't think its that big of a deal.
Q: How much does the offensive line shifting is to blame on some struggles on offense?
Ferentz: I can't answer that. In a perfect world, you would like to have all five guys play a position all season long. We had that in 2002. But if you have injuries or graduation, then you have to figure out what is what and who is who. You don't know until you get into games how a player will perform. I will go back to when Chuck Hartlieb won the quarterback job in 1987. The only thing I was sure of was that he was third of the three and a couple of games in he was one out of three and started to set records. Until you get in a game, you are never quite sure what is best for the individuals.
Q: Do fans not realize how much of an effect that everyone on the offensive line playing a new position has made?
Ferentz: It's common sense that we graduated a good player in Pete McMahon who is still playing, and we lost Lee Gray to injury and he would have been a veteran player. I go back to Notre Dame, that makes a big difference. We have seen them on film every year and it makes a big difference when you have experience. When you lose two guys of that caliber, it will impact you a little bit. But that is true at every position. It goes back to the question of each season; every season is different. Even if you have everyone back there, there are no guarantees. You just don't know. There are a lot of things that affect players performances.
Q: How did you find Marshal Yanda?
Ferentz: I am not sure. Reese could tell you. All I know is that he was here on a Sunday during the fall last year, in October. He seemed like a real nice young guy and he left some tape for us. We liked his tape, he came back, we liked him and the next thing you know we were married. We were not quite sure. Reese is like Inspector Clueso. I am not sure if he got 48 calls, but he did his homework. I don't know if we reached out to him or he to us. It started out as a courtship and we ended up getting married and I am glad we did. He is a great young man.
Q: When you get a player like him from NIAC, does it make you look at those ranks more?
Ferentz: We have tried to look at everyone closely, but we are not overly aggressive in the junior college ranks unless we have a good reason to. Yanda was probably the least heralded recruit last year. We were thinking that he was a home grown guy, we liked his background in all regards, not just football. The other thing that was the clincher, ironically, is that he had a redshirt year available. My past experience has been, going back to the 1980's, is that Juco linemen need a year to figure out what is going on. But he really took off during spring ball with each practice, you could see it.
Q: When you see how effective a weapon Albert has been, does it make you wonder how good things could have been last year?
Ferentz: We don't look back too often. The unfortunate part is that we felt good about Albert's potential two years ago and then he got hurt, last year the same thing. We are not surprised at all by what he is doing and we are happy for him. He works hard. I am happy he is healthy and able to enjoy playing the game. He had that taken away from him the last two years.
Q: Are you seeing more of a rotation at running back the rest of the way?
Ferentz: I don't know if we have a formula exactly. The game dictates what happens. If Albert runs out of gas like he did the other day, which is an easy decision. But we don't go in with a set formula. We have some ideas about what roles the players fit, but we are keeping an open mind and the good news is that we have some alternatives this year.
Q: What do you think about Kirsch so far?
Ferentz: We have great respect for him. He made the game here exciting a few years ago when he came in as a true freshman. He has played well against us. All you had to do was watch the second half of the game the other day. They were up and down the field and really executing. He can throw the heck out of it and he is a good athlete. It is a little scary, and now they have added that option to their attack. Last week's preparation, it's kind of funny how that worked out, a sort of a blessing in disguise getting introduced to option. It was a surprise for us when that popped on film.
Q: They are running the ball more this year.
Ferentz: A couple of years ago, they were fooling around with some two-tight end stuff, putting a linebacker at fullback. He was a great player. To me, it is a spread offense with that option attack. It is basketball but every now and then they pitch it. Their backs are really good. Void is a good player, who is unfortunately hurt, Sheets can run like crazy.
Q: Can you talk about Ed Hinkel's contributions to the program? He has made so many big plays.
Ferentz: He has been tremendous. The first thing I would say about him is that he does all the things that go unnoticed by your average person. We all recognize the great and tough catches that he has made. But when I think of him, I think of the dirty work he does that really allow a football team to be successful and win games. I go back to the Wisconsin game last year, a tough third down catch he made after we threw two interceptions to start the game. That was a big play in that game. Had we not converted there, it might have been a different story. The guy is a winner. He is a flat-out winner.
Q: You were involved in recruiting Sheets.
Ferentz: He is an excellent football player. We had great respect for him coming out of high school and he is proving that he is a fine Big Ten football player.
Q: Kyle Williams looks to be starting at linebacker.
Ferentz: If he is starting as a freshman he is a good player, no question about that.
Q: What is your take seeing Joe Paterno at 5-0 after people were calling for his head?
Ferentz: I don't want to say I told you so, but I am not totally surprised. I felt coming into the season that they and Michigan State would be pretty good teams. There are a lot of good teams and there is a lot of football left to play, but they have an excellent defense and they had one last year. The big difference this year is they are more experienced on offense and they have added some playmakers. I am not exactly sure, I know Williams is playing a lot and I don't know what King is doing, but they have experience on offense. Not that I coach their team, I think that has hurt them the last few years. When you have a great defense and some experience on offense, you have a chance to be a pretty good team. It has been proven that they know how to coach football. They are having a great year and it's OK that we are not playing them.
Q: Through five games, have special teams been your most consistent group?
Ferentz: They really have. We are the kind of team that has a lot of margin for error. We certainly have to keep playing well on special teams. We had some questions coming in. Our punting has been good, both Andy and John, guys like Zach Gablemann have stepped up. It could have been better last year in our opinion, and these guys have done a great job. Kyle is giving them a chance. The kickers play a big role in coverage. When we have called upon Kyle, he has gotten the job done as well. It has been pleasing to see that. We still have room for improvement.
Q: Is Gablemann your suicide guy?
Ferentz: He picking it up. It's funny how it goes. Before we got into live situations with the kicking game stuff, Norm talked about him doing better as a middle linebacker in camp. Everything clicks for guys at different times, but he was doing well at the line of scrimmage on defense since the e tart of camp. He is moving at a different pace and things are clicking for him. He is really doing well on the kickoff team. He has accepted a leadership role on that thing.
Q: When you think about the Purdue-Iowa series, is this a defensive match up?
Ferentz: Any time you have winning football teams, you don't do it without a good defense. With all due respect, Purdue has done a great job offensively. I look at the 49ers back in the ‘80's or the Redskins. People talk about their offensive systems, but those teams played great defenses. Purdue's scoring defense in our conference has been excellent. They have been to eight straight bowls.
Q: What is different with their defense this year, as they have everyone back?
Ferentz: I can't answer that. I just know that we are expecting to see those guys playing the way they always do against us, which is tough. We are hardly a well-oiled machine yet on offense. They are probably looking at us saying, ‘boy, we can't wait to get those guys over here.'
Q: What does it do for an offense when the running backs are a part of the passing game?
Ferentz: It helps. Anytime you can get more people involved, it is common sense that it helps you. It makes it tougher for people to defend. If we can do that, it is a healthy thing. It puts the linebackers in a different spot. They can't fly back into zones so fast.
Q: When you see Chad and Abdul leading the Big Ten in tackles, is that a good thing?
Ferentz: It has been that way for three years. I am not a big stat guy on those things, but I think I am correct that they have been up there the last two years. It seems like when they walked in, they started tackling guys and I don't expect them to stop until we finish up this year. It is the way our defense is built. The guys up front do the hard labor; not that Chad and Abdul don't, but if they are not making tackles we are in trouble. Fortunately we have two guys doing a great job back there.
Q: Do they have to pick up more than their share of slack?
Ferentz: It is not the same as last year and we knew that. I don't think it's a dramatic difference; you would have to ask them. I think our guys up front are doing a good job. If they weren't, you would see more safety tackles. Not that we are not tackling back there, too. I don't think it's a dramatic difference.
Q: Coach Parker's defenses have always tackled well. I would imagine the tackling problems are bothering him.
Ferentz: It's concerning to all of us. It's like not blocking on offense. Those old clichés are true. As I said Saturday, if you are discussing missed tackles, it's not a good thing anywhere in the country at any level. We work methodically at it and we will continue to do that. We are doing the best we know how as far as coaching and our players are trying the best we can. I think we will see that improve if we keep our focus where it has to be. But it does make a difference.
Q: Will you continue to rotate Dace Richardson at left tackle?
Ferentz: I can't tell you how many snaps, it gets blurry, but we are committed to playing him and all the freshmen. It's easier with the defensive linemen as they are getting more snaps. Tony has been getting a lot more snaps than Dace. Shonn Greene would have gotten more snaps the other day but he got knocked on the shoulder and was out. He is OK. But we want to keep Dace involved and make sure that this is a beneficial year for him.