Big Ten Kickoff Transcript: Kirk Ferentz 2

After speaking with the media all day on Tuesday, Kirk Ferentz once again braved the crowds of reporters and writers at the Big Ten Kickoff event in Chicago Wednesday. In this monstrous 6,000+ word transcript, read what Kirk had to say on the new coaches in the Big Ten, taking over for a legend, the maturity of Drew Tate, injury updates on current hawks, and much, much more.

Q: (A question on taking over for a respected former coach)

Kirk Ferentz: Bret, I don't want to speak for Bret, but I would guess he's very comfortable with the way Barry did things, what Barry stood for, and now my sense is obviously that Barry felt like Bret was comfortable it would be a good continuation.

Q: Was there a particular challenge you faced, looking back on it? Aside from getting the program back into that mode?

Ferentz: No, other than you're always going through a period of "Oh, this guy isn't Coach Fry." Oh? No kidding. The other sideshow for us was that he's not Bob Stoops either. I had a couple of those things go on. The bottom line there again is that none of that really matters anyway. You have to come in and try and do the job in the best way you think you can. Then obviously if you have a feeling for the program that you're involved in, it makes it a lot easier. I had a great love for Iowa, so it was very easy to learn what Iowa's all about, and I expect Bret feels the same way about Wisconsin.

Q: Did anyone ever have to just tell you to put "you're the boss" on a mirror?

Ferentz: No, nobody ever told me that one. I figured that out when everybody started to come in and see me about "what you are you going to d about this": I got over that at Maine, actually. I guess my mentor told me, "It's your ass, now." He probably said it a little bit more colorfully. This is going back to 1990, he said basically if they don't like it, tell them to go get their own head coaching jobs. That was his advice to me. Listen and all that kind of stuff, but when you make a decision, make a decision. If somebody doesn't like it, tell them to go get their own head coaching job. This is why I went to Maine back in 1990. That's my nickel advice from my mentor Joe Moore, in his graphic way.

Q: Talk about Mike Elgin.

Ferentz: Talking about head coaching, I'm not sure it was warmly received by the staff. Mike was on our screen, I think we offered him the last week of January. Looked like he was heading to UNI. That might not have been a popular decision at that time, but we just kind of had a gut feeling about Mike, and Reese Morgan who recruited that school had a real strong gut feeling about Mike. He played on a championship team. He's a competitor in basketball, and all around athlete, I think he was 6'4", 210. I really didn't envision him being a tight end. Wasn't quite sure what he'd be, but the thing we liked about him is he was a tough, tenacious competitor, very smart obviously, and really seemed to enjoy the game. He seemed to fit our profile. We started him out at defensive end, it didn't work real well. Became apparent he was going to have a hard time rising at that position, we approached him about taking a shot at the line. He might have been 240 at the time, 230, something like that. To his credit, he worked extremely hard, by the end of the day right now, we're looking at a guy who's going to be a 3-year starter, he's played on 2 pretty good football teams, hopefully he'll play on 3 good ones and carries a 3.9+ whatever it is in engineering and I would have to think is a top candidate for that National Football Foundation Scholarship that they give out in September. If he doesn't win that thing, if he's not one of the 15 people they select, I'd like to meet the guys they do pick. I don't know how a guy like that is going to hurt your football team. He's just a tremendous competitor.

Q: You've had a line of guys like that, so to speak.

Ferentz: We all know about the guys that touch the ball and do some things, obviously Robert Gallery stood out. I don't mean to minimize any story, we've had so many good stories, but a guy like Andy Lightfoot, the role Andy Lightfoot had on that 2002 ball club, he had a couple people bring him in as a free agent, I don't think he would have lasted long. That's not his deal. He had good size, bigger than Mike, but he was a competitor. He was going to get it done somehow, someway. Every team needs that. That's one of the reasons I wanted to bring Mike to that even, and Mike Jones. A lot of good guys like that to pick from, but Mike, to me, embodies what our program is hoping to be all about. I firmly believe you can't win consistently without guys like Mike Elgin on your team. Guys that really give you that grit, and he's got it. That guy pays the price in every area of his life. To get that kind of grade point in a major in engineering and play Big Ten Championship football meanwhile.

Q: He said it wasn't that hard to do.

Ferentz: (Laughs) There are some days where he'll come to practice and he looks like a zombie. You can just tell, I'll ask him if he had a big project due or something like that. Practice is OK, I'll give him a little bit of a hall pass because I think I know what he's doing off the field as opposed to a guy who's in a different arena. You've got guys like that, Andy Lightfoot was the same way. He's in training right now in our Medical School, his 4th year of medical school right now. I guess what it gets back to is that everybody on our team is important. Mike's maybe not the most well-known name out there, but I think I just wanted to make sure people understood the importance he has on our football team. We're represented by those kinds of guys.

Q: When you played Ohio State last year, were you surprised at how dramatically Troy Smith had improved from the year before?

Ferentz: We didn't really see a lot of him the year before. That's really kind of when his development got up and running. Obviously we had a chance to see him as that year progressed, whatever that year was, 2004, right? So it was no surprised. He had it going against us and all season long, he's a great football player.

Q: How do you assess them in terms of their quarterbacks?

Ferentz: Our conference, in my time in the league at least, we've had a lot of quarterbacks, a lot of different styles at least. We missed two of them. We never had to play against Drew Brees. Son of a gun, we never got to play against him. And the guy from Michigan, the baseball player. (Drew Henson). Going back that far, there have been a lot of great quarterbacks in our league, and certainly Troy is a heck of a football player.

Q: Do you think he's one of the best you've faced?

Ferentz: Yeah, no-brainer there. I guess the luck is that we missed Robinson last year, and Stanton. You talk about two awfully good ones there. We lucked out again, we miss Stanton again this year.

Q: You seem comfortable, the football stuff aside, you seem comfortable in your position. You deal with so much, but how comfortable are you, football stuff aside, dealing with the public, which has to just be a constant thing, but now the adoration. You've used that word in the past.

Ferentz: The one thing I really enjoyed was that we took a week's break out there at the Jersey Shore, one neat thing, that entire week, there wasn't one head that turned as I meandered around. That was a pleasant break. I guess my attitude on the whole thing is that I'd sure rather have it where they're turning and smiling now instead of turning and saying, "That son of a..." you know, one of those shots, or "How much longer is this guy going to be around?" one of those shots. I feel comfortable because I feel really lucky and fortunate. I think I've had the best of both worlds. How many people can say that they've had a great job professionally that I've really enjoyed. There are very few things about my job that I don't enjoy. To me, it's a great situation on a personal basis. It's a great situation for Mary and I to raise our family. So I feel really lucky right now, very fortunate. There are certain things that come with the job, and like I said, it could be a lot worse, I know that.

Q: So many people have stories to relate about letters you've sent or that you remember there name, you're just such a nice guy, so down to earth. Is there any method to your way of handling the public?

Ferentz: Part of that goes back to when I was recruited. That's probably a misnomer, but when I went through the recruiting process. I've always been a Colorado State fan. I grew up in Pittsburgh, figure that out. Mary's brother, my wife's brother and I were co-captains. He took on 5 or 6 visits. Everyone would come in and Joe Moore would have them talk to me and talk to him. Everybody said "We'll get back to you." The only school that ever got back was Colorado State. They sent me a letter saying "We think you're a good player" which was a stretch, but they said "We think you're a good player, but we're filled up at your position, etc. We're not going to recruit you" and I've always remembered that, always appreciated that. Another thing that happened, when I applied for the job here at Iowa in 81, I think I send 3 resumes out that spring and one of them was to Hawaii, Dick Tomey was the head coach. Dick Tomey called me and said "You know, I appreciate you applying, we're in Hawaii, we recruit the west coast, we really need a guy with west coast experience, but we appreciate you." Those two things always really stuck with me. My attitude is that if people are kind enough to have an interest in us, then that's only common courtesy to try and reciprocate. I'm not 100%, but we try to do the best we can. Sometimes are better than others. In-season it's really tough, but the rest of the year, there's a definite public service aspect of our job. I guess it's part of my job description.

Q: I understand you're still able to slip out to ball games and what not. Is there a way to do that?

Ferentz: Yeah, I just go. We never hesitate to do anything as a family. I don't hesitate to do anything individually. If I want to go get a cup of coffee, I get a cup of coffee. If I want to go to the ball game, I go to a ball game. Especially around Iowa City, it's no big deal now. We get off into some of the towns now, our youngest one plays in some towns around eastern Iowa, maybe becomes a little bit of a novelty. The best story I've got is about 3 years ago I was coming out of Mercer Park in Iowa City, and there was a team from Cedar Rapids there. It's no big deal for the Iowa City kids, but some kids from Cedar Rapids saw me and came shooting over. Next thing I know there's about 5 kids. I sign 5 hats, hand the 5th kid his hat, and he looks at me and says "Thank you, are you the baseball coach?" (Laughs) That's life there. That's the greatest thing going. It's the greatest thing. Usually it's my wife doing that.

Q: Do you look at your contract as added pressure?

Ferentz: Not at all

Q: Or just a show of appreciation for what you guys have done?

Ferentz: I think it's more a reflection of that. I can again assure you this that I'm more appreciative and very very appreciative. It may change other people's expectations, that comes with the territory, I understand that, totally. I'd like to think that I'll approach this job today like I approached my job at Worchester Academy. I don't want to work construction, believe it or not. I tried to do a good job digging, I was just raised that way. To me, business is business, then what you do, what you are, that's a totally separate entity. That's got no effect.

Q: How much are a problem are (agents recruiting players) at your place? You're kind of a small (school.)

Ferentz: Not a major problem, but I think anybody coaching would be naive to think it's not possible. Any issue involved in college athletics or athletics in general, steroids, agents, you name it. It's like every other issue, the best approach we could have is education. We're just thoroughly trying to stay proactive as possible about educating them.

Q: Can you understand how Reggie Bush might fall prey?

Ferentz: Sure, sure. If we were all smart, we'd probably bring some of these guys in to train us in recruiting. If they aren't the most creative, there are some many ways to get to people now. It's a huge danger. How it affects or can affect a player's psyche, it's a huge coaching issue in my mind.

Q: I just talked to Joe Thomas and he said before he was injured, he had been known to experience it. I was just wondering if there was any of that with Gallery, did he tell you about it?

Ferentz: Those guys are smart, they're good recruiters. They're very creative.

Q: Can you give an example?

Ferentz: There are so many ways they can get in. Through families, through former high school coaches, so many avenues. Some agents will exhaust every possible way. We just try to educate our guys that agents have a specific role. Really, they're not of any value until your (college) career is over. What we get our guys to understand is that our game tapes are your resume. Then how you practice, how you conduct yourself, that's what the NFL people want to know. If you take care of that, then when your career is over, address the agent issue, which you have to do. You'd be a fool not to find the right agent. To do it in a methodical way, it's tough. Players are vulnerable, family members can be vulnerable, and agents know that. [...] That's probably one advantage we have, we're not a fast track like that. That's one advantage of being in a college town. We haven't had 6 marquee guys per year. We didn't have 5 guys drafted in the first round. Robert's situation, he ended up going with a guy that his older brother had been represented by. It's a huge problem.

Q: The fine line between winning and losing in a game and a season. In your experience, what makes an impact on your team to make it capable of winning those close games or having a good season based on that?

Ferentz: I was talking earlier, it's really important at our place. It's a pretty good illustration. We were tied for the championship in 2004, what people forget that year, we won 8 straight games, but we were underdogs in 6 of the 8. They forget all about that. That year we really did a good job of overcoming odds and really winning the close game. Last year we ended up 5-3 in the conference, losing two games, OT to Michigan then the next week we lose in the last minute up at Northwestern. The two seasons are a lot alike, where one year we were able to get over the hump, last year we weren't. Gets back to little details, little things you focus on at the end of the game, which is really short-sighted. I go back to last year, you look at some fortunes in the middle part of the game where we had our opportunities maybe to take control of the game. Whereas 2 years ago we got that job done. It just gets back to all those things you talk about in coaching, little details. Somebody having to step up. In 2004, we had a lot of different guys in the course of the year come up with that big play. Wasn't always our marquee guys. For an operation like ours, that's usually how it's going to go. We'll need everything clicking right to have an opportunity, otherwise we'll likely be a middle of the pack team.

Q: Do you find that combination of players or coaches that can make that difference in a close game?

Ferentz: It sounds trite and all that stuff, but we need everything in our program working optimally. That's the only chance we have. We don't have 5 guys drafted in the first round last year. Chances are, we won't in the next 10 years either. That's the reality. I think our guys understand the challenges. It starts with that. You've got to understand what your lot in life is, then you've got to try to do the best you can with what you've got.

Q: Do you have a way to see before the season whether this can be achieve, something you see in practice or off-season workout?

Ferentz: Since 2001, 2002 on I've felt like every August sitting in here, we'll have an opportunity this year. It's realistic to think that we could be in the hunt in November, which is good. Didn't have that feeling the first couple years, but the last 4, 5 in a row now. At least at this point we'll have a chance. I've got no idea about all this other stuff, there might be some monsters out there, there probably will be given the history of our conference. I think it's realistic based on what I know at least to think we'll have a chance. What we're going to do with that chance, I couldn't tell you. Injuries will play into that, I can't control that, but what we can control, we better be clicking right on beat or else we're going to be in the middle or less. Cause it's getting tougher every year.

Q: You're making inroads at Glenville.

Ferentz: Yeah, we're doing our best. We'll take the scraps. (Laughs) We're really happy with the way things are going there. Coach Ginn, he's a great human being.

Q: You up for a few Abdul Hodge questions?

Ferentz: Sure, one of my favorite topics.

Q: How NFL-ready do you think he is?

Ferentz: I think he'll do a great job with the transition. We've had numerous guys go on now and make the adjustment very well. No doubt in my mind that Abdul will do the same. You can't have favorite kids at home, but if you're talking about one of our top guys, you're going to be talking about Abdul. Total package, on the field, off the field, academically, the whole thing. Abdul is a really unique guy. I think of the backers, AJ Hawk and Abdul Hodge, it's like Greenway and Hodge at our place. Two guys not only great football players but great people.

Q: They moved AJ Hawk right in, but they haven't moved Abdul in yet. Will he be ready?

Ferentz: When the opportunity presents itself, he'll be ready, I don't think there's any doubt about that. I don't know the Packers personnel all that well. My guess is that sooner or later, he'll be one of their top 3. I don't know how soon, as I don't know the rest of their personnel. Typically you draft a guy in the 3rd round you probably have some plans for him maybe not in the immediate future, but he'll play great on special teams. My guess is when he gets his chance and then has the opportunity to get back there, he may be tough to get out once he gets in there.

Q: Is he a middle linebacker?

Ferentz: Yeah, that's what he is. In my opinion, he's a middle linebacker. To me, he's a box middle linebacker. I told people during the evaluation process, he weight 232 or whatever it is. I said "Don't underestimate his size" He came to our place 205, 200, whatever he may have been. He's explosive, he can play the position, great instincts, great student of the game. I'll be shocked if he doesn't have a great career, I'd just be shocked. I'm an amateur, but it looks like to me, with those two picks, the NFL people I've talked to that came through, the thing they talked about AJ Hawk; my sister could tell you he's a great player, but they couldn't talk enough about his intangibles. That's Greenway, that's Hodge too, so. Posluszny, I know it's the same way. We are a pretty linebacker-rich conference last year. I think the Packers really, obviously I know Kampmann, Cole, they're barking up the right tree.

Q: Nick Barnett is at middle linebacker right now. Could Hodge start on the outside and work his way in?

Ferentz: To me, he's a MIKE. That's all I know. Greenway could have been inside/outside for us. To me, Abdul's a MIKE. That's how I look at it. I'm not saying he's Ray Lewis, but to me, Ray Lewis is a MIKE. Abdul will do OK.

Q: Is Brian (Ferentz) in camp?

Ferentz: Yeah, the Falcons.

Q: How's he doing?

Ferentz: So far, so good. They haven't sent him home, so that's a positive. He's enjoying it, as much as you can enjoy camp. Chasing his dream.

Q: I think I came at the tail end of this earlier, talking about Bret Bielema. When you took over for Hayden, you weren't coming off a 10-win season like Wisconsin.

Ferentz: Yeah, I did notice that, yeah.

Q: Hayden was revered there, and I think there's some similar thoughts for Barry. What are some of the things that you made a list for yourself, I've got to do this way, can't do it that way.

Ferentz: A couple things. I was no stranger to Iowa, the history of Iowa, what Coach Fry was about. Bret, a little different framework, but kind of working with the same respect. He's been in the Wisconsin program, he's getting a real appreciation for it. It's not like he's an outsider coming in. That's going to be easy for him. To me, the big thing is, it's like anybody in any job you take, you can't be the person you replace. It doesn't work that way. Usually you don't get hired unless the people making the decision think you're capable. You go in and do the job you're hired to do. I know Bret will do that and do a wonderful job.

Q: Did he talk to you when he was hired?

Ferentz: No, not really. There was no need to. Bret's done his homework, he's prepared himself for this opportunity, and he'll do a great job. If he needs any advice, he's got the best possible source of information 100 yards down the hall. That's a really unique situation, it'll be a great situation for him.

Q: (A question on the offensive change at Wisconsin)

Ferentz: They changed a little bit philosophically. They did some things certainly different in the passing game. That being said, they were still Wisconsin. They're fundamentally sounds as a football team, you better be able to defend the run. They continue to play great defense. Paul was obviously a great addition for them. I think it makes sense that Bret retained him.

Q: Were they tougher, a lot tougher?

Ferentz: The big part of coaching is taking advantage of what you got. Calhoun was a very unique threat out there. They did a great job utilizing them. I remember in the first quarter of our game, we were kind of worried about that.

Q: You got a handle on that.

Ferentz: Yeah, we finally got it. I had my doubts.

Q: Fitzgerald took over at 31, you took over at Maine at 35. What will they find out that they thought they know but now find out they don't know?

Ferentz: One thing I learned real quick was after my first experience that I vowed that if I ever became and assistant again, I vowed to be the best assistant I could. You learn how much you depend on your assistants, especially in football. The other thing is that you can't do everything at once. You can't be everything, you can't do everything. You utilize the people you have around you, count on them, take your time. Be methodical, don't try to do everything at once, cause it's not going to happen. There's that urge to do it.

Q: Think of assistant coaches, talking to Drew, he doesn't know what's going to happen in the future, he doesn't foresee himself getting drafted, he said he's going to put his application. Is he a strong candidate for his staff?

Ferentz: I think he'd be an excellent coach, but I hope we won't have any openings, I'll preface by saying that. We've had great stability, and I hope it stays that way. I think Drew would be an excellent coach. He comes from a coaching background, Dick is a tremendous coach, his brother is coaching now right now, and he's got a great aptitude and a lot of moxy for the game. But I wouldn't sell his future playing for sure yet. He's got some time to invest yet, and that will serve him too, well, down the road for coaching.

Q: You talked about how much he's matured over the last 3 seasons. You haven't had a lot of 3 year starting quarterbacks, talk about how he's matured.

Ferentz: I think it's going to be a fun thing for us to watch him as a senior. My sense is right now that he got thrust into the scene here under unusual circumstances in 2004. Then last year, it was an unusual year with all the lofty expectations, I almost got the sense he put too much pressure on himself. I think the main this now is that he's had 2 years of experience. Based on what I've seen this spring, he looks a lot more comfortable, relaxed. A big part of that is having some real game experience out there. It's a real comfort with what we're doing. I'm really confident he's going to have just a tremendous senior year. I'll be shocked if he doesn't.

Q: Part of that confidence, you have some inexperience at receiver, he's not concerned, really. He thinks the guys you've got are ready to go.

Ferentz: That'll work itself out. I'm not necessarily saying it's automatic. We're not too worried about it, we've got some good players out there. We've got some other players that are going to help by playing at other positions. We'll be able to spread it around and hopefully be OK that way.

Q: You talk about his maturity on the field, but off the field he may have had problems dealing with all the media attention. He seems better handling that attention, is that something you've worked on.

Ferentz: Actually, I'll tell you this. This is a sign of maturity. I interview everybody on our team in February and March, and he asked me would it be possible to get some media training, coaching. A couple things, you always learn from your players. It's a great mistake on my part. We did that in 2002, and we haven't done it since. Not only with a quarterback, but a lot of our players. I was remiss in that regard, that's something we should be doing annually. I've made a note of that. He also told me that he recognized that as a weakness of his. I think he'd be the first to tell you. He didn't look forward to talking to media after ballgames and resisted it. He's going through a period of coaching, and I think, to me, him volunteering that is indicative of a guy who's thinking "OK, what can I do to get better, what can I do to be more comfortable in my role?" I give him all the credit for that. I think we'll see that from him, not only with the media, but just in general. That's experience, that helps.

Q: Where do you think Drew ranks in the Big Ten in terms of quarterbacks?

Ferentz: He's certainly one of the good ones. He was in that class in 2004, I think he was last year. It was a big class last year in particular. The quarterbacks in our league, Robinson's impact on Penn State, Basanez, two guys that have graduated. There are an awful lot of good quarterbacks, it's hard to say one over another. Drew's right up there, no doubt about that.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about what you know about Garrett Wolfe?

Ferentz: I know he's awfully good. A tremendous football player. The statistics, we've seen him on film several times last year with overlapping opponents. We've had a chance to see their program we played them our first or second year. The job Coach Novak has done is absolutely phenomenal. They've had some unprecedented success, teams they've beaten from the Big 12, SEC, Big Ten, ACC, when they beat Maryland a couple years ago. Those things don't happen by accident. They recruit extremely well, we see that firsthand. More importantly they do a great job with their players on the field. We saw them a couple times on tape last year, excellent football team. From my vantage point, it's just one more Big Ten game on our schedule. They're right in the middle of our Big Ten schedule. Instead of playing 8 games, we're playing 9, that's our approach on the game.

Q: What's that like playing a non-conference game in the middle of the Big Ten Schedule?

Ferentz: It's going to be a new experience for us. With the 12th team being added on, everyone scrambling around, that's how it shook out. The way they play, that's how we'll approach it, it's just like a 9-game Big Ten schedule now instead of 8 game. That's going to be our approach.

Q: Do you like the fact that next year you've got a game with them at Soldier Field, what's that going to be like for you guys?

Ferentz: It'll be exciting for both teams. A great venue, it makes a lot of sense for both teams. We've got a lot of Chicagoland students in our school and obviously a lot of grads in this area. To me, that made perfect sense. I think it'll be a really exciting venue for the football teams, and a stiff challenge. It'll be a tough way to start the season, it's exciting.

Q: You talked about Garrett Wolfe, but how do you defend a player like Garrett Wolfe?

Ferentz: That's what people have to figure out, it's like every great back. You better have every gap sealed, everybody better have the proper leverage, because he's a guy that can do things on his own. We've seen him do it against good competition, against Michigan, Northwestern, he's a handful.

Q: Playing in Chicago next year, I wanted to ask about a couple Chicago kids. Ryan Bain, Tony Moeaki, Dace Richardson. They saw a lot of time last year for you, are you looking toward those guys this year, and how much did they learn last year?

Ferentz: No question, none of the guys started last year, but our plan was to get them into the rotation, but only if they were going to be key players for us in the future. I guess we'll wait and see. We rotate defensive players, linemen, so Ryan should be in our 6-man rotation, he had a great spring, he's in great shape. Tony had a great spring, we rotate TEs, play a lot of TEs, he's certainly going to be a player that will be playing an awful lot. We've got Dace scheduled to play our left tackle. Typically try and red shirt offensive linemen, but we knew again that he'd be the one inheriting that position so we wanted to get his feet wet, get him up and running. He had a good spring, all 3 had good springs.

Q: Will you red shirt Dace at all or is he the guy now?

Ferentz: If it all works out, he'll be our starting tackle for 3 years, so we'll keep our fingers crossed.

Q: Then one more, Brett Morse, I know he's just coming in as a freshman, what kind of guy do you see him as?

Ferentz: As you know, Brett mostly played offense in High School. We thought we saw some things in him that paralleled some other guys we have in here. We like the fact that he's a leader, a well-rounded athlete. We see him as a defensive player, we're projecting him there. He played a little on defense. We think he's a top guy that has a good future as a linebacker.

Q: Drew Tate is in his 3rd year as a starter. For a while, you were going through a cycle where you had a different starter every year.

Ferentz: Yeah, we had a one-year rule for a while.

Q: What is his experience allowing you to do that you weren't able to do maybe, with one-year starters?

Ferentz: In a perfect situation, you'd like to have a guy that could be with you for a few years. It's maybe more important for a school like Iowa, you look at Purdue, Drew Brees' time there. It can be a real advantage. It was that way in the 80s. Chuck Long had a beautiful career, Chuck Hartlieb for a few years, then Matt Rodgers. Obviously the player that's been in this system has more familiarity with what you're doing, more of a comfort level. Quarterback's a tough position to play, an awful lot of decisions to make. One thing coaches can't give is experience. That's a valuable thing. My sense is that right now we're really going to see Drew benefit from that this year. I'd been talking earlier, in 2004 he was kind of thrust into the picture, then the way the season unfolded was really very unusual. We got wiped out at the running back position, ended up 116th out of 117 teams rushing the ball that year. A lot fell in his lap this year, he responded beautifully. My sense was last year there was a lot of unwarranted attention thrown our way going into the season. Especially if you look back to the year before when we won 8 straight but were underdogs in 6 of the 8. People kind of forgot about that after we had success. I really think Drew and a lot of our players felt that every play had to be special play. Football doesn't work that way. I think we've probably learned some lessons last year. Again, I'm just observing what I've observed from Drew now, watching him during the course of the spring, he's a lot more comfortable now. He realizes every play doesn't have to be a great play. We're going to need him to make some great plays, no doubt about that. But you've got to let the game unfold a little bit too. Do your job. I just think he's poised right now to have a fantastic year, I really do. That's one of the benefits of being a 3-year starter.

Q: Did Ettore Ewen make it through spring and summer drills?

Ferentz: Yeah. (Knocks on the table) We're hoping to see Ettore. Hopefully this is the Albert Young story where we got one set of them one year, another year. We all think he's a good player, but nobody on the outside has seen any tangible evidence. Albert's story unfolded beautifully last year, we're hoping Ettore's coming out party is this year.

Q: Physically, he looks OK though?

Ferentz: Yeah, he looks great. We're really excited about what we saw of him last year in camp. Those situations are really tough as a coach. Albert was the same thing, back-to-back injuries. Albert at least got to play a couple games a few years ago. Ettore hasn't even seen the game field. If there's any justice at all, the rest of his career will be injury-free, and we think he'll fit into our rotation really well.

Q: Dan Doering was nicked up in spring ball too, is he back?

Ferentz: He's still lagging behind a little bit. He's probably the only guy who's not full speed at this point. He's really close, should be able to work through training camp, but at the end of the summer he's still kind of lagging behind.

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