Signing Day: Kirk on the Side

Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media on Wednesday, just hours after wrapping up the majority of the 2008 recruiting class. Coach Ferentz answered questions about his son James, David Blackwell's injury, Shane and Shaun Prater, possibly staff changes and the possibility of a few familiar faces returning to the team soon. Read what he had to say in this premium recruiting Kirk on the side transcript.

Q: You've said corners are hard to find, you have 4 or 5 this year. Is there one thing you're looking for?

Kirk Ferentz: I'm just trying to think off the top of my head… I'm pretty sure all of those guys were in our camp at one time or another. I'm pretty sure. We've had a chance to see all these guys physically, see them in camp. They're on the periphery of the film. Action doesn't come their way, it's tough to get a look at them. William Lowe was very productive as a RB as well. You can't quite see all you want to see, but we had that opportunity in camp. That helped a great deal. I think we're a little bit more aggressive in our evaluations. We knew that was going to be concern for us a year ago, so we really tried to encourage prospects that might have a chance to come to camp, and allowed us to get a good feel for them and feel more comfvortlabe about extending offers.

Q: The camp exposure was key for a guy like Castillo, he was already committed to Villanova, and 11th hour deal.

Ferentz: Yeah. He had some MAC scholarships. I think he chose Villanova, at that point, felt like he was better staying closer to home. BYU offered him as well, if I remember correctly. I've known his dad for quite some time. I've got great respect for Juan. You talk about a guy that's paid his dues, coming from Texas now to the Philadelphia Eagles. I know Juan's intangibles, I was extremely impressed, and Greg's the same way. Greg's granddad has been out with him to camp a couple times. He's a young guy who is going to work extremely hard and be very focused. Coincidentally, two of our better DBs in the history of the program, we stole from the MAC. Bob Sanders and Jovon. Sean Considine's known Greg for quite some time, and Marcus out there as well, signed off on him, They really felt like he'd be a great fit in our program. All that stuff combined, we were looking for a way or a reason to get him here and it worked out.

Q: What was your thought when Gaglione gets an offer from Ohio State?

Ferentz: I wasn't thrilled to get that news, quite honestly. But I'm not surprised, either, with the way they responded to it. Joe and his dad were out here in December. They're straight ahead people. They didn't commit that day, but they committed the week after they'd been here. I just got the sense, from them, that no matter what happened, this is where they were going to come. They were very appreciative. I was in their home the night after they got the phone call with the latest offer. It was no big deal to them, they were excited about being here. We're equally as excited about have him in the program.

Q: So the two quarterbacks, they're not really spread guys. The spread's not coming?

Ferentz: (Laughs) They're not option guys. I think that's a fair statement. We're more impressed with their throwing. Not to suggest they're non-athletes like I am, but we like the way they throw the ball.

Q: Does the Elite 11 thing mean anything? Jake was one. Does it produce things?

Ferentz: Is that the quarterback deal? It means something if they turn out OK. (Laughs) I heard in the car, yesterday or the day before, but the one class, Roethlisberger, Manning, Rivers. Those three guys, but then I could show you another draft where the first rounders are… It's pertinent to this year because you've got a couple other candidates. It's discouraging to take a quarterback in the first round, unless it works out.

Q: What are early targets for next year?

Ferentz: I haven't thought that far ahead. We're not going to have a huge class next year. I think we're bottom-loaded, if you will, with our roster right now, we're a pretty young football team. It's not going to be a big class by anybody's standards. One thing is for sure, we're going to need some offensive linemen. We have a lot of guys in their 4th year next year. Outside of that, we'll be very selective and very careful. It'll start with evaluating the talent close to home, the home state and big ten area. Then we'll go from there.

Q: Does class balance impact how many freshmen play next year?

Ferentz: Yes and no. In a perfect world, you'd like to keep things kind of constant. At the same time, first and foremost, it's what's best for our football team right now, that's where we're at. What we do for next year will be based on that.

Q: What sorts of medical discussions did you have with Blackwell or his coaching staff before accepting his commitment?

Ferentz: Obviously we wanted to talk to the physician down there, make sure we knew exactly what was going on. I hate to use the word ‘routine' because when you talk about medical problems, routine is someone else's problem, not yours. If it's your kid or you, there's nothing routine about it. We felt very confident about it, that based on the injury and the repair that was done… I'll go back to a guy like Chad Greenway who had a couple of those, Chad came back from his first one stronger than he was, my son the same way. It's so different than it was 20 years ago where you're rolling the dice. We didn't have any concerns, we didn't think it was a risk at all, based on the information we received.

Q: Some of the decommits you can explain, coaches leaving, but it seems like a rash of them. Are coaches pressuring too much? Kids being naïve?

Ferentz: One of my theories would be that the more early commitments there are, the more changes there will be. I still think that the single most important thing that happens during recruiting is the prospect's official visit to a campus when they're on campus for 40-48 hours. The most important thing that happens during that time on campus, in my opinion, is spending time with the players that are there. that's really where they get the straightest schpiel on what's going on, what it's like to be in the program. When they just get the coachspeak or go through a four-hour presentation, it's informational, but it doesn't give you the knowledge you'd have from being anywhere. It's no different than a job, if you spend a few day somewhere, you get a good feeling for what everybody's about. To me, that's the most important thing. At lot of times, that doesn't happen until after commitments. I can counter that by saying if a guy's been on campus 3, 4, 5 times, if a guy's in a geographical area, a lot of times they get a pretty good feel, then they have a chance to visit players, that kind of thing. I would say that's still the most important thing. In a perfect world, you'd go back to the old days when they offered scholarships after a guy's career is over. It's a novel concept, but that'd be a perfect world, in my mind. It'd be better for the prospects. That horse has left the barn, that's not coming back, ever.

Q: More like basketball?

Ferentz: Definitely. We're going more in that direction.

Q: Does having your son in this class add any more value to it?

Ferentz: I don't' know about value (laughs). Maybe entertainment. He has a good personality. On a personal note, I'm thrilled. I just hope I don't get fired, that'd ruin the whole experience. There's a downside to everything, that's certainly one right there.

Q: Is he better than Brian?

Ferentz: He has the chance to be. We'll see.

Q: What's (Brian) going to do?

Ferentz: He's going to get into coaching. That's his plan right now. We'll see what happens.

Q: Will he try to be a grad assistant? Here maybe?

Ferentz: No, not here. He will not be here. He will not be here. He's going to have a crummy crummy job for a couple years. That'll be good for him. He's at that point. He wants to coach. The only way to coach is to start with a crummy crummy job. That's really what you want to do. You go work for long hours, short money, like all of us. I think it's best he gets out of the nest a bit. He's had a real unique opportunity with the Falcons a year ago, then a couple weeks or a month with the Saints, a different program. I think that's healthy. It'll be good for him to weigh in. It's a great source of information for me, to find out how others are doing things.

Q: You can't talk about them, since they're still recruitable, but do you have some guys that may be coming back? What's the status?

Ferentz: I'll have some announcement on that in the near future. Maybe Monday.

Q: So that means that they could be coming back?

Ferentz: We still have some openings, some potential developments that could take place in this recruiting class.

Q: You mentioned a month ago, coaching changes, potentially losing some assistants.

Ferentz: Again, it's a fluid process. We'll just see what the n3ext couple weeks bring. It's a fluid process.

Q: Not across that bridge yet?

Ferentz: No. I think we've been focused on recruiting. We're just moving along.

Q: Is that something, where you'd rather have the assistant wait until after recruiting?

Ferentz: Last year, Ron Aiken, for instance. I asked if he could wait until after recruiting. I thought that was best. It worked out for Ron, too. You like to get through the recruiting then change your focus to that direction.

Q: James talked about how during his high school career, out of respect to the City High coaches, you really wouldn't answer many of his football questions. Have you guys started talking football yet?

Ferentz: Not to any great extent. He probably talks to his brother more than me. I've always seen my role as a Dad while he's been in high school. When he comes here, I'll be the head coach, I'm not going to be his line coach. We've got an excellent line coach in Reese Morgan. Most of all, I've been his dad. Any time I did offer up a suggestion or two, It wasn't received too well. I've learned just to keep my mouth shut on that front. If he asks for something, I'll answer. Other than that, I'll just keep my mouth shut. I'll be volunteering a few things, but it worked well for Brian. I'm not in the line of fire. That's probably the best way.

Q: Is that difficult at all, you don't want to step on anybody else's toes?

Ferentz: That's the last thing… I don't coach at City High. They've got a great staff there, they don't need my help. Again, I think it's really important, my wife's the same way. That's our deal. When I go to a game, I'm a fan and a parent. Now it's going to be a bit different when he transitions over here. It's important that all of us know our roles.

Q: When you offer a twin, do you feel obligated to offer the other one?

Ferentz: It works out best if you have that opportunity, but we weren't going to do it unless we were convinced it was best for everybody. You never want to offer a scholarship unless you feel like the player's going to have a chance for a great experience. We were convinced of that. The more we get to know both guys, the more we like them. Both of those guys were instrumental in their state championship drive. Jay Ball has done a great job with that team.

Q: How does one get to be two inches taller?

Ferentz: I don't know how they figure that out one. I'm not sure it's a legitimate two inches, either.

Q: It's a Drew Tate two inches.

Ferentz: Yeah.

Q: You talk about the official being more important, what kind of training or briefing do player hosts go through?

Ferentz: Two things, first of all, it's from the compliance standpoint, institutionally. We try to educate guys, these are dos and don'ts, if you will. There are things that have been shaped institutionally there. Just like when they were here, they were high school students visiting, they've got to be very aware of that and smart about that. The other part is that we want them to feel welcome, to get their questions answered and information they need to make good decisions. We encourage our guys to be interactive with recruits, answer their questions very candidly. Also, if there's somebody they don't feel comfortable with, if there's anybody we bring on campus that they think isn't going to be a good fit, we encourage them to let us know so we can go a different direction, to avoid a bad marriage.

Q: A lot of the hosts are younger guys, freshmen, redshirt freshmen, do you try and keep them close to the memory of that experience?

Ferentz: I think that works, typically, a bit better. Some people try to get their most visible players to host, but I think it's a little better mesh when you get guys that are younger. They've just gone through that process, so it's a bit more fresh in their mind. I think they'll do a better job hosting, that's been our experience.

Q: Bowman back?

Ferentz: He's back on the team right now. He will be with us this spring, and obviously we'll keep a close eye on things, but I anticipate him being with our football team. He's prepared to move forward. As long as he does that, takes care of business they way he needs to, we plan on him being with us.

Q: Will he have three years of eligibility?

Ferentz: He's got three years. Basically last year, he redshirted. Year suspension, whatever.

Q: How about Derrick Smith?

Ferentz: Derrick is at Iowa Central. He's at Iowa Central.

Q: Have things chilled out with Jevon? The late enrolling in class….?

Ferentz: Typically they do it in December, unless they have a u-bill or whatever it may be. His plane was late, so he got in Tuesday night the first week of class. He was going to class Wednesday, right on through, it was a matter of paperwork. We have what we call "list" players, and he'll be a list guy, to keep an eye on. He's in school, working at it. We'll see what he does.

Q: Are you confident he'll be here in the fall?

Ferentz: I think the arrow's going the right way right now. He's going through a homesickness period. Probably as much as anybody since Colin Cole. I hope the outcome's as good. Right now that's what he needs to demonstrate, that he can make the adjustment to this team, do well academically. I went through the same thing. I hated being at Connecticut. Other than football practice, I hated everything about it. I figured out over break that maybe if I change the attitude, maybe it's me, not the place. I got over the fact that I was away from home, that I was away from, I didn't know she would be my wife, but at the time, my girlfriend, and I started enjoying Connecticut and enjoyed the rest of my career. I was a miserable person my first semester, outside of football. I enjoyed that. Everything else, I decided I wasn't going to like, and id a pretty good job of it. I almost flunked out on top of it. It was a pretty good first semester.

Q: Tony Moeaki, is he progressing?

Ferentz: He's out for the spring. We don't anticipate any problems.

Q: Will Andy participate in the spring?

Ferentz: He's up and running. I hate to use the phrase. I guess I don't hate to, he's up and running, and fast, which is good.

Q: Bulaga?

Ferentz: Bulaga had a surgery. A shoulder. He's probably out for the spring.

Q: Any update on Dace Richardson?

Ferentz: Still plugging along. I don't think we'll know anything until June. We don't know where he'll be at. We didn't expect to know anything by today. We'll see where we're at in 5 months, see how he responds.

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