A lot of effort goes into recruiting by an awful lot of people. Our support staff does a great job. Professors give up a lot of time, people in our administration and everyone around town is friendly and hospitable. That goes a long ways for us.
As far as rankings go, that always comes up. About all I know is that we finished in the Top 10 last February and didn't finish in the Top 10 in the fall, so the only thing I can tell you after doing both is that we prefer being in the Top 10 in the fall. I am not sure how to rank this class, we will let the experts do that. The big thing is that we are happy with the guys that we got; we think we have a good class and we are more focused on how our players leave the program. The most important thing to us is what happens the last few years of their careers and how they leave the program, that is where our focus is.
Basically we don't get as many first rounders as some schools get. The thing we are looking for are the best football players we can find and the guys that are the best fit on campus. That is what we are interested in. Once they get here and how they grow and develop, those are our keys. That being said, we feel great about the guys that we have. If you look at the players that we signed, it's almost like we focused on guys you would find in a seven on seven practice. We were looking on defense for defensive backs and linebackers. We are graduating some pretty good starters in both categories. The defensive linemen we signed are outside players, defensive ends and that was our target there. Offensively, we are looking at the receiver position graduating three seniors. We looked hard at quarterback, because a year from March without this class, Jake Christensen would be the only quarterback on campus. So Jake, Arvell and Rick will compete for the starting job down the road.
A.J. Edds is a tight end who we felt good about. The specialist category, Ryan Donahue jumped out right off the bat last spring as a guy that was a prospective guy that could compete well in our league as a punter and he has a strong leg as a kicker and that is a need that we had as well.
The last thing I will say is that we are going to get some outstanding additions to our team that have not signed scholarship papers. Some guys primarily from our state that we think are very good football players. We are pleased about that. I think that collectively this group will have a chance to help our football team next fall.
Q: What about the recruiting trail you have seen past few years, what is it really like out there?
Kirk Ferentz: For the most part, we enjoy the recruiting process. I don't think any of us enjoys being away from home. The other tough part about it is the last two weeks that our guys are in class here and the first two they start classes in January, we are not the road and we don't like to be gone when guys are wrapping up a semester and more so when they are starting a semester. You get to meet a lot of good people. The changes that I have seen the last seven years and more specifically, being gone nine years, is the amount of attention that is devoted to recruiting from outside sources. That has really increased. It's good for the sport, there is a lot of great interest, but its not always great for the individuals involved. I heard a story today about a prospect somewhere that had four hats out and didn't pick any and unveiled a shirt. I am not sure that is healthy, but whatever. I don't know if that was going on 10 years ago, I am sure it was.
Q: Is the process cleaner now?
Kirk Ferentz: I think so. I speak from that perspective of being here nine years, gone nine years and being back, most of the rules are more humane if you will, a lot better for all involved. Not only for the coaches, but for the prospects and their families. We have not encountered anything suspicious, and I can't say that was always true in the ‘80's. For the most part, the people we recruit against have been upfront and very ethical.
Q: Are there things in the process you would like to see done differently?
Ferentz: This will never happen, but I would rather us play the season, including the bowl game and let our players go through the fall, and us not leave campus until after January. I think the trend is going the other direction, with some discussions about early signing dates. Really, the trend is for prospects to get out and look at schools at a younger and younger age and make decisions overall a little more quickly than they did even five years ago. If it were up to me, I would put recruiting on hold during the season and let us play and coach and let the high school players play and let the process begin in January, but that won't happen. But a lot of the changes that have been made have helped us, things like limiting phone calls during the bowls, that is healthy for everyone.
Q: What about coaches text messaging recruits?
Ferentz: Yeah, let me reshape that answer. That is one thing; I think it's silly. There have been some good articles in the last 10 days and I have read some of them. Basically what it means is that if you can hire a lot of student workers to do text messaging; I am just telling truth, that is how they are doing it. Or else they are not doing their jobs. That is what most people are doing, is adding those student workers and having them send the messages. I am not saying its all the time, but there is a lot of that going on. The other part of it, it sounds like it can be expensive. I read somewhere where some prospect hard around a $200 bill for accepting messages. I don't know about that stuff, my kids would have to tell me about it. To me, that is a little bit out of the realm of what we need to be doing here right now. There is one for you.
Q: You don't text message?
Ferentz: Yeah, we do. Do I personally? Very rarely and someone has to stand and hold my hand. I am not big with that, except for my wife. Our staff does it. When I read about the volume that people are doing it, it's one more way to waste time and prospect's money probably. I don't know how meaningful it is.
Q: James Cleveland is your first mid-year prep transfer. Is this something we might see more of?
Ferentz: I think it's been bigger in different parts of the country than our conference. It seems like that is a quarterback thing in a general sense. In this case it really worked out. James was eager to do it, he was anxious to get going. It was funny, he was nervous about asking if he could go back for his prom. The answer was yes, although it will conflict with spring practice. To me, everyone is trying to grow up too fast right now ,and we don't encourage it. James wanted to do it and we are all comfortable with it. It was easier for him because a few teammates are here on campus, so that made it a little easier. In this case it works well for us because of our need at that position. We will be looking for candidates this spring and that will give him a little jump on the competition. But it comes back to the player and what they are comfortable with. Once they get here full bore in August, your schedule is so fixed as a college student athlete that there is not a lot of wiggle room. So to me, it's up to the individual involved and their families to decide how they want to handle their senior year, be it the second semester or even the summer time. We don't encourage it, but we don't necessarily say that it's a bad idea unless it is.
Q: Does their scholarship clock start ticking when they get here?
Ferentz: It's like Fred Russell. He showed up out of prep school at midterm, so their first fall is that next fall. Even if they redshirt; you pick up an additional term. In Fred's case, he ended up having an injury redshirt and could have come back, but his biological clock was telling him it was time to go, kind of like Dallas Clark who was in a similar situation.
Q: Do they have to take 14 credit hours to be eligible?
Ferentz: He is here so he is just like any of our student athletes. We expect them to carry 14 hours. NCAA rules says they have to take 12, but we encourage 14.
Ferentz: It worked out that way. We looked at Paul a little differently. We looked at him as a football player, an athlete if you will. He played quarterback in high school and he was a dynamic performer there. They are both exceptional track athletes, so they will help our track team I think. That is a good thing, as that happens to be a sport that lends itself well to playing football and we have had examples of that here at Iowa of guys that have done well in both. We like both as football players, first and foremost. The fact that they do some other things very well, the track part, and both are tremendous young guys excited us as well. There is some returnability there, kickoff and punt team, so we are excited about that.
Q: Do any players stand out with regards to their physical or mental maturity?
Ferentz: The guy with the most physical maturity I think is Bryon Gattas. It's a little like Brad Banks or Marhal Yanda; we didn't go out looking for a junior college player at that position and that was the case with Brad and Marshal. Yet, we came across his tape and we were intrigued with it. I thought given our graduation at linebacker, to add a guy like Bryon was a good opportunity for us and for him as well. Last year, I will go back to Marshal. The upside with Marshal was that we thought we could redshirt him if necessary and have two years for him. With offensive linemen that is the case and he was ahead of the curve. In Bryon's case, he is very intelligent and we think he will pick things up quickly mentally. Being a few years out of high school, hopefully he can jump in and compete for a starting job, give us depth and compete on special teams. He is here now and getting a jump on things as well.
Q: Both of your quarterbacks are from the same neck of the woods.
Ferentz: It just worked out that way. It was not intentional. They are a short car ride away from each other. They are in different leagues and levels of play. We have had strong feelings for Arvell since last summer when he was here in camp. He made a great impression on us. Rick didn't make it out here in the summer, but he had a nice senior year and we were impressed with what he did. We watched him all through the process. It was a no brainer for us. The things they have in common is that they are excellent leaders, both of their teams played well and into the state playoffs. To me, they are leaders that move their teams. I think they have very strong upsides as quarterbacks.
Q: The recruiting services are moving on from this class to the next class. Are you guys starting to take a look at sophomores now?
Ferentz: We are keeping an eye on them, but its different than basketball. Football is different. We have been working juniors the last few weeks and we are always doing that, you are always looking for younger players and asking coaches about players in the area of the grade you are recruiting and the younger guys. We try to keep an ear out for that and certainly in the areas where we recruit, we want to have a pulse on things. Our first formal junior day is this coming Saturday, so we transition from one phase to another; I am not sure it stops. That is a part of the nature of things now. A lot of people are more aggressive than we are on that front, where they get more early commitments. I am not sure that works for us quite as well.
Q: Some people have said that the talent was down in Illinois this year and you did not get any players from Iowa. Is that true?
Ferentz: I have heard about that and it may be true. I don't see the big picture like some people do. It might have been a combination of that and what we were looking for. This was an unusual year for us. The lines were not a primary focus for us; we oversigned by our original design a year ago by one on each side of the line. We are taking a little bit of a gamble in how we went about it, but we felt we needed to address other areas more importantly. Based on our team now, we feel this is the best way to complement what we have coming back. Sometimes there is an ebb and flow. Maybe the scholarship level athletes were not quite as abundant this year in the Midwest, but that is subjective.
Q: You got a lot of kids from all over the map this year.
Ferentz: We always review what we did and try to give some thought to what we are looking at down the road. I said a few years back that we want to do well in the Midwest; that will always be a priority for us. Everything starts at home for us in recruiting, it starts right here in Iowa. We want to be strong in the Midwest if we can, in Big Ten areas. The way we are looking at it, five years ago it was a tougher challenge because we were struggling to get into the upper half of the league. I think at least now we have demonstrated some success in Big Ten play. I think we are a little more attractive in Big Ten areas than we have been in the past and we will try to play to our strengths that way and hopefully we can have success in Big Ten states.
Q: Is there more competition to find walkons in this day and age?
Ferentz: With all of the exposure today, good players are found no matter where they are at. It is a little tougher. It gets down the right fit. The biggest thing we have going for us is that we have a lot of demonstrated proof of guys that have had an opportunity and have done a great job with it. Anytime walkons come on our campus for visits and they talk to players in our program, they hear it from the players that they will get a chance, they will get coached, etc. If you are good enough, you will move up the charts. It's not a matter of age, geography and stuff like that. It's based on what you do once you are here.
Q: Do you still stay in touch with these kids after they have committed?
Ferentz: There are no bonds until they show up, and that is the way it ought to be. They can change their minds, even if they have signed. There is a little penalty involved there. That is how it ought to be. We want everyone coming here for the right reasons. We talk to everyone. Everyone that is committed to us, we will encourage them to come out this spring if they can. Once they tell us they want to be a part of the program, they are a part of the family.
Ferentz: I read that comment about those two. When I scanned through the bios, Ryan Donahue made first team USA Today. Again, I am not in tune with that stuff because we don't look at that in recruiting. We look at the tape and gather as much information from not only coaches, but any source possible. People in the school and community. We formulate opinions as we get to know prospects and their families and support networks. That is what we look at and is what is important. Both of those guys are different. Ryan is a guy that we felt good about way back. Adrian was methodical and got his visits done methodically and prior to the holidays and made his decision and felt great about it. Jeremiha, frankly, if you would have asked me in December where I thought we were, I would have said maybe fourth, fifth or third on a good day; I couldn't tell. When we got the news Saturday it was a pleasant, I don't want to say a surprise because things were warming up. But it would have been tough to predict and we felt great. There are different ways to get here and we are excited about all of those guys.
Q: You were able to revisit some of your hot spots, such as Millard North, Armwood and Bayton.
Ferentz: It's nice when you can trust people's opinions. That is a big part of recruiting, you build networks and develop relationships with people that you really trust. Those are all programs that have had great success. Not that it's a requisite that a player has to come from a successful program, but it's nice to get players that have played for championship level teams, teams that go to playoffs. Teams where you know they are being coached and where they have expectations to do things right. We have a lot of those. Ted Ginn at Glenville does an awesome job. Lakeland High School in Florida is a tremendous program. That is not the only way to do it; there are a lot of ways to find players.
Q: There are 18 players listed, is that how many scholarships you had?
Ferentz: Right about in that ballpark. We were figuring 18 to 20. We are comfortable with where we are at. We always have players in our program that we feel are deserving, too. If you go back, typically we will be between 18 and 20 a year. 22 is probably a high year and 16 low. I am still trying to figure out how some school sign 28 guys every year. I am not good in math, but you read that and it's interesting. It's a different approach to how they run their programs. Doesn't make it wrong or right, just different.
Q: Texas Tech has 34 commits.
Ferentz: 85 divided by four or five…OK. You guys have to give me a tutoring lesson afterwards. I am not good at math. I was an English teacher, right? I can't make those equations add up the way they are supposed to.
Q: Did you make a lot of trips to Caledonia (Minnesota, home of Karl Klug)
Ferentz: I am only allowed one trip per customer. It was a nice trip, it's pretty up there. I think there are a couple thousand people that live there. It's not the biggest school in the state. But there are tremendous people there. Karl is a great guy, he has a brother who is an excellent football player, a twin brother. They have a great family and a tremendous program. That is one of the neat things. You are there one day and you might be in Tampa Bay the next. I remember going from Fort Lauderdale to Mt. Vernon, South Dakota one time.