Ferentz Feels Good About Recruiting Analysis

With the off-field issues that have hit the Iowa football program in the last year, some critics have wondered if the Hawkeyes are recruiting the wrong people. Coach Kirk Ferentz defended his staff for doing its homework during the process. Some of his players also backed up the coach's words. Read all about it in this feature from the Big Ten Media Meetings in Chicago on Friday.

CHICAGO _ When things go wrong, people ask questions. Often, they come up with their own answers.

As Iowa football ran into problems with the law last season - including arrests for sexual assault, drug possession, illegal use of credit cards and domestic violence - theories popped up. One of the most popular ideas was that the Hawkeyes were recruiting bad kids, bringing in guys with questionable character because they can run a 4.4-second, 40-yard dash.

Coach Kirk Ferentz put the kibosh on that thought at the Big Ten Media gathering here on Friday.

"We do an awfully good job," he said. "Our (coaches) are thorough. We have to try to look deeper. I've gone down this road before. How many of these guys weren't re-recruitable? I'm not sure there is one guy that we wouldn't. I'm not sure there was anyone that we wouldn't re-recruit again (based on what they knew during the recruiting process)."

That includes Cedric Everson and Abe Satterfield, former players that are awaiting trial on sexual assault charges after an alleged incident on campus last October. Their names have been in headlines recently because the mother of the alleged victim claimed Ferentz took part in a cover-up.

Ferentz said that there was nothing overlooked in the recruiting of Everson and Satterfield. He said the same thing about Dominique Douglas, Anthony Bowman, Dana Brown, Arvell Nelson and James Cleveland, players who are no longer with the team after arrests last season.

"If we could recruit every guy from in the state of Iowa it would be a perfect world because our percentages of really knowing about the players would be higher," Ferentz said. "We don't have that luxury. We don't even have 3 million people in our state. That's one of our challenges. We have to go to a lot of different places to recruit.

"All that being said, it didn't seem to be a problem in 2002. There are ways to make this work. It's not like, "Oh, poor us." We've won a couple of championships and found a way to have some success."

Ferentz said there's really no way to predict with 100 percent certainty how a player, or any student for that matter, will act when they get to a college campus for the first time.

"If we could hire somebody to predict all of those things, wow," he said. "I've been in college coaching for a long time. I've seen guys that were Eagle Scouts or honor students come to college and flunk out. We've all heard the story, "Jeez, he was such a good young man" It's hard to predict how someone is going to react once they get into a college environment."

Iowa Senior Offensive Lineman Seth Olsen agreed with his coach.

"You only know so much when you're recruiting a guy," he said. "Until you get a guy on campus, you can never really know. He could be a trouble guy in high school and turn around and be a great guy (in college. It could happen vice versa. You can't predict when some of this bad off the field stuff happens."

Ferentz said that it's more likely that some of the kids struggle with the transition from high school to college. Many of them are away from their parent for the first time and become celebrities around town. And, the exposure that these athletes receive before their arrival is at al all-time high.

"A challenge in all of coaching at any level is that there's a sense of entitlement," Ferentz said. "I could suggest that that's probably a problem in our society in general, people that are good at something; a talent where they achieve some level of success. Earning a Big Ten scholarship is achieving a level of success for some.

"That's one of the dangers of all this recruiting (hype) where so much attention is thrown at these young men. But it happens to adults. You see it all the time in the pros. People develop a sense of entitlement. That's a scary thing. You think you're bulletproof. Nobody is."

Iowa Defensive Tackle Mitch King said that type of mindset falls on the individual. Each player should be responsible for handling the attention.

"It's just how you take it," King said. "If you take it humbly and are level-headed, you're going to have success. If you don't take it humbly or level-headed, you can get into trouble. "

You can look at the case of Kyle Williams, a highly-recruited linebacker who signed with Iowa earlier in the decade. After an off-field incident in Iowa City, he transferred to Purdue. While there, he assaulted two women and is now serving 28 years in prison.

Those of us that talked with Williams and his parents could not have predicted his fate. And two coaching staffs took him in with open arms.

"It's tough because there are regulations on how much contact you can have (with recruits),"Iowa Defensive Tackle Matt Kroul said. "It's not like the NFL where they ask you everything you can imagine and are able to do extensive background checks. It's a sketchy deal."

Ferentz recalled a story that illustrated the unknowns in recruiting. During a recruiting trip to Kansas City as an Iowa assistant in the 1980s, he felt great about securing an official visit from a prospect only to find out that the kid had a pretty large skeleton in his closet.

"I got back and saw Barry (Alvarez) and he asked what I found out about the kid's rehab. I said, "Rehab?" I just had spent an entire day with the kid's coach, camped out trying to get a fifth visit out of the kid. We got that fifth visit and then I find out about rehab. This was in the ‘80s and the young man had gone to Arizona for a cocaine issue. That was 20 years ago. Things have gotten trickier since."

Ferentz feels that the best way to address the off of the field issues is by educating players when they get to campus. They've done that throughout the years, but he's in the process of increasing attention in that area.

"Some of these guys from New Jersey and Texas and Florida, it's a tough adjustment for them," said Kroul, who grew up 20 minutes from the Iowa campus. "A lot of that happens in camp. We have a lot of seminars and discussions to educate them about Iowa City. You hope they don't take those meetings for granted and learn from those. "

Said Ferentz: "It doesn't matter if they're from a rural area or an urban area, what can we do to help the transition? Typically, the problems we have are with young guys; not all, but with most it's a common denominator."

Everson, Satterfield, Douglas, Bowman Cleveland and Nelson had been on campus for two years or less when their run-ins with the law occurred.

"These are common concerns for the whole student body," Ferentz said. "I would argue that athletes have a greater chance at success. They have more guidance. We just have to reach our target a little better."

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