Miller & Ferentz Interview Q & A

On June 12th, The Jon Miller Show was launched on 1460 KXNO. The first guest on the program was Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz. Jon and Kirk spent 20 minutes going over a myriad of topics. Don't miss this exclusive one-one-one interview, the most extensive Kirk Ferentz interview since April and likely the best 'Ferentz Fix' until the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon in August...

The following interview took place on June 12th on the first airing of The Jon Miller Show on 1460 KXNO. The program can be heard each weekday afternoon between 2-4pm and can also be access online at each day.

Q: Thanks for making time for us today, coach.

Kirk Ferentz: Thanks for having me on your show and congratulations on your new assignment. I am sure that you will do well.

Q: If your team is in the papers this time of year, it's either for preseason magazines or things that you don't want publicity for. On the whole this off season, things have not been too bad for your program.

Ferentz: For the most part they were good. We had a couple of guys stub their toes, but that (always) seems to happen. I hope this is a quiet period where our team can keep their focus on training and getting ready for summer camp. We would like to have a nice, quiet summer, though it doesn't feel like summer. My youngest had baseball tournament this weekend, and it felt more like football weather than baseball.

Q: Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby is leaving the same position at Stanford. The two of you seemed to have a good working relationship. Bob is one of the best administrative AD's in the nation, considering the financial aspects he's had to deal with in a state that doesn't have billionaire donors around each corner. How much do you feel Iowa will miss him and how much will you miss him?

Ferentz: I think it is a big loss for us. Bob has been here 15 years and has done a tremendous job, and my exposure with him has been over the last seven and a half years. He did a great job during that time. You look at the growth of the facilities and the people that he has put in place and the working relationships he had; he has done an outstanding job, and that gives you the reason why Stanford found him. They were selective with their search, and it came as a big surprise to all of us, from those that work closely with Bob, as well as people farther removed. The bottom line is that his youngest (child) was leaving high school and it was probably the right time to talk to Bob about a move. Had they done it a few years earlier, it's safe to say he wouldn't have, and maybe a few years later. He has been tremendous to me; he hired me and has been supportive of our program, but more importantly, all of the programs here. That is what great athletic directors do. We will miss him greatly, just like we will miss (outgoing President) David Skorton. The challenge for us now is to find a person who can fit in the tradition of Bob or a Bump Elliott who preceded him.

Q: Obviously, having the President and AD positions open at the same time is pretty important. As the head coach at Iowa, I am sure you are going to be quite interested in whom they bring in there for both positions.

Ferentz: Yeah, I really am. All coaches would be and will be. I will say this, too. I don't pretend to be an expert in the administrative world. I know football coaches better around the country. The good news is that we have a tremendous University and a tremendous Athletic department. I have great confidence that we will be able to attract some outstanding individuals. Look back at the AD position at Iowa; it has been a position of stability with Bob and Bump Elliott, two world class Athletic Directors. That is a lot of years covering the span. With regards to Presidents, David Skorton was my second President. Mary Sue Coleman was outstanding, and David Skorton more so. Hopefully we can attract some tremendous candidates and be able to find the right person that fits the institution.

Q: Before Bob left, he had the opportunity to rework your contract that makes you the third highest paid coach in the country, maybe in the history of the game. Do you feel any extra added pressure? I know some people out there are saying that Kirk Ferentz is in the money league with national title coaches. Or is it the same job you woke up to a few weeks ago.

Ferentz: I don't see myself operating any differently than I did seven and a half years ago. If you are in coaching, and doing it for the right reasons, you do things based on your performance and hopefully you take pride in that performance. I really don't see things changes at all. When we were 2-18 and whatever I was making then, if you are not coaching for the right reasons you shouldn't be coaching.

Q: Do you think this commitment to football from the university makes Iowa an elite destination in the eyes of coaching fraternity, and might keep the Chris Mortensen's of the world quieter this year with the talk of you to the NFL?

Ferentz: I would think it might slow it down. I have always chuckled at those reports. I have great respect for people like Chris Mortensen and John Clayton (both men are NFL reports for ESPN). They do their homework and they are usually pretty good, but that time of year they are speculating like anyone else. I have always taken a little humor in that, and for good reason. I doubt Chris or John have spent much time in Iowa. My wife and I have been here 16 years. Most people on the outside don't realize what a good place this is; I know that I didn't before I got here in 1981. I put myself in their shoes and I could see why they think other places are more attractive. But I always chuckle a little bit because people are presumptuous sometimes thinking what might be better for me or what I might be thinking.

Q: Let's shift gears; several magazines think that your offensive line is or could be one of the best in the Big Ten. Do you think that they could become the best this year at some point?

Ferentz: I don't know how we rank with other folks in the league yet. Right now we have three seniors that we feel great about with Marshal Yanda at right tackle, Mike Elgin at center or right guard and Mike Jones. They have played a lot of football. Marshal was only a one year starter last year but did a fantastic job. Mike Elgin will be a three year starter and Mike Jones three and a half. So we feel good there. Dace Richardson, we started grooming him last year in the fall and he had a good spring. He is inexperienced right now, but he is a good prospect who we think has a good chance to play well over the next three years. Right now, Rafael Eubanks and Seth Olsen will battle for that other position, but others could enter the picture. The key for us will be to figure out who our five best guys are and get them to mesh together. We are still in the process, but I think the potential is there and I think we have enough leadership from the senior group. The key is to move those guys along as fast as we can, but we think we have a chance to be pretty savvy up front, and if we can do that, we have some talented and experienced skill guys behind them.

Q: In the running game, you have several players that can do some damage. At receiver, I remember a few years back in the spring where you voiced your concerns about your receiving corps, and then we got through fall camp and the team took that to heart and the guys stepped up. You have some young receivers, some that are untested, some that have been oft-injured; this is a group that you will be eager to see how they progress this summer and into the fall.

Ferentz: Exactly right. If you look at our offense, that is where our least amount of experience will be. It makes sense, you graduate three seniors receivers. A guy like Ed Hinkel that played four years and made big plays and plays that were big in our eyes but kind of subtle in terms to the average fan. That is the biggest challenge. Herb Grigsby emerged last year and had a good spring. Right now he would be our top guy out there. We are hoping that Calvin Davis can be a Warren Holloway or Ramon Ochoa type story, where in his senior year things go his way a little bit and he stays healthy and continues on the path. He has flashed the last few years. The other guy is kind of unknown, but we have a good feeling about Andy Brodell. But he spent a lot of the spring with a heel bruise that kept him out of practice so he didn't get the kind of progress or exposure we wanted to see. You also have guys like Jason Manson and Eric McCollom, both will be seniors next year and hopefully they can step in and give us some production as well.

Q: Steve Deace asked you last year, if you had choice to replace an all American defensive line or an all American linebacker, which would it be? This year's defensive line hasn't reached all American status just yet, but it should be strong and deep and they came together last year over the last six Big Ten games, allowing fewer than 100 yards rushing per game during that stretch. Now you have some untested linebackers, but guys that the coaching staff seems high on, like Mike Humpal, Mike Klinkenborg and Zach Gablemann. It seems the reason you haven't heard about them is due to Greenway and Hodge. Will they be ready?

Ferentz: We are confident that they will be. To answer Steve's question, after trying both, we really feel that it's tough when your defensive line is inexperienced and young as we were last year going into the season. It made it tough for everyone to operate the way you want to. To watch them grow during the year was gratifying. It's nice to have the experience we have; we have six guys right now that we feel we can plug in and they will play well. We are looking for the group as a whole to improve the pass rush; that is the next challenge in front of them. Hopefully we see that step during the course of the year. The linebacker situation, you don't just plug in guys and expect them to play like Chad and Abdul, but we think we have a chance there. Mike Humpal is a player we have felt good about. He has had some injuries. We moved him to the outside backer position. That is where Ed Miles played last year, but he was out of position in all fairness, but it would be tough to move Chad Greenway. That got him on the field. We have had two good ones out there in Levar Woods and Grant Steen, and we think Mike fits in with that group and is probably more athletic than those two. Inside you have Miles and Bryon Gattas at the Will and Klinkenborg and Gablemann at the Mike position. We are confident that with those guys, they are all capable of getting the job done for us and hopefully by the time we get going in September it will be a pretty good group.

Q: Last year it was vogue to pick Iowa for the BCS and some people picked you for the national title game. Perhaps some national writers were tired of being wrong about you for so many years. Call me crazy, but I have you 11-1 this year…

Ferentz: You may be crazy, yeah. (Laughs.) I hope you are not.

Q: Health is always a thing you can't predict and there are always curve balls, but I look at it this year that the national talking heads my be wrong again, if your offensive line comes around and you stay healthy. Do you feel this can be a team that can challenge for the Big Ten and for a BCS bid?

Ferentz: We always work backwards. To get into the BCS picture you have to be a contender in your league, so that is where we keep our focus. That is where it has been since 1999 and realistically, we were not going to make a run at the title those first few years. But that is what we tell our players about. The good news is that since 2002, we have had that opportunity each and every year. If you look at it historically, it depends on how our team develops. We are built differently than Ohio State or Southern Cal, some of those folks. The teams that recruit so well for so long and have won for so long. If you look at our team traditionally, we are a work in progress that first month. That was true in 2002, the year we had our best team here. If you look at the last two years, we have been 2-2 after four games, thinking that the Motor City Bowl looked pretty good, let alone any bowl, because we finished both those months with some bad spankings at Arizona State and Ohio State. The key is for our team, as you touched on, we have to stay healthy, we have to develop in the question areas and our best players have to play their best. The result could be anywhere form 5-3 in the league like we had last year or 2003, or in 2002 where were lucky enough to run the table, we stayed healthy, we caught a few breaks and made a few breaks. That year we were close. I think we would have matched up well with Ohio State and they won the title that year. That is speculative. But that is a good illustration. Things have to break right for us. It's a tough chore, but it's a tough chore for anyone to make it all the way through and get to those lofty heights. Our focus now is that we want to be ready for camp and we need to do better in the initial part of the season; that is a great challenge for us. If we can do that, hopefully we will continue to improve in the months of October and November.

Q: How can Tom Zbikowski of Notre Dame make $35,000 for a boxing match and Drew Tate cant keep a $25,000 car for a hole in one?

Ferentz: (Laughs) I am not smart enough to figure those things out. I will stay out of that one. I don't know if the NCAA can fine you or not, but I will not take that chance.

Q: The Iowa-Northern Illinois game for 2007 will be played at Soldier Field. That is a great opportunity for the Iowa alumni base in Chicago, a great chance to play in a pro stadium….there are so many benefits to this game being played there.

Ferentz: We thought it made a lot of sense and coming in with the 12th game that was voted in late, it has made it a challenge to get the schedules filled out. We thought it made sense. It's like play in the state of Arizona, where we have a lot of Iowa people as well. The better part is that we won't be getting back at four in the morning. Our players are excited about it. I don't think that any of us have played in Soldier Field; that will be exciting. We are playing a very good opponent; Northern Illinois' program has done a great job the last several years under John Novak and his staff. It's a tough opponent and the venue is great and the crowd will be outstanding.

Q: Here are some quick closing questions, something I want to do here on my show. What is in your CD player right now?

Ferentz: Oh boy. Right now, a mix that my daughter made for me, of some Texas Country artists that are not popular. I don't know how they got a hold of it, but they are good.

Q: I thought you were going to say Snoop Dog.

Ferentz: No, I don't have any Snoop dog in there.

Q: What is the preseason football magazine that you just can't wait to go buy?

Ferentz: The only ones that I look at get thrown on my desk. I couldn't tell you what they are

Q: How much text messaging do you do per week?

Ferentz: Very minimal, like zero

Q: The biggest and most important question; how much time per week do you spend on Iowa message boards?

Ferentz: I don't even know how to get there. Again, I will let someone tell me about it.

Q: Thanks for your time and we will do it again in Chicago on August 1st at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon, but with different questions from me.

Ferentz: That sounds great Jon. I look forward to seeing you and thanks for having me on your program.

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