Wednesday With Kirk Ferentz, Part 1

Wednesday at the Big Ten Kickoff event sees head coaches and players sitting at their own tables, taking questions from media members in a more personal manner than from Tuesday's podium Q&A session. In part one of Kirk's Wednesday session, he is asked questions about last year, if the game has passed Norm Parker by, and more...

Q: You probably heard a lot of guesses from the fans on what went wrong last year.

Kirk Ferentz: When you hit a little turbulence, the first thing people say is it's the scheme or quarterback. There will always be a target. I am not Pop Warner, but I have been at this for a while so it's predictable. We didn't approach it any different than we have in any year. We always go back and study our system and do research on other people and try to figure out what we can do to tweak our system to help our production, and tweak our system to help our personnel. But we are pretty convinced that our main problems last year were more based on execution and attitude. That needed more tweaking than anything. Will we do things differently this year? Yeah. Will the changes be wholesale? We have a stable foundation. Nothing too radical.

Q: There seems to be more spread offenses year in and year out. Do you change your defensive approach?

Ferentz: That is the flavor of the day right now. It gets down to you can never be too athletic on defense. There was a run on big receivers for a while, and that became an issue. You can never be too athletic on the defensive side of the ball. Easier said than done, we said that in the 80's too. But it gets down to what you are doing and with whom you are doing it with. If you have technique effort and consistency, that is the bottom line.

Q: So the game hasn't passed Norm Parker by, as some fans suggest?

Ferentz: I don't think it has. If you talk to people that know the business, no one else seems to think it has either. Norm is an outstanding football coach. He is as current as anyone in the country and he works extremely hard at it. We all talk to people that we respect to get ideas, but to change a scheme or an approach…I will say this, I have never been hung up on having a four or three man line. You do what is best with your personnel. That is what you do.

Q: The other one comes on the internet, ‘Kirk doesn't play young players', some fans are convinced that you had a Big Ten title team on the bench last year.

Ferentz: I agree and disagree. As I said last fall, we all are in agreement now, I think it's a fair statement. I think it detracted from our special teams play, mainly because in years past we have had some older guys that have stepped up. This was most reminiscent to me of 2001. We had against Michigan State, they ran the kickoff back. We had some holes in our special teams for whatever reason. In other years, you would argue that guys have emerged as great stories, the Matt Melloy's and Considine's. We fell short last year. The thing I learned from last year is we could have or should have dipped into our freshman class to supplement that void. We had Zach Gablemann, but not enough of them. Maybe someone in the freshman class could have done that. As far as playing extensively offensively or defensively, I am not sure that was there outside of the guys that did play. There is give and take with that. All of us enjoyed having Hinkel, Hodge and Greenway for a fifth year. They chose not to play in 2001 as true freshmen. So it was great to have those guys. What you do is give up that fifth year, so those guys would have been out with the 2004 team. AJ Edds is a good example, he didn't start last year but he will play better this year because he worked as a two last year. I have great confidence that he will play like a veteran. There is give and take. Where I am at right now, getting into that big picture thing, if we can get some guys out of the freshman class to be in the mix, we will be open to it and I see some opportunities this year to see the young kids in the two deep.

Q: When I hear that question, I think "Coach Ferentz has to see things in players, and I am pretty sure he is putting the best guys out there."

Ferentz: We try to. It's easy to see USC play 8 or 9 freshmen last year. You have to remember who those guys are that they have. If Dwayne Jarrett had come to Iowa, he probably would have played as a freshman, and he was here on campus. There is a fair chance he would have played. Even Iowa could figure that one out, I think. Mike Williams, Jeff Byers; it's like fantasy football there.

Q: The two-deep at wide receiver looks pretty interesting.

Ferentz: I feel opposite of a year ago with that group. Last year as you know, we had an underwhelming spring with that group and we had work to do. Right now we are encouraged. We are not home yet, but we all saw Andy Brodell those last two ball games play at a high level against a couple of first round draft picks in the Texas secondary. What we see with Andy, that has done a lot for him confidence wise. He had a nice spring. Dominique showed a lot of great things last year, and I am very guarded about what I say about young players. Some of his attributes were obvious this fall. He had a good spring on the field, but I was more concerned about his academic focus. I am happy to talk about it now. He knuckled down and demonstrated that its important to him. That was very encouraging what he did academically in the spring. He showed a maturity level that I wasn't quite sure was there. He is seeing the big picture now. So with those two, we have a great place to start. And yeah, you throw in Trey and James Cleveland who really made good strides in the spring, then a couple players like Bowman and Chaney, we are excited about that group. We think they can be a strength for our football team and if they keep working hard, it will be a nice situation to have.

Q: What about Derrell-Johnson Koulianos?

Ferentz: He made improvement too. He is still learning what it is to be a receiver. You don't just fall out of bed and do it. He has good ability and works hard and it may take him a while to learn some of the ins and outs of being a receiver, but he can hopefully help us on special teams and contribute in other ways.

Q: Kirk, you are a much better judge than most people in this room…

Ferentz: (Kirk Interrupts) On coffee, beer or ice cream? Those are my three topics.

Q: I will get to that in a minute then. The returning talent in the conference looks very good.

Ferentz: I think so. We have a lot of outstanding players. All of the teams have recruited well and you have a lot of great coaching staffs in this conference. This is arguably the best conference in the nation, if you look big picture wise. You can count on outstanding talent each year and the NFL draft backs that up.

Q: Do you still pinch yourself that you are a part of this league?

Ferentz: No doubt about it. I feel honored to be at Iowa. It's a place I have strong feelings for. I have 17 years of my life invested there and they have been more than kind to me and my family, and I am doing what I like to do, so I am fortunate.

Q: How is the coffee?

Ferentz: It's very good. Good coffee, it makes the day even better.

Hawkeye Insider Top Stories