Kirk Ferentz: I can't speak specifically about them, but the concept first came to me a couple of years ago, and I don't think it makes sense in a lot of instances, but there are some cases where it makes sense and Julian is a great example. He opted to turn down some other attractive offers to come here. We didn't have the room for him in the class at that time based on our needs and the current roster, so we found a mutual meeting ground and that is what the gray shirt affords us. With the right people, it's a win-win. It looks like we will have a couple of those this year.
Q: Is it driven by limited space?
Ferentz: Exactly it's about our immediate needs and how the class is shaping up for that given year
Q: Did you consider switching Jordan Bernstine to running back?
Ferentz: We talked about a few things, but nothing stayed up on the board, nothing that serious. Jordan has some flexibility as a running back or receiver, but we were pleased with the job he did last year at defensive back. A year ago, we were not sure how it was going to play out, like Andy Brodell. We recruit a lot of guys like that, this class too, guys we are not sure where they will end up. Guys we see real positives in. In Jordan, we think he is in his best spot and a great chance to compete for a starting job. That would be a logical place for him. I think right now, most of our players are in the right spot, not too many changes on the board
Q: Is this as many quarterbacks you have had on the roster since you came back here?
Ferentz: I think it's safe to say that. We didn't go into this recruiting season intending on signing three guys, as Blackwell played that, but it worked that way. We were impressed with all three guys. We will make adjustments as we go down the path, but we felt like all three guys were quality players that brought a lot, or have the potential. David is unique, because he didn't play this year so we don't have that to judge. But John and James, both guys had great production as seniors. Both of them played in state championship games. Both have great leadership qualities and both of them are either coaches kids or coaches grandkids. I think we liked what we saw, and John was one of those ones that we were not counting on at the beginning of December.
Q: How do the coaching changes impact recruiting?
Ferentz: John is the best example. He had found a good fit at Michigan under Lloyd Carr. It appeared in his mind they would change offensive directions. I think it wasn't anything against Michigan. When the landscape changes, I think every prospect should have a chance to reassess things. It made sense for him and we benefited.
Q: If there was an early signing period, it might have hurt you here.
Ferentz: It is a potential negative. But I would suggest that most changes happen right after the season, and we are moving in that direction right now. If changes are going to be made, that happens in November. You could have a guy leave in January, and maybe you write in a clause there. That would be fair. I think outside of that, there is no huge downside to the early signing period. I don't think they would want to sign in December unless they were certain they wanted to go there. It would help us to know if we are getting married or holding hands, it would let you know where you stand.
Q: How much time do your coaches spend trying to keep players to honor their commitments?
Ferentz: I didn't get that sense. We had the same thing happen last year. We had three or four guys be approached by other schools and we lost one a year ago. That player went on and played where he chose to go to as a true freshman, imagine that. But this year, we had a couple of guys get some invites and they stayed the course. We enticed a person to come here that we offered late and we are happy about that too. That is the way recruiting goes and things work out best in the end.
Q: What did you see in your running backs in this class?
Ferentz: Nate Guillory is on campus right now. I hate to say he is Damien Sims, but he is more like that. Not the biggest guy in the world but put together well. He is very talented and elusive. He is a tough competitor too. He is not just finesse. I am happy there and he has a great attitude. I know Coach Doyle has been impressed with his work ethic. The other two, Jewell Hampton, we had great feelings about. The most impressive tape I saw on him was their opening game against Glenville, a pretty big game. Jeff Brinson, when I first saw his stats, I thought he was going up against an elementary school. He was averaging like 8 yards a carry. When you see him on tape, he is big and strong and runs hard and has a good attitude. We thought all three of them are different, but they are tough competitive guys. We really liked the personality traits they play with.
Q: Is Trent Mossbrucker like Nate Kaeding, in that he is an athlete?
Ferentz: He is. That appealed to us a great deal. His dad is the athletic director, a former coach and a former wrestling state champ. We were impressed when he came to camp in June. Coach Erb put him under duress a few times and did a few unusual things and it didn't rattle him. He plays quarterback for them, and on the basketball team and does a good job. The multi sport part of it, he is a football player who happens to be a specialist. I am not saying he is Nate Kaeding, but that was one of his attributes.
Q: Does he have a shot at being ‘the guy'?
Ferentz: I think everyone has a shot at anything now. You talk about our team, we haven't established anything. This is a new season, and for the most part, outside of Guillory, they come in a spring practice or a few years behind. You look at guys like Mitch King, and Matt Kroul, they have a lot of experience. But at the same time, everyone will get an opportunity. If guys can help us, we are all for it.
Q: Did you bring James' (Ferentz) LOI in to work with you?
Ferentz: That was the plan. We have the flu at our house. When I left this morning, he was still sleeping and we let him sleep in. It was like the old days, I got in the car and drove to the house, like the old days. Inside trivia, I took my wife on a cruise in the spring of 1989, signing day 1989, we signed Matt Quest and Mike Wells, and James was with us and Mary was pregnant during that trip. That was the last time I went to drive and sign anyone. That is good trivia. I hope I got my years right. He was with us, so it was like the old days. I went home at lunch and we signed him, and I got a great ham sandwich out of the deal from my wife.
Q: Is he a center?
Ferentz: I think he has had that figured out for a while. He is not going to be on Todd's basketball team. He is not being recruited there.
Q: Due to the off the field issues last year, did you do more background checks?
Ferentz: Not really. I say that in the sense that we have always been very cautious and very proactive, to find everything out that we can. I would still suggest that where I am right now, it's incumbent upon us to be more proactive here once they get to campus. We have to do a better job once they are here and that is our plan.
Q: Talk about your quarterback recruiting thought process this year. Did what happened last year have anything to do with it?
Ferentz: Not really. Our plan in general terms is to take one a year, that would be a typical year. I will be honest, we were not sure about James Vandenberg at the beginning of the year, but watching him during the year, the success they had and most impressive is the accuracy he threw with, besides his leadership. It became a no brainer. We came to the conclusion before the title game that we wanted to recruit him. We offered him after they were done playing. We had offered John in June, and he opted for another school. When Coach Carr retired, they wanted to keep the process open and we talked casually. Then as that process to move along, probably John knew before any of us. I got a call on a Saturday morning after his visit and my phone rang and I saw his name on there and I thought that might be something good for us.
Q: James was the guy, and things fell into place to get John?
Ferentz: Exactly. John and his dad had come in the weekend prior. We told him that we would respectfully recruit him, knowing that he was committed to another school. It was in their hands and they did what they thought best for john.
Q: It has to be hard to keep several QB's happy, and you have seven now. Do you expect one or more to look around after spring?
Ferentz: I don't want to speak for anyone, but our players expect the job will get decided on the field and we will have open competition this year like any year and any position We will see how things shake out after that. Our biggest concern is to give ourselves the best chance to win next year.
Q: John came from a small school, and he went to a quarterback camp and really blew up. Did that accelerate things for him?
Ferentz: It did. He was impressive on tape prior to coming in. The one thing about quarterbacks, it helps if you can see them throw live. It gives you a better feel. The same think with Trent Mossbrucker, we saw how explosive his leg was. That put us over the top, and the production and the way he played this year, leading his team to the state title game, and the leadership attributes…his dad is a coach, and he has that benefit. We didn't have any concerns. I am not a big one for small school or big school. I don't think we have every had anyone from a smaller school than Chad Greenway, and he did OK. I am not big on that. Dallas Clark is another great example. Good players find their way. Marv Cook is another good example, coming out of West Branch when no one was sure what he was but it worked out well.
Q: Will Arvell be at quarterback this spring?
Ferentz: The guys that are on our roster, they will all be competing. It's four guys that will be in the thick of things and we will let them fight it out this spring.
Q: What did you see in Riley Rieff, as you offered him early on.
Ferentz: Riley was a football player. The fact that he was a three time heavyweight state champ and we were onto him after two of them. That means a lot to us. Mark Sindlinger, he was a three time super heavyweight champ in our state. He was 235, 6-1 when he got here and he was a three year starter on some great teams and the most he weight was 255. I don't think you luck into a state title at wrestling. The more work we did, the more impressed we were and we think he has great upside.
Q: Did Jonathon Gimm's Iowa ties have anything to do with him?
Ferentz: Jonathon came to camp, from Houston. The family connection helped and was huge. We were impressed with him in camp. We were impressed with his tape. I think his interest in us was piqued being an Iowa guy background.
Q: You took six defensive backs from six states.
Ferentz: It was an area we targeted, particularly corner. We graduated two seniors with Shada and Godfrey both playing well for us. That is a hard position to recruit. We set out a year ago to identify some guys. I think that was a big part of this class in making it successful. You can count on seeing some of these guys factoring into things next year. We will play half and redshirt half in a perfect world. Hopefully we are not just helping next year, but the future and having a core group of four or five guys that can play successfully for us for several years.
Q: How was Billings, Montana?
Ferentz: That is one I didn't make, one of the few. I have developed a new policy about guys outside of our area. Reese went out there the week before the visit. We loved his film. It happened late. Reese visited with him, nothing but rave reviews and when he came in we fell in love with him. That is off our beaten path, but we are thrilled about what we think he will bring to our football team.
Q: What was the response from the running backs when they saw your depth chart?
Ferentz: Most players are tuned into that. Some don't worry about that, but we were in a position now, like corner, we graduated a few seniors, and running back we did too. I think all the guys we signed saw opportunities certainly and they liked what else they saw about the school. That factored in. We told all of them that we are going to put them out there when they show us they are ready. We want them to embrace that. I think they are excited to come in and compete.
Q: Are you done with this class?
Ferentz: I think pretty close. We may have an announcement or two at the end of the week, but we are about where we need to be.
Q: How are you able to get some players away from prestigious in state schools?
Ferentz: As a general rule, I think we signed two instate guys, eight from border states to put it into perspective. The other areas are more Big Ten areas. We also go to Texas and Florida. If Texas, Texas A&M, Florida, FSU or Miami are in there early, I don't think we have beaten any schools straight up for a guy. If we get involved early, some others jump in as a process. Then it's a matter can we hold on. In some cases we have, in others we have not. That is a part of the game. We identify guys early and see things in players that maybe other people are overlooking. We are starting to get used to the fact that if we throw an offer out, others get more involved. It tends to be a copycat profession, that happens in time.
Q: Do some schools do this more than others?
Ferentz: I don't know. It has always been that way. I never ask who has offered a guy, but after we have made our decisions, we want to know. Some players, everyone is offering a guy. We try to stay away from that, we like to make our own minds up based on the information we have and you hope you are right more than not, and the last two classes we feel good based on what we have seen of them. We think this class will fit right in with those two groups.