Kirk Ferentz Updates Spring Practice

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has seen progress this spring and likes the overall direction of his program...if only he had the majority of his players in uniform. Several Hawkeyes have missed crucial practice time, a fact that Ferentz updated on Wednesday, in addition to plenty of talk about young players having opportunities this fall, breakout performers and more...

Kirk Ferentz Opening Statement

We are looking forward to Saturday. The weather forecast I saw last night looked good. The one thing I would remind anyone that is coming to the game, we hope to have a nice crowd and a good chance for people to see the team and spend a few hours in a good environment, if people would bring canned goods, we would appreciate that. Some of the younger players and coaches will transport that to the food shelter on Sunday morning.

There is not a lot to report since last time. Spring gives us a good chance to evaluate individuals mostly and the team somewhat, and groups. The constant is that the attitude has been good, starting back in January. I think the guys have practiced pretty well over the course of 12 practices, and we have three to go. We are making progress, seeing growth not only from younger players but from some of the older guys, too.

It's always frustrating dodging weather, classes, injuries, so it's tough to get a tough feel, but overall there is progress.

Some of the guys that didn't play full time that have made some growth, to highlight a few, Bradley Fletcher, Bret Greenwood, Alan Reisner, all three of those guys were part time players last year, in some cases younger, they have made some strides. Some older guys that have made strides and are not currently starters, Anton Narinsky, Michael Sabers, that has been pleasing.

Brodell was injured last year, as was Bruggeman. They have worked their way back in. They were rusty at the beginning but they are coming around, Trey Stross to some degree, too. He has had a good spring. I think the offensive line, those that are practicing; we are watching them make progress. One of the surprises is Kyle Hageman, a second year walk on from Osage. We felt good about him in the out of season making strides in strength and conditioning, and you wonder what a guy is going to do when he puts the equipment on and practices football. He has done a nice job all spring long, and he has been a pleasant surprise. I doubt he will start next year, but he could work into things down the road.

The biggest damper would be the injury situation. We had three or four out going into drills, then we have had a couple others join that group. Guys like Seth Olsen, Rafael Eubanks, they have not done much work. Brandon Myers has missed considerable time. But it gives other guys opportunities, and that is where we are at.

Q: What is up with Seth Olsen?

Kirk Ferentz: The good news is that outside of the guys that came into spring ball with surgery issues, none of them have needed surgeries. Just football type injuries. It is spring practice, so they have missed a lot of days, calendar wise. If this was in season, it would be disappointing. He is doing some limited work, but he couldn't play in a game right now.

Q: Are you comfortable going into the season with Paki O'Meara as the running back?

Ferentz: We could. That would be fine. We knew going in that it would be a little thin. We will be thinner as of today. Jamie Murphy just experienced some back problems this past weekend, so he won't practice the rest of the week. Paki has done a real nice job out there. He works hard, he has practiced well and improved. If he is our starter on September whatever, we will go with him and have a lot of confidence. He did a nice job on special teams last year. We are hoping that we are able to supplement things at that position starting in August. Jamie had been practicing well. Nate Guillory is a new guy trying to figure out things. He had no idea what he was doing the first few practices, but he is making progress.

Q: How has Derrell Johnson-Koulianos been doing?

Ferentz: I left him out. He is another guy that practiced one or two days and was on crutches the next thing we knew. He has been riding the bike all spring. He is in good bike shape, not good football shape.

Q: Is Jake Christensen ‘the guy'?

Ferentz: He is our starter right now. Clearly, he has some experience advantage. I think that he is practicing better, all three are better now than the fall. We are making progress there. It's like a lot of things in the spring, one day good and one day bad, one is better than the other, that type of thing. I think all three of the quarterbacks are making progress and we will keep an open mind about it midway through August.

Q: From a layman point of view, it seemed like Jake was inaccurate or indecisive on roll outs last year, have some of those issues been ironed out?

Ferentz: It wasn't a strength of his or any of our quarterbacks, throwing it on the run. I am only smiling, because on Saturday, those were the only passes we completed was when the quarterbacks were rolling. I think he has improved in that regard. It's something we would like all of our quarterbacks to be able to do, it's just not something he had done much.

Q: Is it a pretty fierce battle at strong safety right now?

Ferentz: I put it that way intentionally now. It's pretty much even. Or pretty even. It's a good thing, all three guys are doing some good things. We have had at corner too. We have seen him at strong safety a lot, so we feel like we know what he can do back there and it gave the other two guys more work. We don't have a lot of bodies other than the names on the sheet. Those guys got a lot of work this spring. Harold has helped at corner. I think all of the safety competition has been good and all have progressed.

Q: Are you closer to finding answers as to what the offensive line might look like in the fall?

Ferentz: It's been tough due to injuries. You could say 60% of the starting lineup has been out. Eubanks, Bulaga, Olsen, if you throw in Richardson, who is in a little different category, it's tough to say who is going to be what and we won't know that until August. But the good news is that all of the guys have improved up front. Most notably, Andy Kuempel has clearly been more productive and has looked more like a Big Ten player than he did in the fall. Julian has improved, Josh Koeppel, there isn't a guy that hasn't improved. The younger guys too.

Q: What is Seth's injury?

Ferentz: I didn't say. A contusion. We have a good idea on who and what he is.

Q: Outside of AJ Edds at linebacker, what have you seen out of the guys working into the mix?

Ferentz: It's kind of like safety. At safety, to me, Bret Greenwood has elevated his performance and we feel good about him. We like what Diante is doing behind him. AJ is the only guy in the linebacker group, his experience shows through. We have good competition behind him. Nielson is getting a lot of work behind him, he could play inside. Coleman and Angerer are going well. Pat had a tough fall, he had injuries, and he started with mono going into camp. I think he looks like the old Pat Angerer again. Dezman Moses missed a considerable amount of time and just got going last week. It's early in the game to say who will start.

Q: You know what you have with Seth, do you feel that way with your other injured players?

Ferentz: We have seen a lot of Tony Moeaki to know what he is. The other category would be Bernstine and Bulaga. Bulaga played a lot last year, but this practice time would have been valuable for him. Jordan the same way. We haven't seen as much from him at corner. That would have been nice to get a better grip there. But that is part of the deal. All of the injured guys have been engaged and they are paying attention to what is going on. Tony, he has played and has been helpful and tutoring guys in the process. All the guys have been good that way.

Q: What have you seen from Reisner this spring?

Ferentz: I told people that he looks like a guy that is three years older. Part of the problem is that he looked like a 14 year old last year. He looks young in the face, and he looked young as a football player. It was not our design to put him out there. He had to go and did some good things. But he has made a jump maturity wise, he looks like he belongs out there. We think he has a lot of upside and a good future. He is attentive and a good learner. Just his physical execution and his presence have improved. It's like he went from a true freshman to a junior. That is good to see. We will be pretty good at that position. Michael Sabers has taken advantage of the reps and is doing a good job also.

Q: Does he have the size you want?

Ferentz: He will grow, but last year he was just struggle to hang on and survive out there, whereas now, we can expect him to make some of the tight end blocks. That is a hard position to block defensive ends. That is a challenge for any tight end that is active in the passing game, and he is. He is a guy that should play at a high level next year. He has speed and he has a feel, good presence, hands and concentration. We have been very pleased with what we are seeing from him. His growth has been more accelerated than you expect.

Q: How is Nate Guillory doing at the areas other than running?

Ferentz: The most important thing is pass protection and who they are responsible for. Everyone is counting on that. Young players at any position, they have certain things they do. Nate is older but new to the system. There has been a lot thrown at him. Spring ball is condensed. 15 workouts is all you get. It's on the field learning. Any time you look at a new player coming in mid term, I think we will see dramatic change in August from what we see now, just because of the comfort level. He is doing a lot of good things, but it has been an acclimation period for him. Our backs need to make reads, certain keys on every play. We are not looking for every play to be a home run. First things first, get four yards and anything else is great. But there are certain things you want done each play and if you do that you have a chance to be decent offensively.

Q: Do you feel like Shonn Greene has his academics in order?

Ferentz: It's a work in progress, but we are confident. There is nothing we are alarmed about and we are staying close to the situation. He has to finish the work and he has a workable plan and hopefully there are no snags there.

Q: It's been a long time since he will have carried a football, and he has been out of the weight lifting program, etc. Do you know what you are getting?

Ferentz: I think we do, the question is when can we get him to where we know what we are getting. Brodell is a good illustration. Really, until a week ago Sunday, that was the first day where it looked like Andy Brodell again, and it was our 6th or 7th workout. He went through six practices where he was out there and didn't look like the guy that we saw at the end of 2006. It takes time, and it will take Shonn time. To think that he will carry the ball 25 times a game right off the start, that is not realistic and we don't have that thought in our mind. It will be a process for him. Camp will be very important to come in in good shape and stay healthy. That will be very important. Be smart about the plan that we work with him. It will be a committee effort at that position. We are not counting on him to be the savior by any stretch.

Q: Will it be like that through season, running back by committee?

Ferentz: We will see how it goes. It's realistic to think that both of our freshmen coming in will contribute. But again, to think that they are going to jump in and be ready to go right away is not realistic. We will see what everyone is capable of doing. Nate should be ahead of the younger guys by that time, we know what we have with Paki and Jamie and we will put a plan together and see what happens.

Q: Is running back a position easier to play as a freshman than some other positions?

Ferentz: I think its one of the positions you can do it. There are a lot of examples in college football, young guys going in and doing a nice job there. That is one of the good things, and if we can get Shonn back and are smart with our plan, we have seen him play at the Big Ten level. That is not as much of a variable. Part of it is running the ball, the most important part is pass protection, making sure someone is not free. That is at any position on offense. But if it's a running back or an offensive linemen that blows one, you turn it over or get hurt.

Q: How does this spring compare to others as far as injuries, etc?

Ferentz: I can't remember a spring where everything has fallen into place or where things move right along. That is a part of spring practice. I don't think it will be until we get to camp where we start to get a feel where we are or how we are going. I don't worry too much about that. It's not imperative that the entire team is clicking in the spring. It's more about how the individuals and groups are doing. Team wise, its more about the attitude or work ethic they bring, and that part has been pretty good. You can go back and look at depth charts in 2002 and 2004, I made reference to that a few weeks ago. We had our share of issues in both of those years at this time, as far as how things would pan out. It is part of college football, with 85 scholarships, its more prominent now than it used to be.

Q: Would you prefer one guy to step ahead at running back?

Ferentz: If we could order up a guy that could give us 1600 yards a season, we would take that. It's like that at every position. You play with what you have and try to be smart about it, knowing that if we had one of those guys on the team, that could change in one practice if something happened. In a perfect world, you would love a returning all Big Ten player returning for three more years, and that is not realistic. We will work our way through it.

Q: What seen out of defensive line this spring?

Ferentz: I should have mentioned King and Kroul off the bat. As we have expected, they have done a great job of setting the tone. They practice the way you are supposed to practice with that experience. They have great attitudes and the rest of the guys are working pretty well. We are optimistic about that group, but we are not there yet.

Q: Do you expect that group to be a leadership group, outside of King and Kroul?

Ferentz: In a perfect world, we are hopeful that by September that both of our lines can play at a pretty high level. I think we have the potential to do it at both sides and right now its potential. We will need 6 to 8 to play on defense, and we have to figure out lineup on offense. I think they will, as the potential is there. The fun of it is the work that is ahead of us right now.

Q: What are you planning for Saturday?

Ferentz: It will be more of a controlled scrimmage than a game. Our thinking there, we just want to utilize every opportunity to put our players in some situation and see what they look like. We will try to control that part of it. You are hoping for good effort and execution. All that being said, this will be the 15th day against each other, so it's spy vs. spy at times, guys used to seeing some things. It will be similar to what we have done the last few years and hopefully we will be injury free.

Q: You signed two, maybe three quarterbacks in February. What are your expectations from this position this fall?

Ferentz: Hopefully they will do the best they can, I know they will. Everything hinges on what the three guys on campus do. How they take this 15 day period and use it to their advantage in camp and we will see how they continue to compete. We will know more about the incoming players and what they can absorb. It';s different than running back, as they have more to get their hands on. We are not ruling anything out. We will wait to see how that goes. Drew Tate was our backup as a true freshman. We will keep a real open mind right now and hopefully get the thing settled somewhere in mid August. Outside of the offensive line, and tight ends now given our situation, I think the young kids will have a chance.

Q: What have you heard from NFL people, what are they saying to you about Godfrey and other players?

Ferentz: Not a lot. We had our pro day before spring practice began and it went well. They are at that point where they are sick of training. Most of them are bored, quite frankly. It's interesting, most of the guys have graduated now, so they are not taking classes, they are just training and they don't know. They are anxious, with a lot of free times on their hands. They wander out to practice. This is the most anxious time because they don't know if they will get drafted or where they are going, if they will be free agents, that uncertainty. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter where you get drafted unless you are the #1 pick. For everyone else, what they do once they get to their teams is important.

Q: You signed four corners and two safeties, are you looking for immediate help there?

Ferentz: I think that is realistic. Again, we have made good progress at safety, although we do have two coming in that we really like. We will see how that goes. But at the corner spot, we are counting on adding to the mix at that point, and see how it transpires. We will be anxious to get Jordan back on the field and see the incoming guys. That will be unsettled to.

Q: Has anyone separated themselves at kicker?

Ferentz: In one word, no. We have seen good and we have seen bad. In my mind, it's even right now at this point. That will go into the summer as well.

Q: How have the reps been going at quarterback?

Ferentz: We have been working all of the guys. Our three's don't get a lot of work, because we don't have a lot. The three quarterbacks in contention have rolled through with the one's and two's. I think they have all improved, every guy is performing better than they did last fall. We need to see how it shakes out.

Q: Is it more physical, or grasping the offense?

Ferentz: Everyone has different challenges. Part of the evaluation process, right now its hard. It's like last fall; it was hard to have a total grip on the offense because we have a lot more guys out on offense. I have not done a study on that one. We haven't had the kind of consistency as far as everyone being out there in the spring. I think we will be better in the fall offensively than we are right now. Add the guys that are our and put them back in the mix and it will be interesting to see how that affects the quarterback play. I think the guys are making progress.

Q: Overall, have you gotten a good chunk of what you wanted to get done this spring in the books?

Ferentz: I think things are going well. You never feel totally good about it. There are a lot of what if's, because of guys not practicing. I think it's been a good period so far. We have three days to go. It's important to close out this week, it's not a week off. The workouts will be a little bit shorter. We want the tempo to be better and get a few good work days in and have a good day Saturday to finish. I am pleased so far with where we are going, given the circumstances.

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