Kirk on the Side: At Season's End

On Tuesday, Kirk Ferentz met with the media for the first time since his team's loss to Western Michigan. Following his press conference, Kirk spoke with the media once more in his "On The Side' segment. Read a 3,000+ word transcript of this interview, where he talks about possible coaching changes, the low point of the last two years, NFL Combine invites and much more in this premium update.

Q: It's almost like 2004 has already happened, running-back wise?

Kirk Ferentz: I'm more optimistic than that. First of all, we have a chance to address it. In 2004, it appeared during the season. There's nothing you can do at that point except adjust. I'm optimistic, I think we'll be fine there, I really do. Another good thing about it is that it's a position, in my mind, where young players realistically have a chance to come in, contribute, and not be overwhelmed.

Q: Can you talk a little bit more about Nate, what you saw in him?

Ferentz: We just thought he's a good player. He's not a big back, more a Damian Sims-type player, if you want to make that comparison. He's a good player on film, we liked him as a person. Not saying it's a Brad Banks or CJ Jones saga, but every step along the way we liked what we found. We felt great about it, had a good visit with he, his coach, an assistant coach and his mom, back in December. We just felt really good about it and we're excited to get him here.

Q: Seems like you might get to 25 scholarships this year.

Ferentz: We'll probably be closer to that than 17, that's fair to say. We've had a little transition. I don't' know if you've noticed, but we've had some transition. Unfortunately, we've had some injuries, Alex Kanellis, that you can't anticipate, but they happen. That's part of it.

Q: Has not going to a bowl game helped you guys?

Ferentz: I'm sad to report, but yeah. You have nothing else to think about. In December, you're typically doing two jobs, recruiting full time, game plan and get ready for a game, practice on the weekends. It made life less complicated, I know that. In a perfect world, you'd like to recruit during December, then have the bowl season during the dead period. That's not going to happen. As good as it's been, I also realize that if we're not going to bowls, we won't be worried about job rumors, we'll be worried about he odds of staying or getting fired. That's the situation.

Q: Why today, not December?

Ferentz: Paramount in my thinking, moreso than anything, I didn't have much to say back in December. I had some thoughts in mind, but I wanted time to think about the conduct more than anything else. If there were going to be any revelations or anything like that. This whole thing is fluid. It may change in the next couple months. We'll have some announcements, some things to announce, but basically, I wanted some time to think about it. I had more than a couple thoughts in my mind back then.

Q: When it comes to the conduct issues, do you think you got enough leadership from the older players?

Ferentz: Two parts to that. I do, but again, it gets back to us. We have to do a better job of drawing it out even moreso. I think we took a positive step. I think we took a positive step last year, on the field. Somehow, this is what I was hinting at, we have to work to get our older guys more integrated with the younger guys. That's my fault, that's something we'll have to find a way to scrip it into the fall. To answer the question, I'll go back, what worked in 2002, I'm not sitting here saying, "I know what we did in 2002." Basically, we addressed it, but we're going to do more to address it, more tangible things, activities. The players like that, it's just a matter of me structuring it, making sure it's taking place. That's what I'm thinking along those lines, as well as continuing the outside voices. Bringing them to do work with younger players. In recruiting, I always tell guys that we're most interested in how you play the last three years. The first two years is about getting your feet down, academically and fundamentally as a player. We have to include behavior in that too. We all read the papers, the world we're living in is different than it was 10 years ago. A lot of things that are considered acceptable behavior, the landscape's changed. We need to address that.

Q: At any point did you just say, "I've had enough of this." Like any parent would?

Ferentz: There's really no difference. It's a great parallel to being a parent, except I've got 100+ kids. That's the different, only 5 at home. One thing we know, having 5, the more you have, the odds go up that something's going to happen. It's caused us to rethink as a staff what we can do and how we're going to do it. Nothing's in ink right now, but I think by next fall we'll have something laid out where we can have a proactive plan. What're we going to do with these guys, ABC. We'll start this spring, but in a nutshell, if we do a good job academically, football-wise, Chris takes them, starting like they don't know anything, we have to dot he same thing. How do you conduct yourself as a college student, knowing that you're going to be under great scrutiny. Our culture, quite frankly, is different than the school I GA'd at back in 1980. What's news in our community wasn't news back there. We always address it, we just have to carry the message further.

Q: Was not going to a post-season game, giving you a chance to step back and look at everything?

Ferentz: No question. I'm hoping, a year from now, we can say "hey, this was a positive." It's our job to make this a positive. That means looking at everything we do, everything we do with a fresh look. Lou Holtz says a lot of things on television that don't bear repeating at this moment. I heard him say something last week, I was walking through the kitchen…. It is good TV entertainment… Every coach should look at each year like it's the first year. You can so that to every assistant coach, every player. We all try to do that, but it ties into what you're asking, not going to a bowl gives us a stronger opportunity to. That's kind of what I was alluding to. As disappointing as the last game was, even if we had won it, let's say we had won the thing by a point, at least now we know that it's not business as usual, we still have a lot of work to do. Yes, we made progress, but we've got a lot of progress to make. Not just go to a bowl game, not to minimize that, that's important, but it's about making the turn in November competing for something more than that. You have to earn that, and we haven't done that the last couple years. We were awfully close in 2005. You go back and change two plays, which you can't do, but we were awfully close. The last two years, we haven't been close when November came around. We were playing for a whole different set of goals at that point. Long-range, that's what we want to do, get back to where November is an important month for a bigger picture.

Q: Do you feel, personally, out in the community, it can't have been an easy 3-4 weeks?

Ferentz: It wasn't much fun walking out of the stadium in the end of November. It sticks with you. If you care at all about what you're doing, it sticks with you. Not just the losing, but every chink in our side from the conduct stuff. If you're invested, that's got to bother you. It's one thing to have something bother you, but what are you going to do to change it? T hat's where we're at now. It's the start of a new year. What are we going to do to change it? If we don't change it, the flipside is that a year from now it won't be a fun press conference.

Q: Do you put it as a new year's resolution?

Ferentz: We don't phrase it that way, but yeah. It's a new year, here's some challenges. Usually, what we do in January, it's already taken place. Last year's team was done. Our new year began a month ago.

Q: Are you going to get a new bubble?

Ferentz: On the wish list, yeah. We have other priorities, there are other priorities on campus right. We're working on it.

Q: Is that imperative?

Ferentz: No. One reason I like my job, another reason I like my job, every day, I tell the recruits, every day I drive into work, I can't blame it on the personnel guys or the front office. A lot of that happens in pro football. A lot of that happens on certain campuses. The best part of my job here is that we have what we need to be successful. If we don't get it done, the only guy you can blame is me. That, to me, means you have a good job.

Q: Are you surprised Albert didn't get an invite to an all star game?

Ferentz: Yes and no. It's a bit like the draft. It all comes down to what the whole board looks like. I'm just assuming there are a lot of good backs out there. I don't know who the ones are that are rostered-up. I'm not shocked that he didn't, I kind of assumed that he would. It didn't play out that way. It's hard to say.

Q: Do you know where Dominique and Satterfield and Everson are headed?

Ferentz: I don't.

Q: How many of your guys are headed to the combine, have you found that out?

Ferentz: I know Mike Humpal's been invited, Charles Godfrey has. Those two for sure. I'm not sure about the other guys. Those guys have kind of scattered, but they have started with Chris this week.

Q: What went through your mind when you saw that Bob got that award?

Ferentz: I just heard about it in passing. Honestly, I'm trying to figure out how the guy wasn't an All-American when he played here. I remember having a phone conversation with Coach Dungy and Bill Polian the week before the draft. It was the same conversation we had about Dallas the year preceding. The guy's a great football player, and he makes other players better. He really impacts. Quite frankly, if you just look at what the defense was without him last year, what their production was, then when he came back. If you look at it this year, they lose a marquee player like Freeney, who's a great football player, they lose him, and I think I heard they're at the top of points per game, first or second, something like that. That's a pretty good deal for Bob. It speaks to the kind of impact he has on others. That's what great players do, they make others play better. Not bad for a 5'8" guy.

Q: Some interesting things going on at Purdue. How would you feel if something like that happened to you.

Ferentz: I don't know all the details.

Q: Searching for a successor and trying to put him on staff.

Ferentz: Who's got the coach in waiting right now, Florida State. That's the world we live in. there's a business side to this, too. The reality is, I love being here. This thing could go south, too. That's just the world we live in. You can't sit around worrying about all those things. The developments that take place, you just fill them as they come. That's part of coaching.

Q: Do you have to view it as a business, or you're pretty naïve to not do that?

Ferentz: I learned that a long time ago. Even in the 80s, when I didn't know anything. One thing I did notice, Head Coaches tend to have it better if a change is made. They all seem to land on their feet, and assistance don't. That was when I figured out the ABCs of coaching. I don't worry about it, never have. At the end of the day, no matter what may be going on, you coach as hard as you can for the right reasons. It gets back to player performance academically, socially, and player-wise. There's a business side to everything we do, but when it's time to do your job, that's why you have someone handling your business affairs, so you're not being ignorant in that regard. That allows you to coach.

Q: People out in public seem to point fingers at Jake, his performance last year, a lot of blame on him. How would you address that?

Ferentz: I talked about that earlier. QBs are a lightning rod. To put it all on Jake, I think, is being short-sighted. Does he have some accountability? Certainly. So do I, so does everybody. To put it all on that one position is unfair. That's the analogy. Matt Rodgers, I was here, we weren't tearing it up offensively that year. A year later, we benefited from that. I say "we," I was gone, Iowa benefited. Maybe they benefited from the year and a line coach leaving. That gave them an upward surge. You just have to be careful about pre-judging things or being concrete with your evaluations. Particularly with college players, experience can be a great thing. It doesn't have to be, doesn't guarantee anything, but it can be. We'll go with it in an open mind, he'll have to compete like everyone else.

Q: You say there's competition. Stanzi? Nelson?

Ferentz: Yeah.

Q: Even guys you're bringing in?

Ferentz: Yeah. They're at a huge disadvantage because of experience, but especially the four guys on campus, let it fly.

Q: Why were they not given any meaningful snaps?

Ferentz: We try to make decisions based on what we see. If we had compelling evidence or suspicion to think that it would have been an improvement or helped our chances to win, you would assume we'd have done it.

Q: What do you think of McNutt so far?

Ferentz: Impressed. He's in a developmental mode right now. He hasn't been doing it since he was a little kid. A tremendous guy, a great guy to have on your football team. A great young man.

Q: Do you see a possibility of a Banks/McCann switcheroo deal?

Ferentz: Haven't gotten that far. The one thing I would say there is that I haven't ruled anything out. I've had some time to watch, I've seen a couple teams rotate, mid-stream, that's novel and courageous. I wouldn't rule anything out. We're going to try to figure out what gives us the best chance to win.

Q: If Arvell isn't able to beat some of the guys out at QB, slides on the depth chart, is there a chance he could move to WR?

Ferentz: I think he has that potential. Right now, it's not a prominent though. Right now, we have four guys in the thick of things, that we want to evaluate on campus right now. At the end of spring, if we come to that conclusion, but I can't envision that happening prior to the end of spring.

Q: You mentioned the possibility of guys leaving, what about retirement?

Ferentz: It's a possibility. You know the numbers better than I do. If that would take place, then it's part of my job to have a pro-active plan in mind, for everybody, anybody that would choose to leave. Anybody could leave. As far as me saying, "Hey, we're going to make a change." I don't envision that.

Q: Those guys haven't indicated anything like that?

Ferentz: No, nothing firm.

Q: Could you transfer responsibility at all, recruiting or otherwise, within the staff?

Ferentz: We could shift some things around. It's fair to say I've always got ideas in mind. Sometimes I execute them sometimes I don't. You're always thinking about how to do things better, more efficiently.

Q: How do you get the chip on the shoulder back with these kids? If that talent's better, you think the kids are entitled, the coaches are entitled, you hear the chatter of that. How important is that?

Ferentz: As I indicated, I thought the low point was a year ago at Minnesota. I think entitlement is probably the right world. It might be a little strong, but it's probably the right word. We just assumed some things. All of us. I allowed that to creep in. At the end of the day, that's what I was trying to make the analogy between the 2000 Minnesota game, and this season. That Minnesota game hurt when it happened, I remember distinctly, at some point it dawned on me… we ended up 3-9, we would have been 4-8. The bowl thing is nice, you write in your letters and all that, but program wise, the goal is not to go do a bowl. The ironic thing, this year, I think we were more bowl-worthy this year. You can also argue that, "Hey, they couldn't win their last game at home." You can also argue the other way. I'm just hoping that somewhere down the road that we did some things better. We're not there, we don't have it figured out, we don't have it solved. When I say we, I'm talking about all of us, coaches, head coaches, players. Our job is to get it figured out and back into the mix of things. It's a tough, competitive conference. We lose one real good coach and I think we've added another very good coach to the mix. That's not going to change. It was that way 9 years ago, too. It's just part of being in this conference. It's a tough conference. One of the reasons I felt fortunate to come here 9 years ago was that I was convinced you could compete at Iowa and have success. We've done it at times. The challenge is if we can get back there.

Q: Are you done investigating the Brandon Myers thing?

Ferentz: Quite frankly, I know what the results are. I don't really care what the details are. I've heard a story. The bottom line is that unless it gets thrown out, which it won't, he plead guilty, the facts of the matter stand.

Q: Is there a penalty there next fall?

Ferentz: I haven't thought that far ahead, but there will be one in the spring, for sure.

Q: Have you thought about a spring game?

Ferentz: It'll probably be like last year. It'll be similar to what we did. We'll try and do an NFL-type reunion the Friday night before.


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