Kirk on the Side: 10/04

Kirk Ferentz spoke candidly with the media Tuesday about players' jersey numbers, updated several injuries, and preparing for Purdue. Read what he had to say in this premium transcript.

Q: You were talking about Chad and Abdul, when things change on a team, maybe guys say, not making as many tackles for loss and stuff, NFL scouts figure that out, don't they? Things change, they're still the same guy they used to be? Or do they?

Kirk Ferentz: With all due respect, NFL scouts, that's their jobs to know what's going on. They knew the situation, good and bad, experienced players back. Those guys are all routinely, they come into our schools, they probably know more about us than we do, just because that's what they do, that's their job. Just like a guy's 40 time on Astroturf or a track versus long grass, they qualify everything.

Q: Chris Brevi working back with you?

Ferentz: He started back lightly last week. I don't know when he's going to go through a full practice, it might be this week, we'll see how it goes.

Q: There's no real good answer to this question, but I know players, they get into their numbers.

Ferentz: Jersey Numbers?

Q: Yeah, you've mentioned before about the single digit numbers. Did you have one when you were a player, did you have a number that you had to have, do you know guys who have to have numbers? What do you tell kids? A lot of them probably want to wear 24.

Ferentz: Can't wear that one, sorry. Which is one reason, we've thought about retiring numbers, but you'd be in serious trouble at that point. There are very few things I hate about my job, one of them is dishing out numbers in the spring. I'm happy to say this year I heard less about numbers than any year since I've been here. That's really good news. It's a little bit of a pint. I think for the most part, guys understand that this is a new start. To me, everybody should be happy to have a number, that's the most important thing.

Q: Do recruits ever bring it up?

Ferentz: Occasionally, if they do, we'll try and service them if it's appropriate. My answer to all of them is you make the number, the number doesn't make you. Bob Sanders, I don't know who wore 33 in front of him, I can't really remember I should maybe. When I think of 33, there's a reason I think of Bob Sanders. Now the pros are thinking 21. I'm sure the people playing him. I saw one of those clips the other night, they probably know where he lines up now.

Q: Are you aware of any deals that have gone down with players?

Ferentz: No, I haven't. I've heard about the pros where a guy goes in and buys a jersey, but I haven't heard of any of that stuff going on here. College kids don't have any money.

Q: That's true, they might trade X-Box.

Ferentz: OK.

Q: Is it kind of like their identity? You can't see faces.

Ferentz: It's not uncommon to see players out there with their autographs, Joe Smith 72 or whatever it may be. That's a nice touch, I guess. Players are into it, the jewelry and all that stuff. Some guys are more into it than others. It's like anything else in life, some guys are into that stuff and some aren't. I'm OK with it as long as it doesn't take away from them playing.

Q: Do you need to get Solomon more involved, do you think?

Ferentz: I thought he had a great game the other day, actually. He only had a couple catches, but he blocked just awesome. Again, the game dictates where the ball goes, it really does. The opponent and the game. All that being said, we want all of our guys, we consider him to be one of our playmakers, an experienced guy, certainly a playmaker for us. If we can get the ball in his hands, but it's hard to force it in there, we don't want to do that.

Q: Are defensives more conscious of him this year?

Ferentz: You'd be silly not to. Most defenses sit down and say, "OK, who are the guys that can hurt us?" Certainly they need to be in tune to him.

Q: Ed Miles came out late in the game, is he OK?

Ferentz: He's ok, yeah, he's ok. I can't even remember what he had, but he's ok, he was fine Sunday.

Q: You talk about the dirty work with Ed, what does that mean for a wide receiver? People don't talk about wide receiver blocking very much.

Ferentz: Yeah, I mean blocking in critical. Both those guys blocked really well Saturday, that's really, a lot of times, the difference between a 150 yards rushing and 225, or whatever ratio you want to give it. Just like missed tackles are the difference between 150 and (something higher). That's really critical, receiver blocking is critical. Basically, he does the things you have to do. He's reliable in the punting game, he makes the tough catch, you basically count on him. The bowl game, another example where he had some tough opportunities and got the job done. He's one of those guys that somehow, someway, he's going to come through for you and help your team win. It's not always, "Wow, boy, did you see Ed Hinkel?" He's had a few of those too. That's what everybody thinks about, but I think about the stuff that maybe isn't quite as apparent.

Q: Does he also have value in the locker room? When we get to him, he's pretty level headed.

Ferentz: He's that way, that's his M.O. He's pretty quiet, but he's always been a leader. There's a reason he made him a quarterback, it wasn't cause he was a great thrower, I think. They made him a quarterback when they won the state championship. Basically, since he was in 7th grade, his teams win. I can't give you the record, but it's pretty impressive. He'd probably know it. It's like his team always wins, it's good to have those guys on your team.

Q: You've got guys all over the field that played quarterback. Does that have a little added value for you?

Ferentz: I think so, it's kind of like in baseball. I'm no expert in baseball, but you better have a shortstop, a center fielder, a catcher, and you better have a guy at quarterback. He doesn't have to be thrower, but he better be a guy that's going to help you win. At any level it's true, but I think there's something in that, yeah. Russ Grimm was a quarterback in high school, how about that. Then came to Pitt as a linebacker, he was 210 pounds, something like that. He's about 100+ past that now. There's something about that.

Q: I know you take each game at a time, but coming off an Ohio State and an Iowa State, now you're back on the road. Is there an urgency that comes with that?

Ferentz: I think right now we're 1-1 in the conference, and 2-2 overall, 3-2 overall, whatever we are. It's pretty simple, we have six games left. If there's not a sense of urgency in all six of these games, we've got the wrong guys on our team. To me, it's no more complex than that, whether we're playing them here, there, we play Purdue, it's going to be a tough game. We're barely into the Big Ten right now, but you look down the road and it looks like every game is going to be more than enough of a challenge. We better get used to that, no problem there. We're 0-2 on the road this year, hopefully we'll fair better this time out. If not, we'll regroup and try and do better next time, because we've got a couple more waiting for us. I think we know the challenges that are ahead. If the guys don't understand that this is the time to be footing the gas pedal, they probably shouldn't be on the team.

Q: Is it good, with Mattison, and Iwe-, Iwebema--

Ferentz: Kenny. He's Kenny the next two years for me. You can't change your name during it. We recruited you one way, you can' change your name in the middle of the stream. I'm a little against that.

Q: It's like numbers.

Ferentz: Exactly, exactly.

Q: Does it help to have those two in the same position going through the same things, the fire, the same kind of competition together? I'd imagine it builds a bond and they push each other, that kind of thing.

Ferentz: They do. I think all the defensive linemen are pretty cohesive. It's a little bit like the offensive line. One of those jobs that really, it's not glamorous or up front. On our defense, our linebackers make a lot of plays and tackles. There's a lot of camaraderie there, those two guys being the same age, pretty much on the same developmental track, no question I think there's a parallel there. They're both doing a good job, I think our defensive line's improving, I thought they improved during the course of the game. I thought you could see them getting more and more confidence as we went. That's really what we need right now, at all positions we need to keep improving, because we're a work in progress at best right now. We really need to keep pushing.

Q: Projecting down the road, it's sort of like the new Hodge and Greenway, they're sort of from different ends of the planet.

Ferentz: I hadn't thought about it that way yet, but I guess, yeah, it might be.

Q: They seem to have that, it's not intentional, but it just sort of happens.

Ferentz: I guess I hadn't thought about it, but yeah, there are some parallels there.

Q: It seems like Purdue is going to give your defensive line a lot to think about.

Ferentz: Yeah, Purdue's a tough preparation. Last week was a tough one, I said that may be a blessing in disguise. Not that they're the same, but there are some similarities, the no-huddle facet, a lot of spread formations last week, we're going to see that again, the option threat, we're going to see that. They're not identical, but at least there are some parallels, some correlation there.

Q: Without disrespecting Illinois, Purdue is a little more efficient, too.

Ferentz: Purdue's had more experience, they've got more experienced players. That certainly makes a difference. At least there's some carry over.

Q: Based on what they did in the 2nd half, do you expect more of the spread from them?

Ferentz: It wouldn't surprise me. They looked like they were hitting on all cylinders in that second half. They looked like they did a good job of flushing down the first half and just, "Hey, let's go, let's play." I didn't realize it was 62 snaps, I think I'm correct in saying that. That's unbelievable. We have a hard time getting 62 in a game, they got 62 in a half against a good football team. You could say it got our attention real fast, and that guy can gun the ball, Kirsch. He can throw the football. He can run with it.

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