QUOTES: Kirk on the Side

Kirk Ferentz met with the media prior to opening spring practice. Read what he had to say on Julian Smith, Jake Christensen, Lee Gray, and more in this premium transcript.

Q: You talked about Brad, with McCann. Do you have a specific plan or are you toying with maybe a specific plan to get Jake or the next guy some real action next year?

Kirk Ferentz: It's a possibility, I've obviously kicked it around in my mind, haven't really talked to anyone else about it, but it's definitely a possibility. We'll see how things pan out. There's some definite advantages to doing that.

Q: It would seem to have paid off with Brad, it's something that's coming whether you want it or not.

Ferentz: No question about it.

Q: What's the latest on the Julian Smith situation?

Ferentz: That's a good question. As far as I understand right now, it's in the Clearinghouse's hands. I'm optimistic that he'll be here in June and working with us. My understanding right now is that there is a direct parallel case in another Big Ten institution where the same situation came up. I can't give you all the particulars, I don't want to bore you, but basically he and this individual were denied being eligible to come in like James Cleveland did, coming in for the spring semester. It's my understanding that when the process is over, he'll be able to join us like any other incoming player. Any incoming first term player.

Q: The Clearinghouse is really taking a closer look at that.

Ferentz: Yeah. Again, I'm not an expert on that, I don't pretend to be, when it comes to Junior College and Prep School transfers, I'm a little bit out in the woods on that. Based on what I've been told, in Julian's case, I know there's a direct parallel to another individual in this conference, the same scenario. They thought they were going to school in January, then it was pulled back. From my vantage point, it's been explained to me, it's the same rule, just a little different interpretation than previously. I'm guessing might be coming from a different sport, because of all that interest, I think, but I'm not sure, again I'm not an expert.

Q: Do you have a timetable for a response on Lee's 6th year?

Ferentz: Sooner is better than later, obviously for him and us.

Q: You don't have any idea though, do you?

Ferentz: I hope we're talking about days or weeks, maybe two weeks, for a couple reasons. First of all, we're really not sure how to practice him right now or how to use him. I think more importantly for the individual, I think Lee has to make some plans too. We've alerted the NFL folks that there's a possibility he'll be denied. If that's the case, they may be interested and be aware of that when the draft comes around. Not saying he'd be drafted, but I would think somebody might want to try and sign him as a free agent, invest a year in him on a practice squad type thing, as a senior year, that type of deal, it's a possibility.

Q: Is he passing everything fine?

Ferentz: So far he's doing real well. Again, we haven't practiced football. That's the next phase, it's similar to Mike Humpal, what he went through, only a little more extensive. Mike had his ups and downs last fall. By mid-season on, I'd say that's really when things started to take off for him, but it was an up and down battle for him. I'm not a doctor, but I'm assuming lee's going to go through some of those types of things, we'll have to be careful how we practice and those types of things.

Q: Was it an ACL with him?

Ferentz: It's a little more extensive. I'm not a doctor, but it's not just a routine ACL repair. I hate to use that word routine, but it wasn't a standard ACL repair.

Q: Reconstructive, wasn't it?

Ferentz: Yeah. It's a pretty unusual procedure. There are not a lot that have been done. I would hope that would factor into this equation too. If he can just come back and play as a senior, a 6th year senior, that'd be a pretty good story based on the information I've gotten.

Q: He played through a little bit of that.

Ferentz: In fact, last year, he had cartilage problems, missed 2 games in 2004, I think Purdue and Minnesota. Cartilage, and basically what he had was a structural problem that had to be corrected. That was what was causing the cartilage. Again, I'm a layman, but the cartilage was repaired, and he tried to give it a go last spring, he made about half the workouts. Our conclusion was that medically, he's going to need some repair work to get out of the woods, otherwise he's going to have pain he couldn't tolerate. That's when all the decisions got made and he went through the extensive surgery. This is one person's opinion, spring ball, senior year, 5th year, there's no way he could have played last year, so you'd like to think that they'll give him an opportunity to be a senior. Even if he gets that opportunity, there's no guarantee he'll be able to make it for 12 games. We're hopeful that he can and if it turns out like Mike Humpal there's reason to think he could play.

Q: When did you guys file for it?

Ferentz: It's been ongoing. I'm still fuzzy on how all that stuff works, but hopefully again, it'll get resolved here for everybody's sake here in the next 14-21 days.

Q: Is there too much emphasis put on the combine?

Ferentz: On one hand, you understand the importance of it, on the other hand, yeah, there's a lot to be said about it. My second or third year in the league, I was down there and Ken Stevens was always very nice to me, it was probably because he used to kick our butts every time we played him. We got to talking a bit, I was at one of the combines and I said, "Is this a waste of time or what?" and he said "We did a study on this in Seattle, we put all the information in." I said "that's great, what'd you find out?" He said, "It means absolutely nothing." That was their conclusion. There is some importance to it, but in Chad's case, for instance, at the combine, the 40 that he ran there, if you look at film, there's absolutely no way there's a correlation. The one he ran the other day correlates to the way he played. It's kind of like us recruiting high school football players. The best thing to believe is the tape. Then you do your work from there. The combine's not going away, nor is testing days and pro days, all that kind of thing.

Q: Ed (Hinkel) probably helped himself.

Ferentz: Yeah, he did. Everybody still refuses to believe that he really can run a 4.5. It's still subjective, there's a lot of subjectivity in evaluation. It's true in any field, I'm sure, when you evaluate people.

Q: With 3 of the guys on the defensive line moving to offense, you've got proven starters, but can you talk a bit about the depth there?

Ferentz: If you look at last year, our top 6 guys, 7 if you include Mike Follett which you have to. Out of those 7 guys you've got Mike graduating, so the front 4 guys plus Bain and Kanellis, who have both gotten some critical play. I remember in the Wisconsin game looking out there in a pretty critical situation, and we've got both Bain and Kanellis in the ball game and not giving ground. That was encouraging. Those guys have a lot of great experience. After that we're optimistic to get Ettore Ewen back here eventually. It's a little like the Albert Young scenario, where we felt good about Ettore, but he just hasn't been able to make it to the field. Hopefully this will be the end of his tough health problems. Then after that, we're looking. We're looking real anxious to see some guys like Justin Collins who's a lot more physically mature now than he was in the fall. A lot more comfortable, he was extremely homesick, like Colin Cole back when he got here. Just a name, a guy like Travis Mead, right on down the list, Vern Jackson, Grant McCracken, this is a big spring for these guys, to see who'd 7, 8, 9. I think we know our top 6 guys at least.

Q: You have a lot of those red shirt freshmen on the 2-deep now, is that what you expected?

Ferentz: We were hopeful that a lot of them would emerge. 5 of them last year ended up playing. You hope that they're going to work their way up there, then you throw a couple guys in there like Bryan Gattas, we're hopeful that he'll give us something, and we're optimistic he will. A guy like James Cleveland might have a chance, although I'll know a lot more here 15 days from now. He's got a little air about him, a maturity that you don't typically see in a freshman. It ought to be interesting, the guys we've graduated over the last couple years, we're going to need some of these guys to step up, not only play well, but give us something else too.

Q: If this works with Cleveland, if school goes well and getting in the spring, will you be more open to bringing in freshmen earlier, it seems like a trend.

Ferentz: I'm not necessarily against it, but I think it has to be the player's idea. I think they forfeit an awful lot, there's a chance to forfeit an awful lot. That was James' big question during our home visit, was it OK if he went home for the prom, which was during spring practice. Of course. As a parent, I'm not sure I'd want my kid going off somewhere in the spring, maybe that's being selfish. I just worry about everybody trying to grow up too fast. James wanted to do it, it was something he was eager to do. Based on what I've seen thus far, I think he's made the transition very, very well.

Q: Is wide out maybe the position where some guy that's not on the 2-deeps now could potentially rise up?

Ferentz: It's wide open right now. All we have is a list of names in both spots. It's wide open as far as we're concerned, it really is.

Q: Have you filled your quality control position?

Ferentz: No, I think we've closed the application process down now, and we'll plod along based on regulations and we'll go through the exercise. I'm real optimistic we'll find a good person there.


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