Kirk Ferentz Q&A from Tuesday Presser

The annual rivalry game against Iowa State is just five days away, and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz addressed the media this week to talk about that contest, the status of Drew Tate and much more in this press conference transcript.

"To start out, we want to publicly express our condolences to the Klinkenborg family. All of us here at the University feel the same and we send our condolences to the entire family. Mike is a tremendous young man and they have a wonderful family. To me the most important job in the world is being a parent, and I know Myron was proud of his entire family. Mike fits that; a Presidential student and model citizen. We are here to support Mike and his family any way we can.

Our captains this week will be Miguel Merrick and Ed Miles on defense, Marshal Yanda and Drew Tate will be our offensive captains.

Injury wise right now, nobody is out of the game at this point. I am sure we will wander back to that topic later on. We will put a half hour aside for that one.

It was a great win for us the other day; we were pleased to get out of there with a victory, pleased to get back on the ground as late as it may have been, whenever we got here. It was a great trip for our guys; they showed resilience and rose to the occasion, particularly in overtime. It was a tough trip, we are happy to get the win; we enjoyed it on Sunday and now another challenge.

We are playing an excellent team in a big game for both teams. You can count on the environment being extremely good and I think that you are going to see two good football teams out there. The competition will be stiff. We have a great challenge. ISU is veteran on offense with nine senior starters, and two of the guys that are not seniors are two of their marquee players in Meyer and Blythe. They have experience and have made a ton of big plays for them.

On the defensive side they lost some good players. They return four guys that have played a lot of football that have done a good job. To me, they have gotten off to a very good start, doing a great job of keeping people from having success on the ground and most importantly keeping points off the scoreboard and not giving up the big play, which is critical on defense when you have young players.

They play hard like you would expect, so it will be a great challenge for us. Q: How much do you think your defense grew up because of that goal line stand?

Kirk Ferentz: It should be a great confidence boost for them. You mention that point. If you look at it right now, of the four games played by both teams now, three have come down to the last play of the game. That is a good experience for any football team. The defense did a phenomenal job on that series. I have never seen that and I doubt I ever will again. I thought our entire team performed well in overtime. If you are going to be in close games, and we anticipate a lot of those this year, how you perform in those situations is important.

Q: Will Mike (Klinkenborg) be available this weekend to play (it was asked respectfully)?

Ferentz: I don't know. We have not talked much about that. I spoke with Mike on the phone, as did Norm. Right now, the thing is do what is proper. It's important to us that he gets back with his family. He drove back on Sunday. His family is coming in from various parts of the country. First things first, we will work those details out. I think it's possible, but I can't imagine Mike being with us before Thursday at the earliest, and that is only if he and his family decide that is the appropriate thing to do.

Q: Did the crowd noise impact Jason Manson's checks at Syracuse?

Ferentz: I said the other day, one reason I agreed to go up to the dome, I was concerned about the dome in general, particularly that dome. It's like a big guy, it's really loud. It was not a sellout but you could not hear yourself think in there. Part of the deal was to have a senior quarterback. I projected Tate to be the starter, but I had the wrong senior playing. It would have been tough for Drew, too. The way they operate on defense, they force you to communicate a little bit and we had some problems. There is no doubt about that. They had some problems, too. It's a tough environment.

Q: What do you need to see form Drew this week, and is there a set timetable?

Ferentz: He will work on a limited basis today, more tomorrow and if all goes well, he will work more on Thursday. To me, I am no doctor, you probably noticed that, he has been cleared medically. It's a case, like a sprained ankle, guys get cleared medically and they are not putting themselves in harms way to play, it becomes a coaches decision. If he can't play effectively, I don't think its fair to anyone to put a guy out there that cant perform the way he needs to perform, and that will govern the decision. I am optimistic that he will look good and we will be smart with our approach. With a little luck he will play. If he doesn't, we have all the faith in the world in Jason and Jake Christensen is very able, too. We will watch those guys in practice and go with the guy that gives us the best shot to win.

Q: How do you balance getting Drew ready to go and giving Jason reps just in case?

Ferentz: I think we are well enough down the road…Drew wont get a lot of work today anyway, so that will work itself out. That is one good thing about having a fifth year senior as a backup. I am not saying we are the Steelers or he is Charlie Batch, but it's handing the ball to a guy that is not taking his first snap in a game that is pretty important. That part is a nice luxury item.

Q: Will Jason getting in to play against ISU last year help him out at all?

Ferentz: Jason seems to be a tough situation magnet. That was a tough indoctrination last year. We had dug ourselves a pretty good hole right there. Last week was no walk in the park, either. He has been in a couple of tough situations. If he plays this week, it will be tough again. He can handle it. That experience will help, just like the other snaps.

Q: How hard was it keeping Drew out of the lineup last week, given the competitor that he is?

Ferentz: Again, it will be totally based on what we see him do. I already know the answer. I knew it last week. That is why I didn't bother asking the question. We saw him throw the ball last week and it didn't look good. My big concern was kind of like an ankle again. When you have injuries like this, if you don't give them a chance to catch up then you go through 10 weeks of this, and that is not fair to anyone. This is his senior year. To me, he has earned the right to play the way he is capable. To throw him out there without practice, or know that he will lose another week, that is not the right thing to do.

Q: Do you ever think that since its not a conference game, it makes your decision easier to maybe rest Drew?

Ferentz: It has nothing to do with it. If we are playing whomever, name anyone in the nation; it's like discipline; that is a separate category. The two don't factor in. We want to win every game and we will do what is best to give us the best chance. But you have to think about the player involved, too. You can put him out there and get 30 snaps, but he misses two more weeks. Who does that help?

Q: How long has this been bothering him, what is it specifically to make it tough to throw?

Ferentz: I am no doctor, but it's a strain, I don't know. It's not a tear, which is important. That is relative to the discussion. The long and short is that he was sore last Sunday and didn't throw on Tuesday and didn't look good on Wednesday, so it was evident that he could not perform the way he has to. We are optimistic that he will look better this week.

Q: Would you say that Thursday would be the critical day for him?

Ferentz: I am optimistic today that he feels good after coming off the field. Tomorrow is another step, as we will do more volume tomorrow. Every day will be an important day. I think every one of them is going to be. We are optimistic. If you give something time, it should be OK. The critical thing is that there is not tear, that would have been a concern.

Q: Did you basically take all of the argument out of it?

Ferentz: There was not much discussion. Fortunately, this is not like marriage. I was not seeking input. Usually I do. That is one advantage of coaching sometime.

Q: Have you had a case where you might have played someone too soon and it lingered on?

Ferentz: It can happen. I keep going back to ankle injuries. I go back to when I started coaching. Guys can get cleared medically, but if they can't be effective, they won't play well and then usually they set themselves back. The way the process works is that Ned Amendola and Paul Federicci have authority over me when it comes to medical decisions. I am not trained there. Once they turn them over to us, we decide if they can or cannot play effectively. Drew doesn't have to be 100 percent because of the way he is built. Some guys are different mentally than others. We have made those calls before. Not to go back over old history, but Brian Ferentz was hardly prolific when he came back in 2004, but we made the decision that he gave us a little something we needed at that time. I can assure you that he was playing on legs like mine at that point. You make decisions, but you can't put a player out there where he won't play to his level and standards.

Q: Drew had clearance last week?

Ferentz: Yeah, he could have played. And then we would be here today saying he ain't playing this week. That was my decision.

Q: Did he try to talk his way in?

Ferentz: Nope. It was a short conversation. His dad was informed. Anytime a player is going through an issue, the medical staff explains it to the parents, mainly because they know what they are talking about and coaches don't. We start with that process and go from there.

Q: Drew and Albert both said they get more fired up for this game, what about as a coach?

Ferentz: I think everyone involved. I don't want to speak for everyone, but its fair to say that people in our camp and Iowa State's camp, this is not just another game. It's a huge game for both teams. Most fans feel that way. That is what makes it fun. It's like playing a big game in your conference. Big games are fun. The weeks go faster on weeks like this. I think its fair to say we are all excited for it, on both sides.

Q: Is there a play or two in this series that is memorable?

Ferentz: Mmmm. I am a coach so I think of negative ones off the bat, so lets not talk about those. There are a couple that jump out.

Q: Do you have any reaction from the ISU Billboard in Cedar Rapids?

Ferentz: Um, yeah. You know, I have been by it twice now. The first time was coming down for the Montana game, and I missed it. I apologize; I usually look at my notebook. The other night I went and saw a high school game on Thursday. It was legal. I had a kid playing, so it was legal. We were coming back, and again, this is not my time of the year to be sight seeing. My wife, just as we were getting by it, said there is the sign. Because I had asked her on the way up, where the hell is it, anyway? So I missed it again. I have seen pictures. I will make sure to be paying attention Saturday.

Q: Todd Blythe has not been as big of a factor in their offense to date. Have you seen things that other teams are doing to shut him down?

Ferentz: I was reading some comments, and they were accurate. This past weekend, he attracted a lot of attention and that opens other things up. When you have a great player that requires a lot of attention from the defense, it gives you a chance to open up in other areas. Choose your poison. If you blanket one player…they have nine seniors and two marquee juniors. It's very tough to defend a team like this because tey have a veteran line that is good, an outstanding center, they do a great job blocking, they have a running back who is healthy and running very, very well. They have a quarterback that can spread it around, a couple tight ends that do a great job and three veteran receivers that are very good players. Choose your poison. If you lean one direction, you are open somewhere else. If you play it straight and run the risk of a guy making a great play. Todd Blythe is the kind of guy that can make a great play even if he is double covered or perfectly covered. He can go up and make that play. They cause you a lot of problems. It's an excellent offensive team.

Q: Then you have Bret Meyer that can run.

Ferentz: That is the other dimension. He can pull it down and go, so it's one more thing. What do you do? How do you defend it? When you can run like he can and he throws well and can throw deep balls, it's a tough team to defend.

Q: Have you changed anything specifically in how you prepare for this game?

Ferentz: It's a very big game. Not that they all aren't, but this will be out there on the Richter Scale a little bit. What most big games come down to, is if you don't show up with great intensity, play extremely hard, you will be in trouble. You have to operate in the critical areas. That is mundane what I am saying, but its the truth. If you look at this series, ISU has done a great job. It's in their media notes. They have done a great job philosophically since Dan has been there, protecting the football and forcing turnovers and not giving up big plays. That is how they have been successful. If you look at our times we have not been successful, we have not executed there. Good teams put you in a bad spot if you make mistakes, and that is what they do.

Q: Talk about Stevie Hicks.

Ferentz: He is a big, strong and physical guy. He has had some injury problems. I am going back aways now. He looked healthy against us last year. He is healthy right now. He is a big strong, physical back. It starts up front. They have guys up there that know what they are doing.

Q: Talking about Blythe, Scott Chandler on your side is starting out great this year.

Ferentz: He is really doing a great job. I think he has made remarkable progress. I have told NFL people through here. You have to look at the whole picture. The guy moved in 2004 from receiver to tight end. It's not an easy transition. He has worked hard to get bigger and stronger. He has made the effort to become a well rounded player, not just a receiving tight end. He has made great strides and is playing well. We will need all of our guys to step up and do a great job, and Scott will be needed. He has good ball skills with good hands and he is tall. He has all the tools.

Q: This game and this series has not gone your way.

Ferentz: I would be lying if I said that I wouldn't prefer the record to be different. You guys kind of know how I operate, I move on. I worry about what is in front of us. I try to be as smart as I can in terms of what has happened in the past, not only the last seven years, but the years before that, so I can better understand what we need to do. Shoot, I wish it was the other way around, there is no doubt about that, but there is nothing we can do about that. I am worried about what is in front of us and we are just focused on Iowa State.

Q: Have you had to make any major adjustments due to the new clock rules?

Ferentz: I don't think it has been monumental. There have not been any crazy circumstances yet. Outside of the fact that the game goes a little faster. The playing game. Now that game Saturday, that seemed like it was a record before we got to overtime…I don't know. Those commercials seemed longer than normal. I have a feeling that is where our on field time is going to. Have you guys done any research on that one?

Q: There have been more commercials in the same time

Ferentz: Jeez, that is a surprise. That shocks me. That is the way it goes.

Q: Do you want your guys to look at last year as a motivator, or stick to the present?

Ferentz: I would assume they would. We got it handed to us pretty good. They beat us in every phase they could and the credit goes to them. That is the objective. You have to tip your hat to them. We did then and I do today. I'd like to think that we would be motivated no matter what happened last year, but it doesn't hurt. I am not planning on showing the film or anything like that.

Q: How has rivalry changed through the years?

Ferentz: When I got here it was good. They spanked us three in a row and I remember that distinctly. Then there was a turn of fortune, then it got one sided as you recall. When I left here, the rivalry had left. But it's a whole different ball game now. It started in 1998. They were 28 point underdogs beating us in Kinnick. You can't say enough about the job Dan has done there. There is a reason he has been there 12 years and the reason he has done arguably the best job that anyone has ever done there. It's remarkable what he has done there. What else can you say? It's a great contest now.

Q: How close are you and Dan?

Ferentz: We sat directly next to each other for nine years, every staff meeting. We spent a lot of time in meetings. He was the d0line coach and I was the offensive line coach, so we worked with and against each other a lot. We have a great respect for each other and a great friendship. Dan stopped out at the house in Cleveland when they were out recruiting right after he got the job. We have stayed in touch. All of us that have worked together on that staff have remained good friends. We don't call each other every day, but we are friends with a great respect for each other. We were all fortunate to be with each other.

Q: Where does this rivalry rank across the nation?

Ferentz: I am not too good at rankings. I don't know. It's big here and that is all that I know and care about. I am kind of a small world looker, focus guy. What do you call that, small picture?

Q: When you think about Blythe and their receivers and their strengths, is it a tough matchup?

Ferentz: We are concerned about every match up. If you empty the box and try to help in coverage, then you have to deal with Hicks or Meyer running the ball. If you keep everyone in…it's the age old question. It's the great thing about having balance. They have great players and experience everywhere. It will be one of the tougher challenges we will have all year defensively. You don't get groups like that too often in coaching. We had one similar in 2002, we really did. Veteran. It's nice when everyone knows each others move. That is something that takes time to develop.

Q: Does Blythe's height present a challenge?

Ferentz: No question. He is an unusual package. He uses his height to his advantage, but it would be an injustice to him to say he is just a size guy. He is a great football player and a great competitor, which makes him tough to stop. I have read about his great plays, people polled about his best catches. That was depressing. Hopefully the list stays the same if we can say that on Sunday.

Q: Did Marcus Paschal do something in the off season to work on his hitting, because he has been laying the wood this year.

Ferentz: To look at last year, it wasn't fair to Marcus. He was not up what we expected from him or what he expected. You trace it to the injury he had in the bowl game (Cap One). He played well last year, but it didn't look like the guy that we thought he would be based on 2004. Now, he feels good physically, he is confident and experienced. We are seeing him do some good things out there and its pleasing to see.

Q: Is it too hard to cover Blythe man to man?

Ferentz: We are not a big man outfit anyway. You are rolling the dice if you try to do that. I don't know how many people anywhere that can do it consistently. Anytime you have an excellent receiver like that, you are rolling the dice if you man up on him and I don't see us doing that.

Q: Why was Tate named a captain?

Ferentz: It's how we do it. We talk about it as a staff each Tuesday morning. He is a senior, a tremendous leader and we anticipate him back. If he cant go, he will do all he can to help us just like he did on Saturday. He did a great job Saturday.

Q: Is the Iowa pass rush where you want it?

Ferentz: I read that somewhere the other day, too. I will say this. If people seven or eight man protect you, it's tough to get to the quarterback if you rush four. I think we are better than we were a year ago and that is important. I think the guys are working extremely hard up there. How people choose to protect against us is their choice. It's where it's at, but I am pleased. We are making progress up front on both sides. We have to keep moving.

Q: Jason had a good overtime session. Did Drew calm him down?

Ferentz: I think so. Our guys are pretty good about helping each other out. They are not selfish. Drew was talking to him between series. Ken did too. That is what you expect from the guy not playing. Ken is calling plays, but the quarterback has the chance to hear what play is being called, watch it and help out. They do a good job with that.

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