Kirk Ferentz : I am not afraid of it. We have had that experience our first few years, it was always a new quarterback. We went 2002, 2003 and 2004 with a new QB each year, 2001 as well. In 2002 and 2003, it was with a fifth year senior. The common denominator between Tate, Chandler and Banks, they all served as the #2 the year prior and they took advantage of those opportunities and preparing for the opportunity. Jake Christensen has done the same thing. I am confident that he will play well. We need him to perform; he understands that and is excited.
Q: In recruiting, you probably run into a lot of coaches around the league. What is your experience like with that and how do you handle kids that have committed? Is there a rulebook for this stuff?
: There doesn't seem to be a rule book. I am at a point right now where I think an early signing would be a healthy thing for everyone involved. Before the bowl season. In that, people that are strong with their commitment could sign, and people would leave him alone, including the school he has committed to. Those that have declared, they are on one category, and the players that chose not to sign in the other camp. If they didn't sign, that would be a good indicator that they wanted to hold hands with other people.
What has gotten complex now, you are not always clear about a prospect's intentions or his family's intention. It's an individual case by case thing. If guys leave the door open, we will keep talking. You never know what may develop. Someone may leave for another job in January. But as a rule, if someone is firm and strong in their commitment, we move on to someone interested in Iowa.
Q: Does this create friction between coaches?
: I am sure that it does. That is nothing new. There was friction in the 80's when I was here between certain schools. It's different personalities, be they assistant or head coaches. That has always been an issue and always will be an issue. An early signing would clean some of it up.
Q: Was there a majority of Big Ten coaches that want an early signing period?
: I think there was a consensus in our group, the Big Ten group in May, but nationally it didn't fly.
Q: Some people say there won't be any more Joe Paterno's or Bobby Bowden's.
: Never say never, but those two coaches and I would throw Eddie Robinson in there, even though he wasn't at a high pressure school, but those two guys to be at major institutions and all the good they have done for their schools across the board, I think its safe to say that we will never see stories like that. Just like in pro football, we will never see Chuck Knoll, Don Shula, Tom Landry guys. It's amazing that Bill Cowher got 15 years in at one place.
The Steelers are like Iowa. 20 years with Chuck Knoll and 15 with Cowher. Fortunately the Steelers and Iowa don't fire coaches as quickly. It just won't happen again. Places like Iowa and organizations like the Steelers are unique things. They are in the minority. To think that people will have tenure like that, I don't see anyone going 30 years any more. Maybe Frank Beamer, I don't know.
Q: Is tackling instinctive or can it be coached?
: I think that is a skill that is taught. Intangibles can help you, but tackling is like blocking. You don't just fall out of bed and do it, there is technique is involved. I would say the better technique you have, the more success you will have. There is a huge problem at the pro level, a lot of bad tackling. It's like holding in the offensive line; it comes down to a lack of ability, a lack of effort or a lack of technique. Bad tackling is in one of those categories as well.
Q: Is Julian Vandervelde a renaissance man?
: One of the most amazing things he has done to me was when he sang down at the bowl game last year. He set it up excusing himself prior to signing, saying he just got the words yesterday and would give this a shot. He sang a Phantom of the Opera solo, and before he finished, the entire Texas team gave him a standing ovation. That was an amazing thing. If he can do that, the challenges on the field are minimal. He is really an interesting young man. He is delightful, he has a great perspective, a great student and fortunately for us, he is a good football player.
Q: Is he on a developmental fast track?
: He is extremely focused, he has good ability. His biggest challenge might have been his weight. I do think he set a record for cheese fries on his official visit a few years ago. He went through it and all of the coaches were in awe of that. I think at one point he was over 325 or 330, but he has had no problem maintaining weight since he came here and he has made progress on the field. But he has a very good mind and ability to focus, to take information and them process it. That is easier said than done for a lot of people. It will be fun to watch him. We are excited about the entire group of linemen.
I never thought I would say that seeing a guy sing would make me intrigued about watching a guy play. Do you remember Mike Reid, the all American lineman at Penn State? I don't know if he is a concert pianist, he wrote Stranger in My House, a Ronnie Milsap song, and he is writing musicals in Nashville. You don't think of guys like that being football players. If Julian can turn out like that, it would be a great story. That is a neat thing about football. You have 120 players on your team, and a lot of backgrounds and personalities. Julian has an engaging personality, a great attitude, so that is fun, no question about it. That adds a little spice to the mix.
Q: Do you have a good feeling about the team this year?
Ferentz: We do. Since I have been at Iowa, I can't recall not having a good feeling. Through the good years and bad, its trademark of our University to have great kids. I am very excited about it. Since 2001 on, I have gone into every year feeling like we would have an opportunity. You never know about the other teams, but just focus on our team.