NIU Week: Kirk on the Side Transcript

Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media on Tuesday. Read comments from Ferentz about injuries, 10-12 true freshmen getting playing time, Dominqiue Douglas and Anthony Bowman, facebook, and much more in this premium "Kirk on the Side" transcript.

Q: (A question on coaching at Soldier Field)

Kirk Ferentz: I remember, downtown Chicago, I flew in that Saturday night, joined the team at the hotel. I just remember, "Wow, look at this." All the Christmas lights were up, it's December. I guess normal people see stuff like that. You never see that. It was very pretty.

Q: Wasn't Baltimore going through a coaching change?

Ferentz: After the season, yeah.

Q: Were the bears going through that too?

Ferentz: I think that was the same year.

Q: Have you done anything differently up to this point to prevent what happened from mid-season on?

Ferentz: I think it's continual. I don't know that there's any one specific thing you can other than learn from thins you do well or poorly. Just have a good approach. It's just been an ongoing process.

Q: Have you been tougher on them?

Ferentz: I don't know about that, you'd have to ask them. I think we've just been more specific about what we need to be doing. The proof will be in the pudding. We'll know here in 12 weeks how successful we've been. Not so much wins and losses, although that's what you get judged on, but just how we play, the consistency and that type of thing. We'll see. So far, so good.

Q: What has to happen for Jake? If it were a script, how would it go for you guys? Are you going to make it easy for him to get some success and rhythm?

Ferentz: You try to do that in any game, if at all possible. Basically, we're going to try and go out and play. This is his third year around us now. It's not like we put training wheels on the bike. We try and go out and play the way we like to play. He's ready to go, he's well prepared. He' be nervous, we'll all be. He'll play through that.

Q: Do you get nervous?

Ferentz: Oh yeah.

Q: As a player, he's had everything go right for him, won a state title in Illinois. Is he prepared for adversity?

Ferentz: He's had a couple throws with us he'd like to have back, I know that. In all games. That's part of being a quarterback. The big thing is how he's built. I think he's built right mentally. I think he is fully aware of that fact, as a pitcher, you're going to make some bad pitches too, even the great ones do. You have to weather those things, respond in the right way, and stay positive, believe in yourself. He's built that way.

Q: As far as scheduling goes, I know that Hayden's way was to have the intersectional game, and you've stayed with that for the most part. These guys suck Maine at us, then another D-1AA, or do you have a philosophy?

Ferentz: I'm not an expert, I'm not sure how many people, when the 12th game got passed, there were a lot of ramifications. It's typical, any time you pass legislation, not everybody thinks it out, what the ramifications are. I think that's what we're looking at now. It's made scheduling a challenge for everybody. Nationally, right now, we're not unique in playing a 1-AA team. It's the nature of the beast right now. I guess that's how you can build that argument. It's easier to schedule if we played more conference games, that'd be an argument built there. It's become a challenge, but it's also become kind of competitive. Some of the 'smaller' schools or 'lower-level' schools are out shopping for the best buy. Everybody still wants to play home games too. No athletic director, no sane athletic director, wants to give up a home game if he's going to sell out a stadium, for obvious reasons. Everybody's got bills to pay. It's a tricky situation.

Q: In 08-09, are you where you want to be?

Ferentz: I think philosophically, our basic thought was to play a MAC school is a good thing. Iowa State is going to be, I assume, locked in forever, that's a good thing. Then our other thing is to try and play someone from another conference. Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Arizona State. I think we've been pretty consistent there. You throw in a 12th game and it gets trickier.

Q: Are you in favor of a Soldier Field-like game every once in a while?

Ferentz: We'll see how it goes this week. Right now, from what I know at this point I don't know why anybody would be against it other than giving up a home game, that hurts you in the revenue department. It's the reality of life, we need that revenue. We being the department, not like it's going in our pocket.

Q: I might be wrong, but I don't think you've had a totally open offensive line spot headed into the opener for a long time.

Ferentz: That's probably right. I guess.

Q: Which side do you have Julian on?

Ferentz: Right now he's on the right. The good news is that we've had a lot of guys moving round. That's the good news. Meade was practicing at Center on Friday, for two days. Raf had a sore toe or foot or something. We've had a lot of guys get exposure, but we're going to hone in here in a bit.

Q: Can you update on Dace?

Ferentz: We're hopeful for maybe next week, but we'll see how this week goes.

Q: He hasn't practiced?

Ferentz: Not significantly.

Q: Did you say Kanellis won't play this year?

Ferentz: I can't see how he could. If everything works out for him to come back, just because he hasn't played offensive line for more than maybe 10 days.

Q: He will redshirt?

Ferentz: If he's able to come back. He's missed so much time, it would be unrealistic to assume he'd go out there and play. That's such a small part, it's just what is best for him.

Q: Concussions are such a big thing today, have you taken a more careful approach at this point?

Ferentz: I think the whole medical field has. Every medical issue, we always defer to them, certainly. I think we've all seen, it's a bit like dialysis. It's a new science in the big scope of things. Certainly the study of concussions or concussion-like symptoms, very new. I think there are only 4 or 5 groups, a limited number of groups that have studied that nationally. We've heard more about it in recent years with pro athletes. Phil Parker's an example, I shouldn't make light of it, but they'd just give you smelling salts and throw you out there. This is a lot better.

Q: With the special teams changes, you start the game on offense often, does it alter that decision?

Ferentz: Nah, I'm not that smart. We'll just keep taking the ball if we get a chance and hopefully we do something with it. Odds are we're going to be returning a lot more of them this year.

Q: Did you see the ESPN thing on Sunday?

Ferentz: No, was it on Concussions?

Q: No, it was on facebook.

Ferentz: Pedro was at it right? The guy from Purdue? Somebody told me about it. I was busy, I was working.

Q: He's talked to your team?

Ferentz: He was on campus last may. He did a symposium. He's one of the leading experts.

Q: Have you had any kind of agreement with your players since we talked to you?

Ferentz: We continue to encourage them to use good judgment. I don?t' think any of us are in a position to dictate what they do. We just remind them it's public behavior. What's public is public. They need to use great judgment. I hope they're making good judgments in private too, but once it's public, they have an obligation and responsibility.

Q: You said you don't know if those two are in class. Are you trying to get a hold of them?

Ferentz: We haven't been able to contact either for the last two days. I can't tell you specifically. My hopes are that both Dominique and Anthony are in class and are planning to go to class. We're supportive of that.

Q: They're still on scholarship?

Ferentz: Yes, they're still on scholarship. It was basically a suspension from football activity. No training table, no training in this building. They're on full scholarship, their academic services are still encouraged. It's hopeful that they both choose to go to class.

Q: Are you concerned they're both dropping out?

Ferentz: It's possible, I don't know. Anything's possible. We'd been in contact up until the last two days. For whatever reason. We've tried.

Q: Is there a door open for Marcus Wilson to come back next year?

Ferentz: I haven't even thought about that, actually. I have not talked to Marcus in quite some time. I'm not sure what his intentions are. Cross that bridge when we get there. That's something I hadn't thought about, quite frankly, in quite a while. A few other things on my mind.

Q: Five years ago, would you have imagined playing a dozen first-year guys?

Ferentz: Nah, probably not. Again, I was leaning towards the direction of a more conservative.

Q: I think in Brian's class...

Ferentz: Roth was the only guy. We approached four or five of them about doing it, Greenway, Hinkel, Hodge, I'm leaving someone else out... Anyway, we approached four or five and they said they'd rather graduate together and sit out a year. If a guy feels strongly about it.

Q: If Bruggeman had not gotten hurt, 3 of your top 7 linemen could have been walk-ons from Iowa. What does that indicate?

Ferentz: It indicates maybe our evaluations haven't been good. (laughs) no, it means they're hard-working guys that have got some grit and have done a good job. We've had pretty good success with those guys.

Q: Is that the one thing you really find out, grit. It seems like you've got walk-on guys who will fight for any little thing and scholarship guys that think they may get stuff.

Ferentz: Dr. Van Allen's son sent me an article on grit out of the Philadelphia Inquirer. I heard him speak last year at a memorial services for Dr Van Allen, and I contacted him afterwards. It's pretty important in life, certainly in football. For everybody. It goes a long ways.

Q: Those 2005 guys, are they starting to get that now?

Ferentz: They're coming around. It's a long road, not an easy road, usually, for most guys.

Q: Are you aware that Lou Holtz picked you guys to win the Big Ten?

Ferentz: No, you've got to be kidding me? No? Basically, he thought I'd do it?

Q: He hoisted the schedule up there right away, saying that was critical and thinks you guys are hungry.

Ferentz: With all due respect to Coach Holtz, that schedule didn't work for Purdue two years ago. They didn't go to a bowl game. I only laugh, I went to Atlanta for thanksgiving, and we were sitting in Brian's lovely house he was sharing with a teammate.

Q: Michael Vick?

Ferentz: (Laughs) No, not Michael Vick, a deep snapper from Texas. Notre Dame was playing USC that night. Coach Holtz said they "basically" won the game last year. Mark May looked at him and said, "basically what?" We were "basically" 12-0 last year, other than those 6 or 7 games in there.

Q: What did Brian say about Vick?

Ferentz: He actually said he's a nice guy.

Q: Every go over to his house?

Ferentz: No. But he actually knew Brian's name. A superstar and a practice squad player.

Q: There were some stories where they estimated that 5 players on each NFL team were involved. Did you sense any of that when you were a coach?

Ferentz: Not about fighting dogs. A lot of guys have dogs. That was a big thing. Jewelry. Dogs and Jewelry. I'm assuming a lot of gambling went on with it. I heard a guy on the radio, a boxer, I was driving to training table, some boxer liked cockfighting.

Q: Roy Jones.

Ferentz: Is that who it was? Where is he, Puerto Rico? He said it's illegal now, you can't do it.

Q: He actually raised them.

Ferentz: But he quit once it became illegal. I don't know much about that stuff. Our cats fight every now and again, but that's not real controversial. Three cats.

Q: True Freshmen, no interviews. At all. Just to get it on the record again. Was it reactional?

Ferentz: Just to keep things normal, they get enough smoke going up there...

Q: Does it include the Big Ten Network?

Ferentz: That's a good question. We'll have to ask Commissioner Delaney. We all have bosses.

Q: Did your preference on playing them, did that change last year?

Ferentz: I think so, during the year. We thought we might have a couple guys that are currently redshirting that maybe could have helped some of our team.

Q: Who might have those been?

Ferentz: I'll talk more about that after this week, see if I was right or wrong. See if they do something without tripping.

Q: Hayden was reluctant to play true freshmen, is that his influence on you?

Ferentz: We're going to have a lot of guys with wide eyes. Julian Vandervelde is going to be wide-eyed. That's part of the deal. You work your way through it sooner rather than later. You're torn. We tend to be a developmental team, our guys get better with time, but you're taking a year of development out of that equation, that's the downside. The flipside is that if a guy can help you, we're playing for today. That's got to be first and foremost, without being stupid. We talk pretty extensively about it. Not just pull the redshirt off a guy and see that he played 20 snaps during the year, that wouldn't be good.

Q: Some guys say right when they come, "I want to play," like Cedric Everson.

Ferentz: We haven?t made our mind up there yet, which is fine. However they feel is fine, unless they feel like they don't want to play. We'll try and honor that. It was Mike Jones, when Brian got hurt, we called him Saturday night of the bye week.

Q: Does this change Chris Doyle's role?

Ferentz: I don't know that it changes things. Chris' role in our department is huge, always has been. Our guys that redshirt train a little differently than the guys that are playing. You lose a little time there.

Q: Where did Jason Manson end up, is he a graduate assistant somewhere?

Ferentz: That's a great question. Ken could tell you.

Q: Someone said he was playing arena football.

Ferentz: There were a couple opportunities, but he wanted to pursue playing. He might even be coaching in his local area. He had some opportunities of people that were interested in him. He wanted to wait a year. He may be getting into a pro organization here down the road.

Q: Did you see Dwight got cut?

Ferentz: Is he healthy?

Q: No, he's on the PUPHe had a toe problem, then his calf.

Ferentz: He's been nicked up a lot. Once it gets rolling, it's hard to stay healthy.


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