Kirk On The Side Transcript

Kirk Ferentz spoke extensively following his press conference in Chicago at the Big Ten Kickoff. Listen to what the Captain had to say about expectations for this season, previous season, off-season development, new starters on the offensive line and much, much more in this premium transcript, weighing in at over 4,500 words, 8 pages of typed material.

Q: Well, any news, anything going on news wise?

Kirk Ferentz: Nothing right now. Hopefully, between now and Monday, and actually, between now and Saturday, we're ready to go. We're just anxious to get it started here.

Q: When the players report, what's the first thing they do?

Ferentz: Our first (year) guys will come in on Thursday and go through some orientation, some meetings. Then the rest of the team comes in on Friday afternoon, 3:00 greeting, one of those deals, then a compliance meeting. We'll get to football on Saturday, that'll be our first day of football on August 5th.

Q: How many days are you guys in camp?

Ferentz: I guess it's right around 2 weeks, 2+ weeks. Maybe two more than that. We break camp, I think, the 19th. School starts the 21st, so we check in Thursday and Friday, then we'll be out the 19th.

Q: I was doing some research and looking at, I think Michigan and Ohio State have had a piece of the title every year since 68, some incredible stat like that. You guys have put a foothold in here. What does it take to puncture that ceiling, stake a flag at the top?

Ferentz: That's one thing I do know, prior to 81 it was 13 straight years where it was Ohio State or Michigan or both, or maybe it wasn't both back then. Since 81, 81 to me was a landmark year to me in Big Ten football, not just Iowa football, but Big Ten football. To me, it demonstrated that someone else could actually compete with those two schools. Things have changed a little bit with Penn State coming in as well. I think that's one of the great things about out conference. Basically since 81, I think all but two teams have participated in the Rose Bowl. I don't know that any other conference can say that. I think part of that is the way our league's set up. We have some great coaches in this leave, we've had some great coaches in this league since the last 70. A lot of great student athletes. Basically, you look at the last few years, it takes things falling right. You've got to do things right, you have to stay healthy, you have to play extremely well, and you need a couple breaks along the way as well, probably. That's probably not unlike those teams, but I think the frequency that they've been at it, or had success probably indicates maybe they've got a few more inherent advantages, part of that is their past success.

Q: I don't think Iowa's ever beaten Ohio State and Michigan in the same season. Are you aware of that, does that surprise you?

Ferentz: No, it doesn't surprise me. I'd probably say that not many people have. It doesn't surprise me, I don't know that it is true, but it probably is. I've been surprised before.

Q: I'm 99% sure.

Ferentz: Yeah, I bet it is.

Q: A lot of magazines have slotted Ohio State for the national title game, is that justified and why?

Ferentz: I don't know, I think they're probably, I'm just guessing, but I'm just guessing you could pick 5, 6 or 7 teams that might have a legitimate, odds-on chance of it, that type of thing. It surprises me only in that they have like 5 guys in the first round last year. When you lose that many top caliber players and still to be picked that high says an awful lot about (A) the guys you've got coming back, which you'll get Troy Smith and Ted Ginn, a pretty good place to start. Then (B), the way they've recruited at Ohio State, and their past performance. To me, it's a combination of all those things. People have an awful lot of confidence in the way they've been able to sustain their success.

Q: Have you had a chance to talk to Gary (Barta) much? This is day 1 for him.

Ferentz: No, actually not. I saw him down the hallway, but I have not had a chance yet, not today. We did have one meeting in July, he was in and we squeezed a few meetings in between.

Q: What are the kinds of things you guys have talked about?

Ferentz: Just general conversation moreso that anything, just a chance to get to know each other a little bit. I met him on the day it was announced, and if first impressions are worth anything at all, I was extremely impressed. I think the selection committee and President Fethke did an excellent job.

Q: Coming in with the new contract this year, do you think that's going to put more expectations on your program or you yourself? People see that price tag now.

Ferentz: I think that's the natural thing, if it happens it happens. Certainly it wouldn't be unnatural if people had those kinds of thoughts. It won't affect me at all. I've never worked at my job any differently. When I was a teacher at Worchester Academy, a grad assistant at Pitt, or a line coach at Iowa or other places I've been. To me, it's all about trying to learn from your past experiences and do the best you possibly can in the job that' sin front of you. Those things are all separate in my mind. Business is business, and what you do for your profession, that's totally separate.

Q: You talked earlier today about Bielema and Fitzgerald coming in, you're no longer one of the new guys.

Ferentz: I know, geez. On my birthday, too.

Q: What advice would you give if you had to give it, about following someone like you followed Coach Fry, following something that's established?

Ferentz: I think it's like anything else. My mentor was Joe Moore. The closest mentor I've had. Totally different personality from me, Joe Moore is a totally different person to talk and coach with. Has a totally different dynamic than I do. I've probably learned way back from being around Joe that I couldn't be Joe Moore. A lot of people played for Bear Bryant, you can't be Bear Bryant when you go off. He's got a lot of people out there coaching now. Following Coach Fry, I felt extremely fortunate, first and foremost and knew full well that I couldn't try and imitate or duplicate what Coach Fry was during his time at Iowa. As all of us know, an extremely unique person, and maybe the only person in my mind that could have pulled of what he did pull of. Like I say to anyone going into any new job, you've got to be yourself. You probably got selected for that job for a good reason. Certainly it's the case for Bret, go with what got you there, you've got to be yourself. Try and resist the temptation to do too much too fast. That's always there.

Q: Drew's going to get a lot of love tomorrow from the reporters as they gather in the morning. Talk a little about Elgin and Paschal.

Ferentz: We already saw that on the video circuit. I tease those guys, when you ravel with the QB and the head coach. The linemen and free safeties don't get much attention. They'll do a great job. It's always tough to select 2, now 3 players to bring to Chicago. It's always a discussion. Sometimes the choices jump right out at you. We had a lot of choices that would have been great. If you look at Marcus he's our most experience coming back on defense, he's done a great job and played really unselfishly, particularly 2 years ago when Sean got hurt and he slid right over there. That's something we really encourage our guys to do is be prepared for something like that. Mike Elgin, same thing. Prior to our program, he's a guy that's not highly recruited, really is a self made player. He works extremely hard. He's extremely competitive and tough on the football field. He does a great job in the classroom. He's just a tremendous young man. I think all 3 of these guys really represent our program well.

Q: In 2002, Brad kind of came to the nation out of nowhere. You guys beat Michigan, they started pushing him for the Heisman. You have a guy like Tate, or go back to Kyle Orton. Is it better to do like Brad did and come out in the middle of the season, or is it a lot of burden to carry as you go through the season with moment one people looking at you?

Ferentz: Realistically, there aren't many Brad Banks stories. I think to my mind, that's still one of the great stories ever. We're talking about a guy who had never started a college football game end up coming in 2nd at the Heisman. I've never researched it, but I can't imagine that's ever happened before. That was a total shock to everybody, it wasn't a shock to us, but we were surprised. To have predicted that, none of us would have ventured a guess. We knew he would be a good player.

Q: Does Drew have more of a burden then?

Ferentz: I don't think burden's the right word. He's experienced. With experience probably comes expectations, and I think Drew's fully aware of that. I think he's fully capable of handling that. The year, two years ago, was just one of those very unusual years where we had some injuries and boy he had to play a pivotal role. He came through in brilliant fashion. I thought he had a real good year last year minus two starts. The good news is, I think he's learned from his experiences. If he can continue to do that in the spring. We think he's in position to have a great senior year. I think the biggest thing, he realizes he doesn't have to carry the team. There's times where he'll make critical plays, there's no doubt about that, that'll help us a great deal and we'll need that. It's not like he has to carry our team each and every play. I think maybe he thought a little bit of that last year and he's over that now.

Q: Last year it seemed teams caught up with is escapability a bit. He did the spin move, teams started to attack on the back side. Did you coach him up on that a bit, maybe vary it a bit? Can you do something like that?

Ferentz: I think that just comes from experience. Hopefully we don't have to have him escape too many times, first and foremost. He's a good pocket passer, we'll keep him on the move. I think he understands how things work.

Q: You guys basically had to overhaul the offense in 2003. What is Ohio State up against replacing 9 starters on defense?

Ferentz: Normally, you'd say "Boy, this is going to be tough" but Ohio State has recruited so well, year in and year out. You've got a lot of guys that can play, as has been demonstrated. My introduction to this league was 81, if you look back the last 25 years, nobody's had a better talent pool than Ohio State. That was true when I was in the NFL too, looking at the draft boards. My guess is that they've got some very talented players that are waiting in the wings right now, waiting to get out there and demonstrate that they can play, and will play. I don't think anybody's had more guys drafted over the last 25 years than Ohio State. My guess is that they'll be ready to go. There may be a little break in that period for them, but they'll be flying full speed by the time we see them.

Q: Spielman calls it the storm trooper theory, they lose 3 guys to the NFL, there are 3 guys right behind them.

Ferentz: That seems to be how it's worked there. It's a little like USC, they graduate Carson Palmer, next thing you know they've got Matt Leinart, didn't seem to affect them a whole lot. I think they're in one of those situations. They've done a great job, they've done a great job with their players on campus.

Q: Do you compare and admire that situation? You guys don't have a storm trooper thing. To find a Greenway, you can go to South Dakota and find a quarterback.

Ferentz: We're more of a developmental outfit. It's the nature of our existence, I guess. We're not whining about it or crying about it, but it's just the reality. To put it in NFL terms, I make that analogy. There are probably 8-12 schools that get a lot of #1 picks on recruiting day, we tend to get more mid-round picks, and maybe do a bit more projecting. What's really important in our program is how guys finish the last couple years of their career. They may not be at the same level as some other players nationally the first two years on campus, but it's all about where you finish the race. We've had plenty of guys go on in the NFL that have played well, we've had plenty of guys who played well as juniors and seniors. That's really the key for us is to be able to get guys t o develop and mature and play to the fullest of their potential.

Q: Do you have everything you need?

Ferentz: There are always things you can do. Program wise? There are always things you can do. Facilities things is an arms race. You just look around the country, you look around at our conference, you look around places that are obvious, like the Penn States, the Ohio States. You look at places like Connecticut, someone told me Syracuse, I think just build a beautiful facility. You look at places such as that. I don't know so much about Syracuse, but I know Connecticut is building a 42 million dollar facility. It's a never-ending proposition, but that being said, we have no excuses. I think we have everything we need to be functional right now. That is our focus. What makes our guys have success as students or athletes. I think we're healthy, no doubt about that.

Q: The Orlando Sentinel ranked your o-line #1 in the country. I think ranked your d-line #2 in the country. I know it's early, but when you hear stuff like that, does that surprise you, do you laugh at that?

Ferentz: Yeah, I had heard both of those. I just laughed a minute ago, yeah. I don't mean to disrespect our guys, but I would say this right now. We feel real good on the offensive line about 3 of our guys that have demonstrated success. But we're still trying to work around replacing a couple players, too, that had good careers. We're not out of the woods there. I feel good about the guys we have but we're not there yet, we haven't seen them play in game conditions. To rank us that high would be premature in my opinion. On the defensive line, we've got 6 guys with experience back, which is great. But I don't think we broke a record last year for sack totals and things like that. We had a pretty good group of there in 2004. TO play at that level, when we get to that level, maybe we talk about where we're ranked nationally, that type of thing. For us to talk about standards, if you want to talk about standards on the defensive line, that 2004 group set the bar pretty high. The 2002 group did a pretty nice job with the offensive line. For our players to look at those 2 groups, it'd be a heck of a measuring stick. We're not there yet.

Q: Do they read that stuff?

Ferentz: I'd imagine they do. I think I heard it from one of my kids at home, one of my younger kids. I mean, if my kids are aware of it, I'd imagine the players on our football team are aware of it too.

Q: How do you evaluate what you've seen of Dace (Richardson) from his first year on campus?

Ferentz: We're real high on Dace, that's why we chose not to red shirt him last year. He wasn't ready to start games last year, but I think he got some valuable playing time. He's working hard right now and has worked hard and based on what we saw this spring, we think he'll develop into a real fine football player. How soon he's ready to be on top of his game, that's the race he's running right now.

Q: Are you more comfortable being under the radar a little more than last year? Some publications last year put some pretty big expectations out there.

Ferentz: Last year was really extreme. I think we'd al agree last year was a real inordinate amount of hype. If I had my preference, I guess I'm allowed to have my preference, but if I controlled, I'd rather have us kind of in the middle of the pack or wherever we're ranked. Nobody's called to do a story about us being the eventual National Champ this year, where I had couple of those last year. IN a perfect world, there wouldn't be preseason rankings and all of that, I know that's unrealistic and I think it's good for college football, but the reality is the best team we've had was 2002 as far as the way the Big Ten season went. Let's just pick that year, 2002, but it took us a while to get there. It wasn't like we were knocking on that in September. It's probably fair to say we're going to have our challenges early in the season, but that's one of the focal points for our football team, can we speed that up a little bit, meet those challenges a little bit quicker. If we can, hopefully it will be a good thing for us.

Q: We read a lot about the billboard on 380, is that a motivational piece for you?

Ferentz: I haven't seen it yet, but I've seen a picture of it in the paper, whenever that was. I haven't heard any talk about it yet, but I haven't been around our players on a day-to-day basis. I'd imagine between now and September, that's probably going to pop into the conversation at some point.

Q: The very oldest group of guys were true freshmen in 2002, none of them were there for "the lean years" which was something you'd talk about using to keep guys motivated. What is that motivational tool now?

Ferentz: All we can try to do is educate, as coaches. Your point's well taken, it's something I think about a lot. I go back to 1981, I walked in here as a stranger. The one thing that jumped out, if you recall we only had 2 seniors drafted out of that senior class. It wasn't like we had the most NFL players that year in the league. But the thing that stood out about the whole group of players was a very hungry group, a very determined group. That's how those guys played in 81. We've seen some of the same traits in our teams as we climbed a little bit. That's one thing about getting stung a little bit. Being at the bottom, it makes you appreciate having success. Maybe you could argue to some degree that we experienced some of that last year. We lost a couple games where maybe if we had coached a little better and played a little better, the outcome could have been different. Maybe we can use that to sharpen our competitive skills a little bit, what have you. I know this. If you ever get complacent or think that you've arrived in sports or life. I think it was Chuck Knoll that said you can only coast one way, and that's downhill. If you've got a coast mentality, you're going to start going downhill. You see that all the time in sports. To me, the key thing is that our players understand what it took to build a successful team, 99 up to 2002. The things that enable that team to be successful, those are the traits that we're looking for in this year's ball club. I'm not one of those guys that believes you've got to get knocked on your tail 5 times to appreciate a good thing, either. Hopefully we can just move forward when we meet here in August.

Q: Do you think the hype was a distraction last year?

Ferentz: It's always a challenge. Perseverance is something you deal with in sports, certainly. It's a challenge, but I always think the biggest challenge is handling success. Sometimes unmerited success is a good definition for preseason hype. Really, preseason talk has nothing to do with your performance that season. It's tough when you do have success, to come back and keep your edge. I think in some ways, it can be a distraction for any college athlete or any college team, if there's too much about these guys are going to be good. Based on what? You still have to go out and earn it and prove it.

Q: You've talked in the past about the 2002, how you felt good going into that year, even though most of us in the media didn't see it coming. How do you feel going into it this year, in terms of years past?

Ferentz: Oh, (pause) I feel good. There were some concerns a year ago, about some things we're talking about. There was so much unrealistic attention, not that we didn't have the potential to really blossom and have a good team, but it could have been, maybe, whatever. There was so much of it, to handle that, it could be tough. The one thing I'll say is, even going back to 2001, other than the fact that we hadn't really gotten over that hump, tangibly. We felt like we had a chance, a good football team there. I think we're at the point where from here on in we should go into every season thinking we have a chance. The good news is I think right now we have enough. It just depends on what happens here. This next month's our most important step, immediately. Certainly at the end of the day what you do during the course of the season's most important. This is a big 3 weeks coming up for us. What we do with this opportunity is going to have a lot to do with how the season goes. Then if we can play well in the season, there's other factors that have to come into play, the injuries, what have you. We have the potential. We've got some areas that need to be addressed and we need improvement. Probably like any year, most years I should say. The good news is we've got some strengths on our football team. If we make reasonable kind of improvements and have guys develop like we hope and think they will, then we'll have a chance to have a good football team, then it's in our hands. That's what you hope for.

Q: All the hype was generated by what you did in 2004. Do you think people may have lost the fact just how fortunate you guys were to be where you where in 2004?

Ferentz: There's no question that got lost in the shuffle. It's a little bit like schedules. People always talk about factoring schedules and what have you. Going back to 2002, two of our toughest ball games outside of our losses were the trip to Miami and the trip to Indiana. I think it was Coach DiNardo's first year, I think it was. They didn't have a very good record when we went in there. Grant Steen picks 3 balls off in the endzone or we're sunk that day. The schedule stuff is always a misnomer. You shift to 2004, a lot of, I think, euphoria after the season. It was a pretty dramatic ending, certainly. What got lost in the discussions is that we won 8 straight, but we were underdogs in 6 of those games. Every game that year was tough. That one could have gone either way, just like last year, a couple games could have gone either way. I think there were an awful lot of parallels between the years. 2004 and 2005. One year they all went the right way, last year we came up short a couple times. That is, I think, more typical of where we'll be. It's going to be a fine line, and if we can get over that hump like we did in 2004, then in November we'll have a chance to be in competition. If we can't get over that hump consistently, then it might be playing for 2nd or 3rd or 4th place in the league.

Q: Does that help you illustrate to the guys how important attention to detail is?

Ferentz: No question, that's something we always do. To me, the best teaching devices are the things that have happened in your family. We always look back and those are the things our players can identify with and understand. It gives us great illustration on what is require and what it takes, just how on top of things you have to be, and how fortunate you have to be sometimes to get there. Just sitting here and thinking, the Minnesota game, you need a play like Greenway made there in that last drive. That was a huge play, a huge play. Then flip it around last year. The Northwestern game, we all know about the end, but I focus on one series in the third quarter, I think it was, where we missed some plays that I would consider makeable. Then we missed a field goal, much like Minnesota did the year before, and that was the difference in the game. To me, it wasn't the field goal, but the 3 plays before the field goal where we had the opportunity to put Kyle out there for an easy field goal, or better yet, score a touchdown. Those are the things that when you look at this, that's where the focus is. To be in position to have a high percentage field goal, or somebody's got to make a play defensively to take away their high percentage field goal. You can always go back in seasons and find illustrations of that, it's always the difference between winning and losing, at least in most cases.

Q: You said recently that there were still a couple balls in the air as far as academics?

Ferentz: We still have a couple clearinghouse things. We have a couple things that are still cloudy at this point that I'm not losing sleep at this stage. I would hope I'll know more Monday.

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