Michigan Week: Kirk on the Side 10/18

Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media Tuesday about in-season recruiting, matching up with Big Ten powers, freshman phenoms and much more. Read what the Coach had to say in the latest installment of this always candid interview.

Q: You got in with the band last week?

Kirk Ferentz: How was it?

Q: You had to play with the band to get back out there.

Ferentz: We were just trying to get out there. I'm not quite sure what happened there. That was a first, I think.

Q: Indiana brought its band, I think that probably threw the timing off.

Ferentz: They were not good visitors. They probably ran over their allotted time. Like an unwanted speaker, right? (Laughs)

Q: Can you talk about October? Is it just timing how it happens to work out for you guys where you're playing your stronger opponents then? Is it just the cohesion's there, the routine kicks in?

Ferentz: That's probably a part of it, routine, typically we're a developmental team. It's something to think about the out-of-season more, but I think in generic terms, we tend to be a developmental football team. When you win, you overlook things or lose sight of some details maybe, but it was the same in 2002. We had a bumpy road then in September. I think a part of that is that we don't get a lot of freshman phenom recruits. We don't have a young Manningham to jump in there and play for us, that type of thing. Hopefully, if we're doing things right, we get better from every experience, keep pushing forward. In a nutshell, that's as probably as much to do with it as anything.

Q: Is that the key to being a developmental team, having new guys doing new things?

Ferentz: Every team in college graduates seniors. How your newcomers step in has a lot to do with how the season's going to go. That's probably a big part of it.

Q: What about you, you were talking about their grading, B-, C-, all of that.

Ferentz: I hate to do that. I took efforts to cross out the publication and the writer's name. I guess I'm a little cynical, but I guess I always chuckle at those grading reports.

Q: What about those as far as the 'wounded animal' thing coming up? When they come in here, what does that do for you?

Ferentz: You think they're wounded right now? That's what I'm laughing about. If they got a B- for beating a top 8 team, wow. What's it take to get an A? I thought they gave a hell of an effort. I guess that shows what I know about grading. That's why I'm not teaching school anymore. Too easy of a grader.

Q: You mentioned the phenom recruits, is this one of the weeks where you get a lot of officials coming in? Do you prefer to have guys come in after the season?

Ferentz: I do, and we really don't have a lot. Might be 3, might be 4. It's not a big number. We're probably in the bottom 10 of teams nationally as far as bringing prospects in during the season. Typically we'll do it if we don't have a good alternative. I'm not a great supporter of it. That being said, I guess we've got to keep our minds open because it seems to be a national trend. It likely could hurt you, just like not going to all those combines in the spring could hurt you.

Q: What do you think you could gain from getting a kid in after the season?

Ferentz: What you gain is a more in-depth visit where they really are going to get better exposed to the things that are going to be pertinent to a good solid decision. That being said, that's probably a good reason not to do it. When has recruiting ever been all about logical, well-though out, sound decisions as opposed to emotional responses. There's give and take. It's a big plus for prospects to come in and see our crowd in Kinnick. A perfect world, I wish every recruit could come to a game unofficially, experience the crowd, the excitement on game day then come officially when we really have time to sit down with them, detail their plans academically, athletically, all those types of things. In-season, the coaches are working, so you can't spend near as much time as you'd like to with the recruits, it's just the way it is, it's a bit challenging for professors too, because a lot of them are fans on Saturday, and they don't want to come over and spend time during the game day. And logistics are tough too, because most guys are playing on Friday, so to get them in here for an 11:00 kickoff's a challenge.

Q: What are this year's recruiting priorities?

Ferentz: Probably more 7-on-7 type players. Guys that would play in a 7 on 7 tournament, offensively and defensively, that's probably the number one emphasis for us.

Q: Back to 1985, when the ball's in the air, what's going through your mind?

Ferentz: I'm an optimist, I was thinking positive thoughts. I think all of us had great faith in Rob. That was a great moment, when they tried to ice him. He looked over to their bench then gave them an "I'm scared" kind of hand wave deal. That was a great moment. You see a guy like Rob do that, then there's a pretty good chance he's going to nail it through there, and he did it. It was a great memory. Unfortunately it's a memory we've got to work this week.

Q: Did Hayden always put a little extra emphasis on this game?

Ferentz: I don't know. To me, it probably became a good series because in 81 we went up there and won the game. That was a great football game, it wasn't very pretty to watch if you were an offensive fan, but it just a real physical, hard-knocking game. We did a great job of shutting their running back down. Held Carter to one touchdown catch. Our guys did enough on offense, played well on special teams. It was a big game for the program, certainly, and it seems like since then, it's been a pretty healthy series, for the most part. There have been some games that haven't been so competitive, but for the most part it's been fairly healthy.

Q: Let's go back to shootouts a little bit. You say it's personnel, partly. Is it also the spread (offense)? Has that changed it a bit?

Ferentz: People are throwing it around. No question they're throwing it more than any time before, at least in my recent memory. More people are doing it. It's not really a novelty item anymore. To me, a lot of it does go to personnel. You look at a guy like Basanez at Northwestern, that guy's been playing good football for quite some time, flying under the radar screen. They really have a nice offensive football team. He's a very heady guy, the Ohio State game, he probably saw that on TV, a heady guy, he's a winner. When you get guys, be it a quarterback or a different player, a guy like Calhoun, you get some of these guys that can really have some magic to them, it can impact the game pretty quickly.

Q: How you set up a defense for guys with magic?

Ferentz: It's hard. I say you play great team defense, and sometimes the facts are that you have a guy covered, or you have a guy defended, and guess what, he still comes out of there with it. I'll never forget Denver Johnson and Larry Coker came up here to visit us, whatever year, 88 or something like that. Wanting to know if they could reciprocate. I said, "yeah, before you come up, send some tape, I want to see this guy Barry Sanders, go ahead and send some film up here." I'll never forget, it was against Nebraska, second or third play of the game. He ran up into the line, looked like a two yard gain, next thing I know, this guy came around the left end for 15, 20 yards. I shut it off, I called somebody and showed them that, that initial bit where he got up to the line. I shut it off and said, "What do you think?" you know, same response. There are some players that just have that ability. You might have them stopped, not so fast.

Q: It seems like every offense has a guy like that, or two or three guys like that.

Ferentz: It's nice if you have one or two, if you have one, that's pretty good. If you have a couple of them, that's pretty good too. Ronnie Harmon was that kind of player for us in the 80s.

Q: Is Mario Manningham that next guy in line for them?

Ferentz: He might be, but he's got to wait in line a little bit. Avant's a heck of a player, and Breaston. They've got plenty of room, they don't mind using more than two guys. He has a chance to be, certainly. He's an outstanding performer.

Q: With Albert missing a good chunk of two seasons, how much does that slow his development, are these things he can only learn on the field?

Ferentz: Experience helps every player, no question about it. I think the more he plays, I think the better he'll get, and that's exciting. He's still a young player, from that standpoint, but he's a third year player, but still a young player in terms of experience. He loves the game, most importantly. He's got a great attitude, great work ethic. You combine all those things, and he's got a great future ahead of him, too.

Q: Do you seem him gaining strides week-to-week this year?

Ferentz: I think everybody's kind of fitting in together. It seems like our package is coming together a little bit right now. He's certainly a key guy, a key member of the equation.

Q: What do you see on tape out of Drew this year versus last?

Ferentz: I don't think there's a lot of difference, the only thing I would make reference to is the beginning of the season was so -- although last year was no smooth start either -- I don't know how many passes he threw in the first game, single digit, I believe.

Q: Yeah, about 10.

Ferentz: 10, so that was kind of tough. The next week he gets knocked out, so it's kind of a weird way to start a year. It's like our football team. I think we'll all know more four weeks from now, how he's done, how we've all done.

Q: Why do you think the interceptions are down?

Ferentz: I hope experience. You hope that's part of the equation. Guys, the more they play, the smarter they play, I think that's true. No question, he's got a great feel for what's going on out there.

Q: Talk about how Drew came in with a certain set of expectations he didn't have last year, as well as Henne from Michigan. They both have kind of had to deal with having success the year before, then coming in and hearing, "Oh, you're great"

Ferentz: We still think Drew's pretty good.

Q: But from outside.

Ferentz: Others might not. I just don't look at al that stuff. Right now this is all hypotheticals. We'll know how the season went, we'll know how our season went, and probably the two will be somewhat linked, because they're both quarterbacks. We look at Henne on film, and we've got great respect for him. I'd imagine they've got some respect for Drew too.

Q: Is that something a quarterback has to go through?

Ferentz: There are so many factors that are involved in quarterback play, so many factors. To me, the bottom line is, you do all that stuff at the end of the season.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about Mike Humpal, how he's played, how he's come along?

Ferentz: Mike's a guy we've had real high hopes for, he's had some tough setbacks injury wise. This last one was no walk-in-the-park. He's just such a great young guy, he's worked hard in rehab, and you could see him getting better, physically, during august. We think both he and Mike Klinkenborg are good football players who right now are obviously in the shadows a little bit because of Chad and Abdul. He's doing a good job out there, and having those two guys in addition to our starters gives us a chance to fool around with that 3-4 package. We think Mike's going to be a real good football player, and already is doing some good things.

Q: Two knees, wasn't it?

Ferentz: Yeah, it's been a tough road for him.

Q: Did he have a back or neck or something like that too?

Ferentz: He might have had some back, but I don't think he had surgery. Nothing early. The last knee was really the most significant thing he's had to overcome. That was a tough procedure.

Q: This is the first time he's really been healthy, hasn't it?

Ferentz: Yeah, I mean full speed, where he can go out there and play. It's been great to have him, he's a great guy.

Q: How much are you guys counting on him next year?

Ferentz: Obviously with our two guys graduating. That was one of the good things that came out of the spring, we felt good about both those guys. Not so much Mike Humpal, because he was out, but Klink had a great spring, we feel like if he had to, he could jump right in there. Zach's coming along too. You're always watching the guys playing, we're always trying to move the other guys along too, make sure they're coming along. Both those guys are doing a good job.

Q: You talk about looking at October, during the off-season, would you look at the earlier part of the season, or maybe examine what's working?

Ferentz: I think we ought to look at September, based on the numbers. We'll look at everything, we always do. Once we get to October 1st, we seem to be okay. Maybe we can get the NCAA to start the season later. I didn't think of that when I was asked later. What the heck.

Q: Who are some of the developmental players where the light is going on now for you guys, maybe on the offensive line?

Ferentz: Let's talk about that next week. I just want to get on to our game this week.

Q: When you beat Michigan in '02, was that the turning point, respect wise, when people start thinking you're for real?

Ferentz: I think on a broader perspective. Chris Leak called us after the game, so it caught his attention at least. That was probably pretty important. I think really the most key time, for us, was in that late 2000 stretch right there, the last four games. That was a big win, certainly. It was a national broadcast, it helps.

Q: It seems like when Iowa beats Michigan it's a big year, there's something happening in Iowa City. There's never a ho-hum year where you guys beat Michigan.

Ferentz: We lost to them last year and won the championship, that wasn't bad. It goes back to football 101 or Big Ten 101, if you're playing Ohio State or Michigan, chances are they're going to be in the top 3 of the race every year. If you can knock one of those teams off, you increase your chances. Any time you beat one of those two, it's basically been 13 years prior to 81 that they've been running the roost in the league.


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