Cuse Week: Kirk On The Side Transcript

Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media on Tuesday. Read what the Captain had to say about Alex Kannellis' career-ending injuries, the offensive line, intangibles, Bob Sanders, Dallas Clark, as well as a comment on the starting kick returners. It's all here in this week's Kirk on the Side transcript.

Q: What did you think when you saw the Michigan result?

Kirk Ferentz: I was real surprised, everybody was surprised. I don't' necessarily want to see anybody in our conference lose, but Lloyd is one of the good guys in coaching too. I remember how tough they are up there. I remember a couple years ago when they beat Penn State, Penn State was undefeated, I brought in the paper, they graded the coaching staff a B. Boy, that's a tough audience up there at Michigan. I thank our media for not being quite as heartless, at least to my face. No, I've never seen anything like that. Lloyd is one of the great guys in coaching. He's everything that's right about sports, it's Lloyd Carr. I just hope everybody looks at the big picture. My guess is that Michigan will have a great season.

Q: Did Alex's problem start after he moved to OL, or just a coincidence?

Ferentz: I don't know the answer to that. Good question. I don't think it's necessarily why it happened. Kind of just had a serious of things, ever since that happened, it seems like things have been out of kilter. I don't' think it's why had concussion problems.

Q: Was that a hard decision for him?

Ferentz: No player ever wants to, I've never dealt with anybody who took a medical redshirt that was enthused about it. At the same time, you have to be smart. The thing I tell players is that every player's career is going to end at some point. Jerry Rice, everybody knows him because it never happens, it never happens. He plays into his 40s. We all have a picture of when it's going to end and how it should end. When it doesn't end that way, it's tough. No player ever wants to give that up. You have to be smart, too. I think Alex is certainly aware of that. It's just not worth taking any unnecessary chances. That guy could play 2, maybe 3 more years, but it wouldn't be smart.

Q: What will he do with the team? What's Alex Willcox doing, what is their role?

Ferentz: Alex Willcox helps out with the strength and conditioning program, and has also helped out with the defensive line. Kind of like AJ Blazek when he came back for his 5th year. If a player hasn't exhausted his eligibility, he's allowed to help out on the field as well. I think Alex Kanellis is thinking more about strength and conditioning, a real interest in that area. If it works like Alex Willcox, it'd be a great asset to our program. It would be a good thing for him too, if it's something he's enthused about, and I think he is.

Q: It must have been good to see 'that' Mitch King on Saturday.

Ferentz: He had it revved up pretty good. Like I said, a lot of the things that we were concerned about showed up in the game. A lot of the things we felt pretty good about too, showed up. Mitch has been practicing extremely well, he's been very disruptive. Some of the things that he was able to execute against their line, he had executed against our line, which had us concerned about where we were at. There were some replays there. He's a tough out at times. All of our guys in that front four have practiced well, including last spring.

Q: How tough is he in practice? Is he unmerciful?

Ferentz: He just goes full speed.

Q: Like Bob Sanders, where he was unmerciful in practice?

Ferentz: Bob had a tempo, Matt Roth had a tempo. We never asked those guys to pull it back. You've got to pull them out if you want to pull them back. I'd rather do that a couple times. He goes hard. He's healthy right now and he's going hard. That's good to see. It's what good players do.

Q: At Illinois, I think it was a hamstring or an ankle, something. It seemed to always be something. Can you go over the injury time on him?

Ferentz: In my mind, it seemed like all year. I don't know if that's fair or not, but it just didn't seem like he was alright all summer. Those things happen. You try to work through them.

Q: Did that maybe drive him over the spring?

Ferentz: You'd have to ask him, but I can tell you had a great spring. Chris was really happy with the way his summer went, and I think all of us have been happy with what he's done since he showed up for camp. He's a great guy on top of it. He's a good, team guy.

Q: Do you remember 'finding' him?

Ferentz: Yeah, that was easy. You mean as DL?

Q: At Burlington. I'm guessing you were scouting.

Ferentz: He was a FB/LB, just a good, hard-nosed football player. All the reports came back extremely positive. When he moved to the DL, I remember distinctly, we were so bad. That spring, we were just thinking that anybody can help up, let's give him a shot. Even when he didn't know what he was doing, which he didn't, he practiced maybe 8 spring practices or something like that, the last two weeks. Most of the time, he didn't know what he was doing, but even then he still made plays. You kind of have the feeling that maybe, once he figured out what he was doing, he'd have a chance to be OK. He probably weighed 235, 240 at that time.

Q: What makes him so hard to block?

Ferentz: I don't' know, he's just got a knack. I don't know that I can articulate it. Usually, good defensive linemen, the guys that are tough like that, have an ability to keep their feet and hands moving at the same time, keeping them active. He does that. He can keep things alive out there. Easier said that one, one of those things.

Q: (A question on RB combos and the potential of AY and DS)

Ferentz: I hope we can talk about that at the end of the season, If we can say, "Boy, what a great year for both guys," The potential is certainly there. Both are healthy right now. We saw Albert look like he did Saturday, not at all last year. He's looked that way in camp, practicing hard, feeling good. You can tell his legs are good. He's been doing well. Damian, the same way. I hope at the end of the season that we can say, "Boy, that was a pretty good deal."

Q: Are you guys smarter at using both, after a year of getting used to it?

Ferentz: Last year, I don't think we really, a lot of games we nursed Albert through, more like "What can he do, what can he tolerate?" He wasn't full throttle a whole lot last year. In a perfect world, we'd love have both guys full throttle.

Q: You brought this up, the changing times of kickoffs, do you have a game plan for each time?

Ferentz: Yeah, you do. Last week, it wasn't a huge adjustment. We just had a little snack for breakfast then had a pregame meal 4 hours prior. We kept our meeting schedule all the same. If you slide in another hour, which we've had some 3:30 kickoffs, we might have a light meeting in the morning. This week, we'll just shift Friday night to Saturday. Work it back from there. Friday night they won't have to hear any mundane dialog from the coaches, they get a night off. They shift everything over.

Q: I know this is changing, would you rather have one starting time?

Ferentz: It'd be nice. All of us tend to be creatures of habit. In sports we tend to be that way. I think, that's the message to our team now, you have to deal with whatever, it's different every week. Just get used to it. Eastern time zone, central time zone, night games, morning games, afternoon. Just be used to it.

Q: The fans have to stay cognizant too.

Ferentz: I'm more worried about our team, but I know what you're saying.

Q: Have you talked to Anthony and Dominique since last week?

Ferentz: Not recently, no. I'm up to date on what's going on. Guys on the staff have talked. I've had a few other things going on.

Q: Going back to the goal-line stand. When they get it down to the 2 or whatever, are you in the moment or are you thinking ahead to when you might get the ball back in the 3rd overtime?

Ferentz: Yeah. You have to be. Every situation, you try, anytime you're in overtime in particular, what are we going to do next, that type of thing. You have to have that going on, that's more of the offensive staff thinking about it, while the defense is busy in the moment.

Q: I don't know if you're allowed to comment on this, but your son James is looking to play here next year. How excited are you?

Ferentz: I better not comment on that, just in case. I don't know if I can or not.

Q: You can't.

Ferentz: I probably can't. That way I don't' have to say anything smart either.

Q: Have you been able to watch him play?

Ferentz: No, not yet.

Q: I think you can only acknowledge that you're recruiting a kid.

Ferentz: I remember a day when you couldn't watch your own kid. Some guy in Georgia.

Q: Let's say that the Syracuse game was at Syracuse, it's on the Big Ten Network, does your wife travel? If she didn't travel, would she be able to watch the game at home?

Ferentz: No. We don't have whatever it is. The digital, I don't know what it is. Direct? Ok. We had it on our first house, because we had like 300 channels. You could live your whole life watching TV. I was amazed there were that many channels. We just have a straight cable program. I don't think we can have it right now. They can get it in my office, go up there and watch it.

Q: You've voiced your opinion on this before. They talk about stars like they mean something, recruiting stars. First off, can you talk about your opinion of the stars?

Ferentz: There are certain players that my sister could say, "Wow, that guy's a good player." Then I've seen a lot of players that have a lot of stars that, to me, would probably be a split jury. All that being said, probably the most important thing is what a guy does once he gets to the school, that's still the most important thing, no matter how many stars he's got. There's evidence for both cases.

Q: Have you seen stars mess with a guy's head?

Ferentz: I think it's hard, for the average guy, and for a lot of parents too. It's a difficult thing to deal with.

Q: Does it make your job harder when a guy on campus is a 5-star guy, and you've got to coach him?

Ferentz: It really depends on the attitude they have and just how realistic they are. It's a big step when you go to the NFL too. Doesn't matter if you're a first-rounder or a free agent, it's a new ballgame. Any time you start a new chapter, a new phase, especially when it's a bit more accelerated than where you're coming from, how do you deal with that? Plus, how do you deal with all the things that are different. When a guy goes to college, a lot of social choices they have to make, academic requirements, expectations, on top of the football. Not everybody's built to deal with those things as well as others. All those factor in there as well.

Q: Do you really even know where a guy is in the ranking system?

Ferentz: There are a couple guys, you can look and know that this guy must be... We've gotten a few of those guys. There are a few of them that people figure out later on. I'm always amazed, too, how guys gain stars without playing a game, that's always an interesting discussion. Especially if they commit somewhere else. All that stuff. All in all, we just try and evaluate what we see on tape, then the information that we've gathered. A lot of that is imperfect too. A lot of time people aren't real candid about that sort of stuff.

Q: Some of these guys spend their whole career chasing their stars, in the shadow of their stars. Blake Larsen for example. He handled them wonderfully. He had so many stars, Doering's got stars.

Ferentz: That's one of the things. When a guy goes to college, he should be allowed to start a new phase, just like when you go to the NFL. If you're a first rounder, you get a hall pass, maybe a 2nd rounder. You get a hall pass, a year or two. You could really stink and they won't cut you, for a little while. After a while, it's just based on production. When a guy goes to college, people don't realize how much is involved, how complicated it is for a guy to go to college. Not only to go to football, but handle all the other changes in their lives. There is a lot that goes into it.

Q: James will be getting stars. He committed early, he's your son.

Ferentz: He's 6-foot-1 and 250.

Q: Brian says he'll be better than he was.

Ferentz: Brian has no stars either.

Q: He's got a year to go.

Ferentz: All that is high school, then when you come here, what you do in college, nobody cares when you get to the NFL. It gets you to where you're at, but when you're there, it's what you do when you get there. What's past is past.

Q: Will James not have any stars because he's 6-1, 250 or because he committed to Iowa?

Ferentz: Probably both, yeah. That's a bad combination.

Q: Can you tell when a kid is dominating in high school on his size alone?

Ferentz: One thing in basketball, they have mega-camps where you see a guy from Cherokee, Wyoming play against a guy from the Bronx. In football, there's a lot of projection in a lot of areas. We're throwing a lot of darts in a lot of ways.

Q: They play against different competition too.

Ferentz: A lot of projection going on. If you could pull one thing together, it's the intangibles. There are requisite abilities that have to be met, but intangibles really, you just look at the guys that have excelled in this program over the last 8 years, one common denominator are the intangibles. The pride, the desire to be good, willingness to work, all those types of things. If you look at the guys that have done well, that's the common denominator. Hard to identify those things.

Q: What's the hardest position o evaluate, still CB?

Ferentz: I think so. I think the NFL has the same problem, it's even tougher with high school players.

Q: Hardest to find, still DT?

Ferentz: I heard a quote one time that a good DL is like a 7-foot center in basketball. That's an interesting discussion. We're getting off on a tangent. You look at guys that have played well, not only here, but everywhere and they path they took. T here are certain schools that can go out and say that this guy is a great whatever and that's what he plays. If you look at a lot of other places, you look at how a guy got to a certain position or whatever. Bob Sanders, a good story. He was an average speed RB that was short in high school, but he was tough. We only knew that because Coach Moore told us. That's how we knew it. You saw it on film, but you wouldn't look at his film today and say, "Wow, we've gotta have Bob Sanders." We look at Dallas Clark's film. I think I find a 6-2+ QB that weights 195 and looks... OK. Let's go out and recruit one of those. It's hard, how do you identify those things? Both those guys did that. You meet both of those guys, and you get to see why.

Q: You going with the same guys at KR this week?

Ferentz: That's up in the air right now. We might tinker with that a little bit.

Q: Is Signor still in the good standing?

Ferentz: We're just going to work through it.

Q: What did Meade do to get the start? What did he do Saturday?

Ferentz: It was close all the way through. Sometimes, especially at linemen, there's not like tangible evidence, a little bit of a feel thing. He played well, he did a good job for his first start.

Q: Zero star.

Ferentz: I think so. I think he was a walk-on defensive lineman. Even us, we didn't know it either.

Q: He played in Alex's shadow a lot.

Ferentz: He did. For obvious reasons. Alex was a wrecking ball out there. Alex is one of those guys anyone could figure out was pretty good. He's a gifted guy.


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