NIU Week: Kirk Ferentz Q&A

Kirk Ferentz spoke his mind on Tuesday on a number of topics, with some of his commentary being unsolicited. He expressed some criticism regarding instant replay, why people are so enamored with injuries as well as having a few choice words for an article that was recently written where he felt one of his players was unjustly criticized. All of that and more in this week's Kirk Ferentz Q&A.

Captains this week will be Marcus Paschal, Ed Miles, Albert Young and Tom Busch.

Injury wise here, we have Drew Tate and Shonn Greene both had surgery this morning. Tate had a repair of the thumb that was injured in Saturday's game and the repair went well as far as we know. It's a matter of the incision healing. You keep it out of risk and we expect him to be back practicing next Tuesday. He will miss this game, and we will move on without him. It's unfortunate, he does not want to miss a game like everyone else. Greene, his knee didn't respond last week and it was a tricky thing. There was no swelling and we did an MRI at the end of the week. He had a meniscus situation today. That was done on that and he will probably miss a couple of weeks, maybe two or something like that. Those are both unfortunate incidents and you hate to have anyone have surgery. It's not a good thing. It's also fair to say that Adam Shada will be out. His x-rays were negative, and that is good. He will not play this week. Champ Davis probably won't play either, it is a knee sprain. The good news there is that the MRI showed nothing outside of a sprain. Dace Richardson will have a chance to get back and we will look at him in practice, Ken Iwebema the same way. He is still sore and we will see how it progresses. Outside of that there is not a lot of drama.

The Michigan game, wrap that up, they were a great team. It was an excellent football game, both teams played hard and it was a great game to be at. We came up on the short end, now like every other week we move on and turn our sites to Northern Illinois. As I said back before the season, this is like a ninth Big Ten game, if you look at the history of their program. Joe Novak and his staff have done a great job there. I think they have really done a good job; he went in there with a good plan 10+ years ago. They built it from ground zero and they have had tremendous success, and success traveling to BCS conference stadiums. They have a great team. It's two 5 and 3 teams going at it. They are well coached, they play hard on special teams, their defense is playing extremely hard, offensively, and they have the top rusher in the country in Garrett Wolfe. He is a tremendous performer and he gets a great deal of support. The quarterback does a good job, their line blocks well, their receivers block well and the tight ends block well. If you give Wolfe room, he is gone and it will require a great team effort from us to contain him. That is the deal there.

Then I am going to take a second to give you a little commentary. I tell you all the time that I read the papers as much as I can. At the risk of seeming like I have rabbit ears, because I don't, I don't think, and I am not a big one for commentary, but I think its deserved here right now. I am reminded of Chuck Knoll saying that empty barrels make the moist noise and I don't want to be accused of that…

But there was an article in one of the papers over the weekend that made a point of saying Mike Hart's knee was down. That is probably my fault because I didn't give much explanation in terms of my feeling of the replay the other day, so I will go into detail there. I don't disagree with that. In fact, there is a quote from Mike Hart in, of all papers, the South Bend Tribune I believe, he said that was not a fumble, and that he knew he was down. He also said that he figured they were reviewing the play to get the spot right, and they didn't get that right, either, unquote. My point is this; it went a little beyond was it or wasn't it a fumble. You know…to me, there are a couple of things in play. Was it a fumble, or wasn't it a fumble? It was ruled as a dead ball, the knee hit the ground. I don't contest that. The other part of the equation, to elaborate so that I can give you all the information, the other thing in question there, where should the ball be spotted and what is the procedure to determine that. It think its realistic to think that maybe we could get all of that done with one review, that would be my request on that front. That didn't happen, that is neither here nor there. The spot was determined how ever it was, but I wanted to elaborate on that and explain to you why I was stoked up at that point, and I was. So anyway, that is a part of it.

I will go back two weeks ago, and this is an article that I thought was really inappropriate, and I was going to let it go but I don't think I can right now. IT regarded Damian Sims. I thought it kind of crossed the line. I am not telling anyone how to cover sports, that is your job and it's not mine. It's good that we have a high school class in here today. I am not an expert at all, but I really thought that crossed the line and I think I said this after the Indiana game, throw whatever you want our way because we did a poor job and they did a great job. We didn't. The fumble that occurred in that game was a part of the reason we didn't do well, but I guess where I struggle is, five days before that ballgame, we were all trying to anoint Damian as the next coming of Mike Hart. Then five days later, you know, in this particular article, we kill the guy. I really struggle, and I guess where I struggle and that is why I am a coach and stay in my office, I like to evaluate things over time. If you get too high on a person and project them to be the next coming of, and then five days or six days later, you want to put a knife in their back, I struggle with that operation. That is probably why I am not reporting the news.

So anyway, I just thought that was out of line. I just wanted to get that out there. It's an election year, I am not running for office, and I am not too worried about that one. My popularity rankings may go down a little bit. They have been pretty low in the past. I think in 1999, I was about 2 percent popularity. Good thing I have five kids, they still love me. I have been through a few interesting ordeals through my career, historically that were actually kind of fun once they were over. But anyway, I had to get that off my chest a little bit. Throw it my way. I am glad to take it. I get paid handsomely to be criticized, that is OK. That is a part of the job. But I also get paid to look out for our football team and that is all I care about. I think I have been honest through the years. I had to get that off my chest. So that is that. Now we will go to Northern Illinois, and there are probably a question or two about injuries, and I will give you more commentary on that topic too, if you like.

Q: Is it ligaments with Drew?

Kirk Ferentz: Yeah, uh-huh. Ligaments. Yep. (Long pause). You want my commentary on that? It's been a feeding frenzy. I am curious why people were not so curious about Dace Richardson's ankle. That is the world we live in, right. Quarterback vs. tackle. I am a coach, I should know that. No one cares about the right guard. ((NOTE: Kirk will later give you an idea of what he was hinting at here, about people really wanting to know about the quarterback injuries))

Q: Is it ligaments in his thumb?

Ferentz: It was a ligament. I am not doctor; it is a ligament, left thumb. Form my understanding, if there was not a concern about the incision itself and infection, he would be out there Wednesday.

Q: On the whole, coaches are not a sentimental lot. That being said, does playing against Northern Illinois hold anything special for you as they were your first win at Iowa?

Ferentz: Nah. Nah. It's funny, we talked about that last night and we had to look up the score in that one. LeVar ran that back. I thought it was 17-0, which it was before the field goal block. It was tight, I remember that. My guess is that it will be tight again this week. They are a good football team.

Q: Will Jason Manson start?

Ferentz: That we don't know. We are going to mull it over during the week, we will let them both compete during the week and come to some conclusion there, sooner than later hopefully.

Q: What has the competition been like between Jason and Jake in practice?

Ferentz: I think good. All three of those guys work. You get to the point where practice is extremely important and that is all you can do to evaluate a player. Until a guy hits a game field, you don't quite know what the deal is. It will be interesting. It may be a situation where both play; we have not closed our minds to anything at this point.

Q: Is how they play in practice the only thing you can look at to decide?

Ferentz: There are other factors. Experience, the what ifs, that kind of thing. We have had those discussions a little on Sunday and we have not come to a conclusion yet. We will try to wrap that up quickly.

Q: Does NIU having the 115th rated passing defense take some pressure off of them?

Ferentz: I'd feel better if Drew were there certainly. But that is not the case. Hopefully that will be of help, but we have to run the ball and we will still try to be balanced and give our quarterback the situation where he can have some success.

Q: When would you want to have something scripted or figured out?

Ferentz: I would think by the time we hit the field Thursday, we should know then. It may be sooner.

Q: Getting back to the Michigan situation, the Big Te takes reports of course; have you spoken with Dave Perry yet? (head of officiating)

Ferentz: We sent a little tape out with a report, fairly extensive. We do that almost every week. This was well done. Our GA's Seth Wallace and Rick Kaczenski did a nice job. It's a ‘Grade A' production. They get looked at, and I don't mean that in a smart aleck way. It's a ‘Grade A' production and they make good teaching tapes. It's all you can do. One problem, I will give you more commentary as its commentary day. One thing I am struggling with with instant replay, I used to be a fan, I am curious as to what dictates a review from upstairs. The whole thing is very subjective. The conclusion on that right now with me is that we are maybe better off going to the old system because it's awfully subjective. Where I am struggling, what chosen plays, and there were two on Saturday, got selected to be reviewed. I wouldn't deny either of those. There were two others I could think of real quickly that were not reviewed from upstairs that I would argue were equally reviewable. I am sure each coach has the same gripe and there are gripes with each system. It didn't change the outcome of the game. The ruling of the fumble and the placement of the fumble, 4th and 1 would have been an interesting decision for their staff. But at that point, it was critical. You play through those things like you do anything else. There are some problems right now and some situations, and I don't have the answers. I am not worrying a lot about it right now.

Q: Would there be any satisfaction for you to get an apology?

Ferentz: I am not looking for one. I am not saying we deserve one, I will start there. I am not presuming anything. There is no discussion, and we have to move on. After the season there may be some discussion, which is probably a better time for that. Right now we have a system and we live with it and go from there. I am not complaining; I just wanted to explain things to everyone, because I didn't Saturday. What I was upset about. If it happens again, I will be stoked up again if it goes that direction. To me, that is not what we are shooting for but that is the way it goes. IF I looked like an idiot on TV, I looked like an idiot.

Q: Would you prefer a straight coaches challenge to decide reviews?

Ferentz: I guess that is what the NFL does, right? That would be better, but we would need more challenges I think. I could have used a couple on Saturday. I didn't have that option. There is no perfect system, and I doubt the NFL guys are totally satisfied, either. There is no perfect system. I am just throwing out random thoughts. Maybe we are better with the old days, and that is probably not rational either. We will worry about that in the out of season.

Q: Jason been here for five years, and he seems pretty connected to the team. He has been on the leadership counsel every year. Is there a faction of players that want to see him out there?

Ferentz: I think everyone would be extremely happy for Jason for any success he had, because there is not a more respected guy on our football team. It has been that way for quite some time. He is just an outstanding young person. That being said, our team will go with what we choose to go with. They have faith in us. I don't sense a split at all. I think they know our motives are the same as theirs; we are all trying to win and do what is best for the team.

Q: There are not statistics that can qualify what he has meant, but I sense he has meant a lot.

Ferentz: There is no question. This guy…I go back to when Drew broke into the lineup in 2004, no one was more helpful to him. And in the year prior to that, when he was our backup quarterback. No one was more unselfish and helpful to Drew and he would be the first to tell you that. Everything everyone does reveals their character. It's like the running back situation. We have a chance to see a lot of things on a daily basis, 300+ days a year. So we accumulate opinions about people. That being said, Jason Manson, from the time he has been here has been highly regarded by everyone. He is a class young man from a great family.

Q: Will both Jason and Jake play on Saturday?

Ferentz: I said it's a possibility. I would not rule anything out, but now I can't tell you. If I knew I don't know that I would tell you. That is another story. There is no competitive advantage. I am really fascinated by this injury stuff. Does anyone benefit from this stuff other than gamblers? It's a big deal in the NFL, doubtful, probable. I guess that's why everyone cares, huh?

Q: For the Syracuse game, Drew's status was up in the air until before kickoff. Will this help whomever plays this week, knowing so far in advance that they will play?

Ferentz: We will try to settle in, but it was doubtful that week. Drew didn't practice much. Those guys got plenty of work, Jason and Jake, and they have all the way through. I don't know if it's a huge advantage or not, but the advantage is the time they have had beyond that point, so we have a lot more work done and we should be better by now.

Q: You now have three straight home games. Is this what the team needs to right the ship?

Ferentz: I don't think our ship is totally wrong, I will start by saying that. The way I look at it, about the last four weeks, is that we lost to two of the top teams in the nation, we played well against Purdue and we stunk it out against Indiana and they played well, I want to make sure I say that. They outplayed us and that is the way it goes. We will evaluate this team when the season is over, but to be home three in a row, no one is complaining about that. We like that.

Q: What kind of QB is Jake? He does not have much game experience.

Ferentz: I don't know who to compare him to. They both look similar to me, both Jason and Jake. I think Drew, too. They all have decent feet and hopefully they will all make good decisions, and Drew has the nod there as experience is a wonderful teacher. We think Jake can operate the offense like we think Jason can and we think they can both throw well enough to get us where we have to get.

Q: It's kind of interesting, as Jason and Jake have been 2 and 2a this year.

Ferentz: I think that is where its fuzzy, because they have both done well in practice. Now we are moving into another phase. No matter who plays, there will be some unanswered questions until you get the guys on the field and let them go a little bit.

Q: Does Jake have the strongest arm of the three?

Ferentz: I don't know. I don't know that I would say that. Drew Tate has a pretty live arm. That is not always the whole story with the starting quarterback, but Drew is a good passer.

Q: How has Drew responded to all of this, another injury?

Ferentz: He is being realistic. We talked yesterday, and there were a couple of options and those were not good or smart. We are still talking about young men here. If he was 75 years old, then yeah, I would let him play and get the surgery after the year. That was not an issue and his folks are right behind him on that. He is not happy; no player is. Being injured is the worst thing for any player. Players want to play and when you are injured, you feel like you are on the outside looking in. That is not the reality, just how it works. It's tough, and we know that Drew is a competitive guy but I thought he handled it with good maturity. He visited with a hand specialist yesterday. The facts are the facts, he had a good sense going in what it would be and we will deal with it and move on.

Q: Injuries are part of the game, but have you ever had a year like this? I know in 2004, it was at one position.

Ferentz: It's everywhere this year. They are a factor; I am not going to tell you they are not, that would be foolish. But the other part is that it's a reality and it can happen. It's kind of like breaks or bounces or calls, they all tend to balance out over the long haul. But when they are not going your way, it's not fun. Our focus now is on what can we do to solve the problems? Not mope or worry about them. We don't do that. The other way you have to look at it is that it's another opportunity for someone to step in and do a great job and we have had a lot of guys do that this year.

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