4/11 Kirk on the Side Transcript

Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media on Wednesday about everything from a controversy at RB to Drew Tate's NFL prospects and much more. Read about it all in this premium transcript.

Q: It's got to be a compliment to you in a way to say that this is a football school.

Kirk Ferentz: That flipped around a little bit, but there's really not much to say there. I think, again, this is a school where all programs have been supported. Just look at our basketball attendance last year. I think it was in the top 25 if I'm not mistaken. If you look on the national scope of things, fans here have been supportive of everything. Our programs have done well in all sports. Not much else to say.

Q: You've got an either-or at running back. Is that a big deal?

Ferentz: Nah. It just means we're really happy. Damian has really improved with each and every year. Albert is practicing really well. Hopefully we can keep him healthy. He wasn't entirely healthy last year. Hopefully we've got him to where he needs to be. I think he feels pretty good right now. I'm afraid to say we're in decent shape there, because that's what we thought in 2004, then all hell broke loose. We feel real good about the way those guys are practicing. Shonn Greene too, he's doing a nice job.

Q: Does it depend upon Jevon Pugh whether Shonn redshirts or not?

Ferentz: Probably more so it depends on both Albert and Damian. Unless we hit a real snag. I think the key player is Dana Brown in this whole equation. He's gotten a lot of work. We don't need to see an awful lot from Damian or Albert. We've tried to limit their live work a little bit. Shonn as well. We really want to get a great look at Dana, just to see how he's progressing. All the things you worry about with a back. Does he know his blitz pickups? Is he going to secure the ball? Those kinds of things. He's moving along, he's doing OK. We'll just keep gauging that through the summer time. Right now our plan is still to try and redshirt Shonn. Jevon could factor in there. I don't want to minimize that importance.

Q: In the grand scheme of things, how important is it to give Shonn that year? You want to give Shonn the clean slate.

Ferentz: If we could. The one thing I wanted to make clear to him when we discussed it was that he's driving the car in this thing all the way. There may come a point when he says, kind of like Dallas, I had all those arguments and charts and graphs about why he should stay for his 5th year. One minute into the conversation it was really clear that it was time for him to go. If Shonn gets to that point, it's a 2-way street. He's still good with the idea of redshirting. If that changes over the summer, it changes.

Q: Was it close for Tony to have surgery?

Ferentz: No. It was just one of those things where they had to do an MRI to make sure everything was good. You're never quite sure. Just like the Tarpinians, we didn't know for sure if that was going to require it. We sensed it though, because it was kind of coming on a little bit. In Tony' case, it was significant enough that day. "Geez, this could be something." Fortunately, it wasn't.

Q: Will he be active during the summer?

Ferentz: Yeah. He'll be full speed. There was a chance he could be back this week. We thought he had a chance. It doesn't look like it'll happen and we're not going to take any chances at this juncture.

Q: Did that open up your eyes to the #3 guy? The third tight end, I think you've got a couple spots where you don't know who that third guy is?

Ferentz: We have some spots where we don't know who the ones are. We're trying to settle some starting positions right now. To me, it's way too close to call at this point or even project. Beyond that, I'm pretty sure I know who our MIKE and WILL are, our two inside guys. I have no idea who's going to be backing them up right now. Pat Angerer, there's another guy who's missed some time, a hamstring. Ross Peterson, he's a guy who impressed in December, h's been out the whole spring with a hamstring. It's really cloudy right now. A lot of our backup spots. Even where you know. Chad Geary, that's another guy. Adrian Clayborn, two guys that needed work. Chad sprained a knee, he's been back the last 4 or 5 days, Adrian's been limping around for 2+ weeks. It's kind of frustrating in there. Everybody's got the same problems.

Q: You brought up strength a couple times, the offensive line. Is that something, do you really feel confident that can be changed in 6 months?

Ferentz: Things happen, to what extent I don't know. Everybody's different. I've seen it before where a couple months makes a huge difference. There's no way to project that hat I know of. Technique ties in with that too. Mike Elgin is not a 310 pound guy, so if his technique was shot, he was going to be pushed into our backfield on a routine basis. Part of that is just learning how to play and use what you have. I don't know a better example than Joel Hilgenberger. That's the best example of a technician that I've ever been around. 235-pound guy playing the way he played.

Q: How have the receivers looked?

Ferentz: It's gotten better. I'm happy to report- better. It couldn't get much worse, could it? That's something I probably should have brought up. I'm afraid to throw out too many bouquets, but Andy Brodell, we saw him come on at the end of the season. He's really starting to enjoy the game the way you hope to. Having success helps that. He's really done a nice job. He's not 100% there yet, but he's doing a nice job. Dominique's done well. Trey Stross is improving. Probably, I don't want to say the biggest surprise, but a real pleasing development in a way the guy is practicing is James Cleveland. He's really fighting for the ball, he's shown good toughness out there. He's got good hands. He was a hit or miss guy in the fall, but he's had a good spring. Younger guys, Bowman, Chaney, that group, Stross, they're moving forward. I think there's a good corps there.

Q: Are the drops more a product of a mental thing, or is it technique as well?

Ferentz: I think it's experience and concentration. It's just youth, things like that. Hopefully we're leaving that behind us a little bit and moving where we need to be heading.

Q: With a new QB, do you anticipate your percentages, run/pass, to change significantly?

Ferentz: Not dramatically. In a perfect world, we're somewhere 60/40, 50/50, somewhere in that ballpark. You've got to be leading in some games to keep it there. Ultimately, I think what we're hoping is that we get out there on the field and I think Jake has the best chance, obviously, because he nderstands what we're doing. He's way ahead of the guys in the learning curve at this point. You hope he can go out and operate the way you want to operate. If we had to put one of the true freshmen in right now, it'd be a little tougher for them just because of what they can grasp. That's where I'm hoping we'll make some strides by December. They're doing well, it's just a matter of getting more time.

Q: What do you think the so-called experts are saying about Iowa going into next season after the past 2 seasons?

Ferentz: Probably we're OK. My guess is we'd be one of those hot and cold, we're ok. They're OK, one of those shots. You can't go 6-5 anymore, one of those deals. Probably 7-4, 6-6, I don't know much about it. It won't hurt us. Usually the predictions are based on what you've done. In particular last year, we didn't do much to impress many people. If we'd started out like we finished then finished with a 6-1 record, I think everybody'd be feeling a lot better. We've got to earn our stripes right now.

Q: You said you found a few things looking back on last year.

Ferentz: Yeah. Just some little things. Nothing major. I'll keep those to myself, yeah. If you can find them, you're welcome to them. Little things in retrospect. Just like anything, you play poorly on a Saturday then go back and see a couple little things that needed to be addressed a little bit better. We're just trying to be a little bit more thorough.

Q: How is Coach Kaczenski adjusting?

Ferentz: He's doing great. I think he's done fantastic. He's a high-energy guy, which we knew. He's very intelligent. He's already worked extremely hard at it. He's getting great support from the defensive staff, first and foremost. I don't want to speak for our defensive line, but I think they've responded and meshed well with him. During spring break he spent 4 or 5 days with a very respected defensive line coach. He's always been very professionally inquisitive. He works at it, and as I said earlier, I hate to see Ron go, but Rick is going to do a great job. I think it's all going to work out.

Q: Have you figured out where he's going to recruit at?

Ferentz: That was one of the things. We meet on recruiting anyway just to discuss. Rick's going to handle Florida for us. We've had two guys in Florida, and I'm not sure it was the smartest, most convenient because of logistics. Rick's going to handle Florida for us. Ron was more Texas/Dallas. We're going to split Dallas. Part of that is you get non-stops in and out of there. At least you can get on a plane here and not have to land somewhere, you can go right there. Darrell and Phil are going to split Dallas up and recruit there areas.

Q: Who did he go meet with over spring break?

Ferentz: He went down and saw Greg Mattison, which was perfect. The good news for us is that Greg's had a vested interest in this too. He wants Rick to do well. We're not totally stupid. We've got a couple other guys on the list that he wants to visit with. Greg was just fantastic.

Q: Do people do that, do they come here to visit you and your guys?

Ferentz: They don't come see us. We've had people in and out during the spring. We've had some different people. It worked out perfectly. They were on spring break, we were on spring break.

Q: I know Solich had his tour the year he sat out.

Ferentz: That's a different topic. It'd be great to take a sabbatical in coaching.

Q: He didn't think it was so great.

Ferentz: That's the problem. If you took one, everybody else might think it's pretty good that he's gone. I'm not sure we want to bring him back after the sabbatical. It would be a lot of fun to go watch other people teach and coach. It depends on the conditions. I was there once.

Q: It always seems to odd that coaches from other schools would come here and pick your brain. You wouldn't see that in a corporate world.

Ferentz: That's probably a little different. You could probably cross over in business. I would imagine that goes on. Guys from Ford probably wouldn't go to GM or vice versa, that type of deal. I think all of us are looking to see what other peoples' approaches are. It is ironic that you've got Ohio State guys going to Florida. If you end up in a bowl game with somebody, that's not a great deal. At the end of the day, it's kind of like everything else. You worry so much, but everything's on film. We're not splitting atoms.

Q: Didn't you guys spend time at LSU, somebody did, the year before Cap One?

Ferentz: Our strength guys, one of our guys went down that way. We knew what they were doing in their weight room at least. Unfortunately, we knew what they were doing on the field and that was scary. Gosh. Oof.

Q: Have you seen that chemistry develop?

Ferentz: So far so good. We're a work in progress there too. It's kind of interesting. I think a lot of the fuss right now.. .I'm not saying it's not team oriented, but guys are thinking, "Boy, I've got to get my stuff right. What do I need to do to know my job, my technique." Those kinds of things. I'm not overall as worried about everything pulling together and running smoothly yet. That's more what you want to do halfway through camp, then you really start to make everything try to mesh a bit better. Now we're just trying to identify some things.

Q: Do you think you've been through a spring where you've had so many positions where it's a crapshoot?

Ferentz: Maybe in the early couple of years, I'm sure we did. The good news is, right now, that even our kicking situation, there's reason to be optimistic. We've got the potential and the capabilities. We don't have the consistency right now. We know how much time we've got to get ready.

Q: They haven't kicked outside a whole lot?

Ferentz: They have, but it's been more in drills. Not as much of a competitive or simulated situation.

Q: How much do they work during the summer?

Ferentz: They've got their schedules. We can't supervise them, but they'll be working.

Q: I didn't know if they rest their leg during the summer

Ferentz: Just like everybody else, the peak and valley, all that type of thing. Last Saturday we had scheduled some stuff where we'd interject it into the scrimmages and it just didn't make sense indoors because of the logistics in there. Hopefully we'll get it this week, and we'll do it in camp.

Q: Is Donahue pretty much unchallenged?

Ferentz: Yeah. Daniel Murray is fooling around a bit back there, he's done some of it. We'll probably have a first-year player next year. By rule I'm not allowed to name him, but we've got a guy that we'll bring to camp that has a pretty good chance.

Q: A walk-on guy?

Ferentz: Exactly.

Q: What about kick returns, is there any chance of somebody coming in this fall?

Ferentz: Possibly, although I think our potential group of candidates is a lot better than we've had. I thought in years past we've had some guys injured, but I think we've got some potential here this fall. It's going to be really important. We've done well in punt returning, but not kick returning.

Q: Is there some potential coming in?

Ferentz: There's some, but we've got guys on campus, maybe that redshirted last year, with a bit more confidence. That would be a great boost for us, we need those yards.

Q: I know he hasn't practiced a lot, but Kanellis coming over from defense. He's a guy who plays with an edge anyway.

Ferentz: He's not one of the guys I was alluding to that needs more leg strength, he's a stout guy.

Q: Is that one thing that you want to see more of in your offensive line?

Ferentz: I don't know about more of, but I'm obviously concerned. You lose a guy like Marshal Yanda. He's not your average bear when it comes to that stuff.

Q: Didn't he even break a finger last year?

Ferentz: Doesn't matter, he was going to play. One thing you knew about him, he was going to bring such an element of toughness. It's not a macho thing, but he just goes out there and plays that way. That's going to serve him well at the end of the month. People have recognized that. When you look at a football team, it's not just the production or the talent or execustion you lose, you worry about intangibles you lose. Good leaders are guys that really bring that element of toughness and heart. I think Mike Elgin, he had to play that way. He wasn't going to overpower anybody. He really had to play with that edge.

Q: That's the first group of offensive linemen who have had with some stripes from high school and laurels. You don't have any Brian Ferentzes, any Mike Elgins anymore. Rob Bruggeman and Travis Meade. Is that sort of the message being sent?

Ferentz: Just overall, as a team, we want to play a physical style of football. Hopefully it's a hard-nosed style of football. A lot of times it's something you grow into. It's not like a huge void there, it's just something you run into. Marshal had the benefit of being a 20, 21 year old kid when he walked in here. I'm not sure he could touch his toes at the onset, but he can now. He wasn't the prettiest car on the lot, but he was very productive and efficient. That's the race we're running right now, just developing a bit more hardness.

Q: Is that your biggest question mark, the O-line?

Ferentz: We've got several. I think, again, there's reason to be optimistic. It's going to work out fine. Our safeties, certainly. The LEO linebacker, the outside linebacker position needs attention. Kicking game, we talked about that. Going back to your point too. It's like our defensive line. All these guys that are top 5 right now, in 2005 they were starting from scratch. It's that process of going out there and actually playing in games and getting banged around a bit. Just trying to get where you can trade punches a little bit better.

Q: A lot of fans say with the schedule next year there's no reason you should lose, when you hear that, what do you think?

Ferentz: Which part of the schedule are we talking about, I have an answer. I've thought about that and I've got an answer. All I know is we were 2-4 against those other 6 teams, right? That's not including Penn State, who played in a January bowl. That kind of thinking is fan thinking. With all due respect. Our players need to be realistic about how we did against the schedule we played. That's behind us, too. I'm not dwelling on it, but just in case anybody thinks that. I think Purdue went through that two years ago and were sitting home over the holidays. That kind of thinking can lead to bad results, I know that. I think we're going think it, I understand that. We better not be thinking it.

Q: What kind of conversations have you had with NFL personnel with regards to Drew?

Ferentz: Not extensive. In years past I've had calls as the draft gets closer. I've had a couple line coaches call. I was part of that fraternity for a while. They call or the guys came through. This year, so far, the draft's a week later, too. Outside of people just coming through, we talk about all the guys. I haven't had a lot of conversation about any of the guys, really. Outside of guys just passing through. I told Drew this. My guess is that 2/3rds of the teams, knock them off the list because of his height. They've got this bar where they won't take a guy under such-and-such. He's working with a third of the league that would take a shot. You look at a guy like Garcia, it's worked well for him. I don't know how tall Drew Brees is, but the bottom line, it's going to be that when they get to camp, that's what's important. Unless you're a first or second rounder when you get a hall pass for at least a year, but after that, it doesn't matter if you're a 3rd round guy or a free agent from Mankato State, it doesn't matter. You've got to produce once you get there. You've got an equal opportunity as well. It may take you a little while to get that exposure, but sooner or later, you've got to step in the door and go.

Q: Could you see him maybe in the Arena Football League?

Ferentz: I could see that, but I could also see him making a roster. It wouldn't shock me. He's going to have to find the right spot, which is true of anybody that's not a first-day draft pick.

Q: Did you have a designated pro day?

Ferentz: Yeah, the Monday after St. Patrick's Day.

Q: You always said Ed Hinkel would make a great coach. What do you think about him joining Regina?

Ferentz: I think it's fantastic. Ed's one of the great stories. You know, obviously the guys that go on to the NFL, that's neat, that's great, but you look at Ed Hinkel, I don't know. We haven't had a lot of better football players than him come through here in the last couple years. So many big plays he made and so many under the radar. He's got his things straight, he's a tremendous young guy. Marv's putting a pretty good staff together. I always thought Marv was a little smarter than to get into coaching, but I think that's fantastic. I think it's great for the community.

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