Kirk on the Side

Every head coach eventually loses some of his assistants. It's the nature of the beast. Kirk Ferentz was once an assistant that left Hayden Fry's staff in the late 1980's. In today's On the Side segment, Ferentz talks about the inevitability of that happening with his current staff. He also talks about the emotions of senior day, as well as the possibility of Iowa playing Northern Illinois in Soldier Field in 2007.

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Q: What are some of the things that the seniors will take away from their last game?

Kirk Ferentz: It's an emotional experience for all of those guys. Your entire senior year you start to realize how small the window becomes and the reality is upon them this weekend because it's the last time they will be in Kinnick. It's special. I am sure that all of them will think about all of their memories, their first time in there right through the good times and bad times. It's just a part of the deal. It's a special week for everyone involved.

Q: This is a role reversal from last week, where Wisconsin had their senior day. Did you take anything away from that?

Ferentz: I think we have played pretty well in each of our last home games. I have not detailed that, but I think we have done pretty well that way. If anything, I think we get a little boost from it. When it is all said and done, you guys asked about pregame speeches; pretty much all that gets rubbed out after two minutes and you have 58 minutes to play the game. The bottom line is that it's our last game at home and its nostalgic, but you have to get ready to play a 60 minute football game. That is what it took last week and it will again this week.

Q: When did you realize how good Greenway and Hodge could be?

Ferentz: When they were redshirting. You have an image of a player in recruiting and once they get on campus, that image gets validated or it gets tweaked. It happened quickly for both of those guys, that they had the potential to be really good football players. They had the physical attributes but more importantly they thought right, they didn't mind working hard. Then you have to knock on wood and hopefully they stay healthy and develop.

Q: Did you dream they could be as good as they have been?

Ferentz: We had good feelings about both of them. They are different kinds of players, but they are both valuable players. They are a lot alike, yet they are a lot different and it was that way from the start.

Q: What are the differences between Brian Ferentz and Greg Eslinger (Minnesota's center). Is it lateral speed, movement, etc?

Ferentz: (Kirk Laughs). Check, check, check

Q: Eslinger gets more publicity.

Ferentz: Eslinger started as a true freshman, which is amazing. Stenstrom the same thing. The amazing part of that was that they did not hurt their football team. When I read that going into the game, I was thinking ‘good'. But it was not so good when you looked at the film. I think that is the difference. Eslinger has been able to stay healthy the whole time. He has had four full and complete years that were productive. He is a senior. Don't even start that talk. Let those guys go. Brian has had his trials and tribulations. When they have played, they have been effective. Positive guys for both teams.

Q: Would you ask your center to pull all of the time like Eslinger does?

Ferentz: It's possible. Bruce (Nelson) was the closest we had to that. When you have a guy like that who has those abilities, you try to do what your players are better at doing. Brian is better in the box. Brian is more of a Hodge than a Greenway. Eslinger is more a Greenway than a Hodge.

Q: Have you faced a team yet this year that can pound on you the way that Minnesota does?

Ferentz: There is no team that is like Minnesota. There are not many teams in the country that run it like that. There is no one that is as committed to the run, outside of an option team, that has been as productive and effective that has scored those kinds of points. These guys are explosive. They scored 40+ last week without Maroney. That is a comforting thought.

Q: Are they like Nebraska used to be?

Ferentz: Yeah, except they have a quarterback. Maybe in the old days. With all due respect, the leagues are a little more balanced. You are talking about a balanced league, and it does not matter who lines up for these guys, they go and keep going.

Q: Of all the seniors, it seems like Ed Hinkel has been around the longest. Does it seem that way to you?

Ferentz: Yeah. The reason we have that picture is because Ed jumped in there and started in 2002 as a freshman redshirt. When he has been healthy, he has been a part of our success from day one. I think it's correct that he was the only freshman that played in that 2002 group. It was an excellent veteran team, and here is a redshirt freshman starting. Antwan started and Jovon started some. Ed made big plays that year for us. He has been tremendous. He is a leader on and off the field.

Q: With programs breaking up at Wisconsin and Kansas State, this is the time of year that coaches field calls regard job changes. Have you thought about that?

Ferentz: I guess that time is coming. Seriously, I have not given it much thought. The hiring season is approaching and there are two changes in bordering changes. Or neighboring area states. That season is upon us quickly. I am out of that loop until someone knocks on the door and tells me that someone wants to talk with them. I have not heard anything yet, but I am sure we will in the next few weeks

Q: Is this the year you may lose some people?

Ferentz: It's possible. It's inevitable, I will say that. My attitude has always been…I have made moves in my life. I don't think anyone will leave our staff just to leave, but if a guy has an attractive opportunity, I would totally support it. It would be selfish if I did not. Everyone on our staff has worked hard for the welfare of this program. To not return that would be selfish.

Q: Norm was recognized by the Master Coaches Association last week for Iowa's play. That is a good group of coaches there.

Ferentz: In Norm's words, it's a bunch of old guys recognizing another old guy. That was his quote. Does that surprise anybody?

Q: It did seem like a game where a veteran coach saw something and made it work.

Ferentz: Well. Yes and no. My respect for Norm and the job that he and the staff do is great. Believe it or not, we sometimes play the scheme a little better. It has been an ongoing process and we are making an improvement. It's just a shame we can't celebrate it due to this week's challenge. Any recognition that any of our guys get is deserved.

Q: What is the difference between six and seven wins?

Ferentz: 7-4 sounds better than 6-5. Always has and always will. That is the best we can possibly be right now, so that is about as simple as that.

Q: Do you keep a short list of assistant coaching candidates?

Ferentz: Oh yeah, always and at all times. 12 months a year. That being said, if something should happen, I doubt we would rush out and move. We would sit back and try to be logical and methodical. I always keep a short list. You have to.

Q: How comforting has it been in recent years knowing that you have had season cornerbacks?

Ferentz: This year, coming into this year, we had not been in that situation. They have had injury problems and we have played through those. We have had challenges with those guys being hurt. Adam was nicked up, too and Ma'Quan with surgery, so you never get comfortable. It's nice to have good veteran players anytime.

Q: Is Allen back to full speed?

Ferentz: I don't know if anyone is at full speed right now. He is out there competing and I think he is playing well. Most of the guys have some kind of thing going on right now.

Q: Are you recruiting any Juco's?

Ferentz: Not to my knowledge. Let me think before I say that. I don't think so. Not as scholarship players. I am pretty sure, no. I don't want to be a liar here, but I can't think of anyone. We would rather keep bringing in younger guys.

Q: It looks like David Walker is going through ceremonies.

Ferentz: I think Dave is going to graduate in December. He decided to do that.

Q: Where are things with Lee Gray?

Ferentz: He is still working on rehab and we are not sure where that is all going right now.

Q: The Iowa-Northern Illinois game in Soldier Field keeps coming up. Is there anything to that?

Ferentz: I think it's a possibility, but nothing has been sealed. I know it is a discussion right now. Overall big picture, the 12th game being integrated so quickly, I think we are making a good move as a conference trying to make that all work because otherwise, you are looking at logistical nightmares right now. It was a good idea, but we had not worked out all the details.

Q: What is the value of playing there?

Ferentz: Quick commentary on that, playing in pro stadiums, like we did in Tampa, that was part of the attraction with the Pittsburgh deal, playing at Hines Field. I think that is a spark, and it makes sense with the amount of Iowans and Iowa grads in the Chicagoland Area. That makes perfect sense. That makes more sense than traveling to an obscure destination. Quite frankly, my preference would not be to change time zones and go out west for any game. I think that is totally crazy. That is just my personal commentary on that one.

Q: So you don't want to go out west for a bowl game?

Ferentz: If you are going to stay for a week, that is different. But for a weekend trip and risking screwing up the next week, that makes no sense at all.

Q: Then we won't be seeing you playing at Hawaii?

Ferentz: My preference there would be to go for a vacation. I have been there three times as a coach and have had a miserable time all three times. I would much rather break open the piggy bank and go for a trip where I don't have to work.

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