Q: What do you think about the new kickoff rules?
Kirk Ferentz: I think it's a good rule. I'm glad it wasn't last year, cause our kickoff coverage wasn't outstanding, to say the least. It certainly is going to put more emphasis and importance on both of those areas. Those were both areas we were challenged in a year ago. It's going to serve us well to do a little bit better job, and I'm confident we will.
Q: Who returns those kicks?
Ferentz: We're not sure yet. I think the good news is that we've got a lot more candidates this year than we've had. For whatever reason, the last couple years we've had a tough go at that. It seems like it's been since CJ Jones, I don't know if it's quite back that far. I think we've got some guys right now that have potential to be good returners, both on the punt and kick. We've had more trouble with the kick phase obviously. I think we're going to be OK. It's going to be a challenge for us to do a little bit better job executing.
Q: Is Jordan Bernstine figuring into that?
Ferentz: We're going to keep an open mind for anybody, first year players particularly on special teams. Certainly return ability is going to be a factor in that equation.
Q: What about Albert and Damian back there?
Ferentz: We'll tread water on that one. It kind of depends what our depth situation turns out to be behind them. We're really going to keep an open mind, mainly because it's such an important play. In a perfect world, if we could get someone else to shoulder that, that'd probably be a better thing.
Q: Special teams last year, did you guys not practice that as much?
Ferentz: I hate to say we probably spent more time on it. Maybe diminishing returns, possibly? We've remained pretty steadfast about spending time both in meetings and practice. Sometimes it's just a matter of doing it. If you look back in recent years, we had a lot of great stories through the years. Last year we just didn't have anybody emerge for the most part. Gabelmann did a great job on the kick team, but we don't have enough of those kinds of stories. That's really what we need now.
Q: Have you taken more a strict tone with the team this year, with regards to your approach with the team?
Ferentz: I don't know if strict will be the right word. I really think it goes back to December, actually November, whenever we got back after thanksgiving. I don't think there's any question we need to be a more focused football team and a more focused staff. Hopefully we're doing a better job of that. We showed some signs during December, and I think this year's gone well so far. Hardly out of the woods, so we really need to pay attention to detail.
Q: There are three new coaches in the league, and you happen to play all three of them. Does that pose any challenges?
Ferentz: Not overly. Mainly because there's going to be plenty of film out there before we get that far.
Q: Film of their past teams?
Ferentz: Film of these current teams they're coaching. In some cases, with Mark D'Antonio, he was in Cincinnati, we've seen them on film. We've got some familiarity with what they've done. Tim Brewster's a little different situation. Bill Lynch, I don't anticipate any major changes there at Indiana. We may have caught a break with the Iowa State situation, mainly because we played Texas, so at least we have an idea of how Coach Chizik likes to coach defense. All that being said, you never know how much that's going to help or hurt you.
Q: Speaking of, ever had any coins with your face on them?
Ferentz: Not that I know of, I don't think so.
Q: Ever want one?
Ferentz: Not really. Wouldn't be worth much, I know that.
Ferentz: I kind of feel a bit about that watch list like most watch lists. If you played at all as an underclassmen, you're probably on a watchlist. I was never on a watch list, I know that. All that being said, Tony's a guy we have good feelings about. He's played well for us for two years now. We think he's really ready to blossom and mature. He'll certainly get more playing time with Scott being going. He's played a lot for us in the past. For us to have a good football team, we're really counting on him to do well. We think Brandon Myers will do well too. We're excited about the pair of those guys.
Q: How are injuries and academics heading into camp?
Ferentz: As far as academics, I think we're in good shape. We don't have final grades in, but at this point, I'd have no reason to be alarmed at this stage. Injury wise, we have two guys, Rob Bruggeman, I can't see him being ready, obviously. We're not putting a limit on him, but I think Big Ten play would be really optimistic. We'll have to see how it goes. His rehab has gone well. Jeff Tarpinian had surgery also. I think it's going to be touch-and-go for him as far as opening game. I think we get him back sometime in the month of September. He'll be out there practicing without contact in camp. We've got about four or give other guys with little things, more insignificant things. It may impede them during the onset of camp, but nobody we'd expect to be out for any significant time.
Q: How is Dace Richardson?
Ferentz: He's one of the guys on that list. I'm not sure if he'll be full speed when we open up, but we expect him to be shortly thereafter.
Q: Is Iwebema on that list too?
Ferentz: He's healthy, he's had a great summer.
Q: Looking ahead, to Northern Illinois in Chicago, is it kind of a wild card to open the season there?
Ferentz: It is. We talked about the preparation for that game. As you know, they've had some coaching changes, philosophically, we're not sure what to expect from them offensively. The one thing that's overriding is that Coach Novak is an excellent coach. They'll be a tough, hard-nosed football team that's extremely disciplined and extremely well coached. There'll be a little guesswork on our defense getting ready for their offensive, but we know they're going to have a good football team. We need to be ready to go.
Q: What do you know about Brewster, you said that's kind of the X factor because you don't have tape. What do you know?
Ferentz: A little bit about his lineage, certainly. I'm not sure if we're going to see a Denver-style offense, a San Diego-style offense. My guess is that it'll be very different because Mike Dunbar is the coordinator there. We have time, it's not a high priority, because it's later in the season for us. Any time a coaching change is made, we try to make sure we know where the coaches, not only the head coach, but the assistants, came from, what the play book might look like. There's still speculation and guesswork.
Q: He says he's known you for about 20 years, any parallels, college to NFL to college.
Ferentz: I remember him as a player, I guess that dates me a little bit. I had a life-changing experience the other day, I'll get to that in a second. It dates me a bit. I remember him playing at Illinois, followed his career, then at North Carolina. He's had a great career. I know he'll do a great job up there.
Q: Does he remind of you McCarney a little bit, or is that just with us?
Ferentz: Probably with you guys, I don't know.
Q: He was pretty peppy.
Ferentz: He's upbeat, he's upbeat. He's very enthusiastic.
Q: What was your life-changing experience?
Ferentz: I ran into Rob Thein. I was getting a cup of coffee. He was in town for a birthday party. We talked a bit, at the end of the conversation I said, "Rob, I gotta ask you, what number was it, how old are you?" he said, "31." Whoa. Time out. This is on my second tour of duty that I coached Rob Thein. I guess I don't think of myself being that old.
Q: You are old.
Ferentz: I guess I am old. Former player, 31, wow.
Q: Are you singing at Wrigley or not?
Ferentz: No, absolutely not. I'll be on a bus somewhere between Quad Cities and Sterling at this point.
Q: Has everyone made it through the clearinghouse?
Ferentz: Absolutely not, are you kidding me? (Laughs) You're talking about before school starts? I think we've got 6 or 7 guys, something like that. We'll keep our fingers crossed. I'm not sure I understand that whole process. That's all I'm going to say there.
Q: Is it more of a headache every year?
Ferentz: It's a challenge. It's a challenge for everybody involved. I know they're working on it.
Q: Jake Christensen, if he is your starter next year, will it be a benefit, having played Northern Illinois last year?
Ferentz: Perhaps a little bit. Perhaps a little bit. I'm not so sure just having played them, but having played. I think that's probably the more important aspect to this whole thing. Jake's doing a good job. He's taking all the right steps, and we're anxious to get him out there on the field in a week here.
Q: Is this the biggest year for the 2005 recruiting class? Quite a few defections. This is the year they should be contributing on the field.
Ferentz: You hope, in a perfect world, that if they're not in starting positions, that they're right there contending for them. We've had guys that aren't here still, but we've got a significant number of guys that are starters or right there knocking on the door. It's important. Every year is important, but I think when you get into your third year, that's really when you start o make your move.
Q: When you have a class that loses that many guys, how do you fill the holes in the future? Does that change long term plans?
Ferentz: We've had other classes like that. It's not the first time. You just kind of bob and weave, you absorb, and you hope somebody steps up. That's probably where it's important to have stories like Brett Greenwood or a guy like Travis Meade. You go back to our 2004 ball club where we had Considine, McMahon, and Tyler Luebke. Guys that weren't recruited as scholarship athletes. There's no question that we're not a championship football team that year if any of those three guys weren't on our team. Sean is still playing, but Tyler's not a household name yet. He was a very important part of our football team. At our place, it's very important that we have some success stories like that to help balance out. That is part of recruiting, whether guys choose not to stay at the program, or sometimes guys don't ever make it to the starting lineup. That's the reality, only 24 guys start. That's just the reality of college sports, you need somebody to supplement that.
Q: Do you examine the attrition?
Ferentz: We track them all. There's not any great common denominator at this point.
Q: Touching on the younger class, starting the game at Soldier Field, Iowa State, starting out on the road more than at home, other than Week 2, do you feel like you'll learn a lot about, show a little progression right away with the team?
Ferentz: It's a different kind of test. Any time you go on the road, 2 of those games are, then we turn around and go to Wisconsin for a night game, which'll be interesting too. All those things will be tests for our team. You count on the older players, the more experienced players to handle it well and help the younger guys through it. Those'll all be good challenges for us. They're all healthy opportunities.
Q: Last year, losing Marcus and Miguel, who do you see stepping up as a leader on defense, something those two guys really helped with?
Ferentz: The first thing you look at, if you look at our interior six players, we've got four defensive linemen, tow of whom are seniors. All four of those guys have great starting experience. Not only starting experience, but they've played very well at times. They've practiced well during the spring. Those four guys, then you take Mike Humpal and Mike Klinkenborg behind those guys. You've got six pretty good core guys. Then you look at guys like Shada and Godfrey on the outside. I think those are guys that have been through it too. They've got a good confidence level right now. Defensively, the guys that are coming back, the depth of their experience, the quality of their experience is really encouraging. The flip of it is that you've got three new starters, and we're not quite sure who they'll be at this point. Having those veteran guys is going to make it a bit easier.
Q: I know you're not big on media opportunities during the week. Looks like the Big Ten Network is going to force your hand a bit.
Ferentz: I know it's coming, yeah.
Q: How do you feel about that, are you OK with that, or do you not have any really say?
Ferentz: It's one of the things I enjoy about college coaching vs pro coaching. If I'm not mistaken, NFL coaches, it's almost daily, you have a required period. It's not that I don't like anybody in the media, it's not that at all, but it's just nice to be able to focus on what you're doing. I don't mind it, obviously, the biggest concern I have is that you can only have so many hours in day. I like to sleep a little bit. The other part, I'm more concerned about the obligation to players. Players have so much on their plate. I'm not crying for them, but they really do. They've got an awful lot of things they have to do during the course of the day. I worry about that getting out of kilter a bit. I am protective of my players. I think it's our obligation to do that. That being said, we want the Big Ten Network to be successful. I'm not trying to hold anything back, but I do hope the time we spend is quality. That's all I ask.
Q: Have they let you know what the obligations will be?
Ferentz: It's still a bit sketchy right now, how it's going to work out. I anticipate some demands and what have you. I hate doing those things on Fridays or Thursday with ESPN or ABC where the players have to sit down. You always hate doing that. That's part of education too.
Q: What about the Big Ten Networking wanting to talk to a true freshman. Will have rule still apply?
Ferentz: They'll have to twist my arm a bit. I am a dinosaur, a bit, on that. In a perfect world, to me, freshmen would be ineligible. That would require us to have more scholarships, but that's not going to happen. That's a perfect world, not a real world. Those guys, they've got more than enough on their plate. They need to worry about their school work, their social lives. If football works out, fine. For them to be out there in the open all the time, I'm not sure that's healthy. I'd rather wean them into it, personally.
Q: Freshmen ineligible and then 5 to play?
Ferentz: If I were commissioner of the world, we'd have freshmen ineligible like the old days. I think 72 was the last time they did that. Just let them get acclimated, learn where the library is. I'd be happy with 4 after that. Nobody's asked me for that.