Q: What did you do when you started at Iowa?
Kirk Ferentz: The first thing you do is you get the right staff together, that's the most important thing. I'm just speaking for myself, but I'm sure most everybody thinks the same way. The first order of business is to make sure you have the right staff, then secondly, you start working on your recruiting. You're doing both simultaneously, but if I were prioritizing, I'd say the staff is the most important thing. That's the most permanent thing you're going to do.
Q: Is it hard when you're making what you feel like are all the right moves staff wise, behind the scenes, and the team is ...
Ferentz: It can happen, but look at the big picture. That's what you do. The one thing I would share too is that Coach Chizik and I are in similar circumstances, where he was coming alone, basically. I think he brought one coach with him from Texas, but it's a little different coming in that way as opposed to coming with a staff intact or ¾ of a staff. You're not only going through the transition with players, but the staff goes through a transition too. When randy walker came, he brought most of his staff from Miami, Ohio. They were on the same page as a staff, at least. We basically created our playbooks when we got here. It wasn't like we just threw a book down and said this is it. We shared ideas. It's a great experience, but it's a bit more time consuming as well.
Q: Did you mold your team after what you had or after what you believed in?
Ferentz: There was give and take. There are certain things, 'hey, we're going to do this.' Schematically, to think we're going to run it for 200 yards a game, that became pretty apparent pretty quickly that wasn't going to be realistic. Those things you just try and evaluate what we can do the best and what gives us a chance to win without being an offense of the week, where you're changing all the time. You can't do that. You have to get some things in there philosophically, some core beliefs that we have. If you don't, your players don't have anything to grab on to. The little edit you may gain on the short team, you're never going to get long-term.
Q: How much did you grow in those first two years as a coach?
Ferentz: Hopefully I'm still doing it. I'm not trying to be smart here, but I think one of the neat things about football and coaching is that it's amazing how every day is invigorating that way. You learn how dumb you are. You get a lot of reminders. It's true. Football is that way in general. Really fascinating in the NFL, almost daily there would be something on tape, 'geez, I hadn't thought of that.' It's invigorating that way. Putting the puzzle together, because it's such a dynamic process. It's always changing. Injuries, whatever it is, it's going on all the time. Personal problems, a guy maybe having. Usually something happens every day that you've got to deal with. That's the part of the challenge.
Q: I know you don't' coach other guys' teams, but what's going on with Todd Blythe?
Ferentz: He's a good player. To me, it's going to be a matter of time. I just hope it's not this week. He is just extremely dangerous as a football player.
Q: Is he and NFL guy?
Ferentz: I think so. It starts with is physical size, but he's a very aggressive, dynamic guy. He's a good football player.
Q: Is that another way to say he pushes off?
Ferentz: You do what you've got to do.
Q: Like Robert Gallery did on offense.
Ferentz: If there aren't flags, it's not a foul. You try and take advantage of whatever works for you.
Q: What about Meyer?
Ferentz: He's a good player. With each week, you're going to see more of those guys getting on track. T he players are going through a transition too. W e know firsthand how good both those guys are.
Q: When you're in a situation like Gene's in, how tough is it to be patient?
Ferentz: It just depends on your mindset. I can't answer it for him. In our case, it was just a matter of doing the best you can do every day. You try and put an honest effort into it. Patience is a relative thing. I'm certainly more patient with younger people than I am older people. I'm talking about players now. I think that's fair. Your expectations of some people are different based on their experience levels and abilities, those types of thing. You have to go in individually that way.
Q: Do you like this series?
Ferentz: Certainly. I've always felt this is a good thing. It's hard to imagine 5this state not having it, which I guess there was a long time. I didn't like it so much in 81, that wasn't much fun, my first exposure to it. That wasn't a good experience. It's hard to imagine teams not playing intra-state rivals. It's good. It causes a lot of interest in the game which is great. The game of football, not just this game, the game of football. It's a healthy thing.
Q: With the WR situation, do you have to come up, in your mind, a contingency plan?
Ferentz: Oh yeah. Yes and no. Yes, we do. No, we don't' have to because we've been doing that. It's been prominent in our thoughts for several weeks now. The good news is that we weren't sure what Sandeman would do once he got out there, we weren't sure what Johnson-Koulianos would do, and I think they responded favorably. They both got to play a significant amount the other night. Both made mistakes but did a lot of good things too. I look at the good and the bad. Now, the challenge is to eliminate those bad things.
Q: Is it just getting Derrell more comfortable out there? It's almost like he's thinking when he's out there.
Ferentz: The analogy I'd give you would be Andy Brodell. He's just starting to blossom as a receiver. Part of that is that he played RB in high school. We suspected it might, any time you move a player around, that happens, but I think he's in the right spot. Derrell, the same way, he was a QB. It's been a transition, but he's grown with every day.
Q: What have you learned about JJ Bass? What have you learned from film?
Ferentz: He's a good back. He's strong, he's tough, aggressive, he can catch the football.
Q: Beyond the front four, what have you done well defensively?
Ferentz: For the most part, we've played solid defense. We gave up a couple big plays two weeks ago where guys weren't disciplined, playing their position first. Last week, we took a step there. We didn't get challenged quite as much, but it's important. Everybody needs to take care of their job first, then move on to the next part.
Q: How did the young freshmen who got their first taste perform?
Ferentz: First of all, it looked like they were having fun. They were enjoying it. We were curious, their first time in Kinnick. Throw a night game on top of it, and we were curious what the response would be. How do you prepare guys for that? They seemed to be into it, for sure. It looked like they ran around. It wasn't football 107, it was 101, but they looked good.
Q: How many of them do you have that haven't redshirted?
Ferentz: There are a couple guys we're still treading water with that may get in the mix. We'll wait and see what happens.
Q: Is the order of your QBs that went in where they stand?
Ferentz: It's a jump ball. Christensen's definitely number 1, we've figured that out. After that it's a jump ball between Stanzi and Nelson. It's a jump ball.
Q: Is it weird to look over there and not see Dan?
Ferentz: I haven't really thought about it. I guess I probably did during recruiting, he was always so prominent. I suppose it will be. Since I've been back, that's how it's been. I'm never wild about looking across the field at anybody I've worked with. I've had that experience, obviously at Iowa State, K-State the one year, Wisconsin, non-stop with Barry and now Bret. I don't relish those moments. We've all worked together, been together. It's your job, so you do what you've got to do, they're doing the same. Take Dan, we saw each other in June, and if there's one good thing, we're not banging heads against each other anymore. That's a positive.
Q: Did you see what they did Saturday?
Ferentz: I did. I didn't see the game, but what a great win. USF has a great football team. I saw them on tape against Syracuse last year, they've got a great team, but I'm not shocked at all. Great win for them.
Q: Do you have some empathy for Gene, for lack of a better word? A coach who starts at a place with an established coach before them.
Ferentz: Gene knew that coming in, he's been around the block. It's just the nature of taking a job over. It's always going to be a transition period for that coach and the assistants. It's a transition for everybody. All that being said, it doesn't mean they can't do well this week.
Q: Four or five different reverses, safety blitz, corner blitz. Is that dictated by the match-up each week, or more exotics this year, things we haven't seen?
Ferentz: The way they blitzed us, you mean?
Q: Shada coming in, Moylan, things like that.
Ferentz: That's just what the game plan presented. We saw some opportunities they gave us. It ended up being there and we took advantage of it. The reverses too, the way they were structured defensively, it just made a lot of sense. They were a little bit of a unique preparation, as I alluded to last Tuesday in a couple instances. I think that's why those things fit it.
Q: Jake seems more comfortable in the shotgun, do you take that into account?
Ferentz: Is there an official "Comfortable Meter" out there? I hadn't noticed it. Did he say that? Probably 85% of the high school QBs that are out there now. Nobody plays under center anymore. It's kind of a sign of the times. Like video games, it's what kids do now. Then, coincidentally, but I remember we drafted Jeff Mitchell out of Florida in 95 or 96, whatever year it might have been. He's in NFL camp, and we're teaching him to snap to a QB. That's the first time it dawned on me, what the hell's going on here? A center that can't snap to a QB? A lot of QBs, you have to teach them how to take a snap now, they all take them out of the gun. It's a fair thing. You've got to teach guys how to take snaps, actually drop with their feet. It sounds easier than it is, but there's an art to that. If you can't drop, that's one of the big concerns drafting Vince Young, that's a huge concern. Can he take a snap? He'll probably learn. He hadn't demonstrated it. What was the question? I got off track. Have we worried? No. he's going to do what we do.
Q: You were saying earlier that your expectations change based on the player's age and experience. Does that play into the Huntrods thing a bit?
Ferentz: Any older player in our program has more responsibility. I tend to be, in broad based terms here, a lot more lenient and understanding for second year players, be it academic, conduct, whatever it may be. When guys get into the system, there's a bit more reasonability that comes with that. We talk about that all the time. Players need to understand that. They're the ones in the front of the room. Younger guys watching them have to be able to see positive things or it's just not going to work well.
Q: What are the differences between and 18 and 22 year old?
Ferentz: The big thing, from my vantage point, is that someone who's been here for 2 years, that's the cutoff line. They know what our expectations are. I understand young people are young people, I do dumb things all the time right now. At some point, it has to get bigger than you. As you get older, if you're involved in an organization like this, then you've got to accept that responsibility that your actions affect others. The stakes get higher as you get older.
Q: Do you ever take a kid's background into account?
Ferentz: All the time, all the time. I try to take all the information I can into account. I just try to be fair, that's all you can do. You can't always been 100% right, that's impossible when you're dealing with human beings, but we try to be fair, otherwise we've got team morale problems. I bounce it off players when pertinent. Our leadership group, just to make sure I'm not off-base too, to get their feedback. There are certain expectations that we all have of each other, where you're at in the organization.
Q: Have you rolled out the trophy yet?
Ferentz: It was out there on Sunday afternoon. Yeah. If it's here it looks great to me. If it's not here, it doesn't look so great.