Post-Maine: Kirk on the Side

Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media for a bit longer, after his main press conference following Saturday's win over Maine. Read what he had to say in this premium Kirk on the Side Q&A.

Q: (A question about starting with a scoring drive)

Kirk Ferentz: It was just good, it was good to take the ball and go with it a few times. It seems like it’s been a long time since we’ve done that. It just seems to help everyone be on track when we do that.

Q: Does it relax everybody a bit?

Ferentz: I don’t’ know if it relaxes them or gives them confidence. Sometimes it just makes you feel like you’re ready to go. In a perfect world, we’d love to start every game that way.

Q: Do you feel the defense is ready to settle in?

Ferentz: I don’t’ know. I don’t’ know if they were ready to settle in. To me, it looks like we still have work to do up there. We’re doing a lot of good things, but some of those runs were way too clean, that’s a bit concerning, a couple passes went uncontested, that one big pass on the sideline. That’s one we see every game. We saw it twice today. Usually most are going to throw it at us at some point, and if they slip that past you, it’s not a good thing. Those are some things, we have to tighten some things down.

Q: People are going to leave the game, on the way home, they’re in bars or whatever, they’re going to talk about Jewell Hampton. How do you spin that optimism?

Ferentz: I’m not worried about the fans, I’m worried about him. Tell him to pick his darn socks up, first. Dress like the rest of us. (laughs) I wasn’t watching the endzone, I was watching his socks. That’s distracting when that happens.

Q: Expectations could be built so high.

Ferentz: It’s one game. It was a good game, it was a good start for him. We felt good about him, the way he’s been practicing. He runs tough, he’s not afraid to run tough, he’ll block tough. Its one step, he’s got a lot of games ahead of him. What he needs to do is get his feet on the ground, keep them on the ground but he needs to get better during the week just like everybody else does. That’s what our whole team is going to have to do.

Q: He’s got great feet, that really stood out.

Ferentz: They didn’t look too bad today. It would look even better if he got his socks up.

Q: Where does he rank as far as the fastest guys on the team?

Ferentz: I don’t know fast he is, actually. I don’t know any of that. That wouldn’t be the first adjective we’d use to describe him coming in. He’s probably faster than we thought he was. He seems to have a knack. There are certain things you can’t teach, he’s got a little of that to him.

Q: Were you surprised by what he did today?

Ferentz: He’s looked good in practice. Maybe surprised 3 or 4 weeks ago. I go back to Abdul Hodge. On the field, once you’re on the field, the guy was quicker on the field than he looked on tape. Those are good surprises. What’s bad is when you think they’re going to be quick…. Abdul, in a different way, his movement was side to side, in the box, but he had a way of just getting there fast. Jewell has been a bit more sudden than I would have guessed. Those are good surprises.

Q: You had some confidence

Ferentz: We decided we’d throw in back there (for the kickoff). He’s done some good things, a good start.

Q: Some are comparing him to Tavian Banks already.

Ferentz: I wasn’t around, I never had the pleasure. I don’t know. His career went pretty well, I remember that, I hope it works out pretty well.

Q: Jewell said during the recruiting process that he ‘runs angry.’

Ferentz: I think of him as more of a physical runner than a fast guy, but he didn’t look slow, that’s good.

Q: What were you curious to see about this team today?

Ferentz: Just how we’d come out and play, just in general terms. I think for the most part it was good. For the most part, our camp has been good. You always worry about that stuff. You can play the what-if game. The last 3 days, what if, what if, what if. You start having negative thoughts, trying to get off that track.

Q: How about specifics?

Ferentz: First thing, penalties and turnovers, those are the first two things in the first game. Special teams, having 11 guys on the field, that's a starting point, seeing that one blown. We took that one beyond the first game last year. I thought our special teams operated well today. I thought outside of that run of 3 penalties, the personal fouls, that was discouraging, then we gave up the one big play. You don’t want to give up anything easy, let a guy run through and hit your QB, things of that nature. For the most part, we were where we should be. Better execution.

Q: Can you walk me through how you kept Shonn Greene in the fold last year?

Ferentz: We really didn’t. It’s kind of funny, he was in town, but it wasn’t like he was ‘in town.’ We didn’t see much of him, he stayed to himself. At one point, I was wondering if maybe he had plan B going, I didn’t know. The big focus was him taking care of his academics. If that didn’t take place, it didn’t matter. The biggest break< I thought was being accepted back to school in June. I could envision that thing going later, that wouldn’t have been good. Every day is precious when you’ve missed so many. The volume of work our guys do year-round is pretty significant. You can’t walk away from it and come back a year later and be the same. It’s not the same.

Q: There’s so much uncertainty, it had to have been crazy to be depending on him.

Ferentz: In our minds, we were hoping, but it wasn’t written in ink. We tried to recruit hard at that position, and then work with the guys we had here, hoping they’d develop. In Paki’s case, he’s really come along.

Q: I know it’s only one game, but you’ve got to be excited with the return game.

Ferentz: Yeah, the kicking game was pleasing, that was really good. I don’t think we blew anything? It was good to have Andy Brodell back there, that was a positive. He’s proven he can do the job. I think Colin Sandeman can too. We’re hoping to get the kickoff return thing improved. That was really disappointing last year, we just dropped off the table, we quit catching the ball down there. I think core-wise and specialist wise, we have a chance to be OK on special teams. We need to be if we’re going to have a good season.

Q: How long can you play two quarterbacks and keep both of them happy, the continuity?

Ferentz: I worry about keeping me happy. I’m not worried about keeping anyone else happy. I’ll quote my friend Al Sorento, a concrete worker when I worked for Shield’s construction company. I can’t tell you the whole story, it’s not appropriate, but the gist of it was that he was worried about keeping him happy. It’s all about competition, every position's about competition. Jobs get decided on the field, hopefully that’s the way it works, and you go from there. The sooner the better, but we have to do what’s right, we’ll play a day at a time.

Q: Right now, in your mind, is more or less clear?

Ferentz: To me, it seemed about the same, based on what I saw today. They were doing some things that inhibited what we could do, they were coming at us pretty hard.

Q: Is it just not turning the ball over? What are you looking for?

Ferentz: Yes, yes, yes. You go down the list. Moving the team is #1, that’s what QBs do.

Q: Can you give us a glimpse of the politics of that decision?

Ferentz: What are the politics?

Q: From outside the program.

Ferentz: Like you think the governor’s going to call? Maybe. That’s one of the great things about college football. I’ve never had a president or an athletic director ask me about who’s playing QB. In the NFL it’s not quite that way, for obvious reasons. We’re going to make the decision on what’s best for the team. It’s like every other decision we make, that’s just how it goes.

Q: How’s the left guard?

Ferentz: I’m anxious to see that one on film. It was pretty even going into today. It was pretty much Eubanks and Vandervelde in the rotation. We’ll see what this looks like.

Q: Were you happy with the tempo that the OL got going?

Ferentz: For the most part. Again, it was disappointing that we had good field position a few times and didn’t come out with anything, that’s disappointing. For the first game, those guys were functioning OK. It didn’t look like we were cutting guys loose. A couple in the running game we missed on, but you didn’t see guys running through there. It’s something to build off of.

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