FIU Week: Kirk on the Side

Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media on Tuesday, as his team prepares for Florida International this weekend. Read what he had to say about his team, his quarterbacks, kickers, drops, and more in this premium transcript on

Q: Have you had a chance to speak with Coach Thomas at A-P?

Kirk Ferentz: Not since the summer. I meant to call him last week before their first game, but I will try to get him this week. I’m just glad we’re not playing them up there.

Q: You guys went up there this summer, what was that like?

Ferentz: Really eye-opening and sobering. It was one thing, I’ve said this before, it was one thing to see it on TV, read the papers, but when you actually witness it, literally it was unbelievable. Very, very tough that way. The thing that jumped out was the spirit of everyone up there, outstanding, absolutely outstanding. It’s going to be a long road for them, it was really devastating. Unlike the floods, you’re talking about the loss of human life, too. That’s a tough one.

Q: How did you select Andy Brodell to be your punt returner?

Ferentz: He did a great job prior to his injury, on a couple instances. He’s the guy, in our mind, that we have the most trust in back there, the most faith. He does a good job fielding the ball, making good decisions, he really has a good knack of making those yards. A lot of the times he gets more than you think.

Q: I was covering Iowa State when he was a freshman, did you see that in him then?

Ferentz: He’s done pretty well all the way through, he really has. Sandeman’s good at it too, but out of all the guys we’ve had…. Hinkel was pretty adept at it. It all starts with fielding the ball clean. Make some good decisions, secure the ball. If he can make yards on top of that, it’s a bonus, but Andy can do it.

Q: Do you like having a receiver back there?

Ferentz: Yeah. A dependable guy. At times, DBs do it, I’ve seen occasionally running backs, but it’s typically guys that have pretty good ball skills.

Q: What’s a successful punt return?

Ferentz: The first thing is ball security, fielding every ball possible, first and foremost. I’ll settle for what Andy did the other day, what was it, 15 a clip? I’ll settle for that. If you’re up over 10, that’s awfully good.

Q: In addition to what Paki does on offense, how important is he on special teams?

Ferentz: He was good on special teams last year, so we really counted on that, expected that. I really think he’s an improved player in the offensive scheme of things. That’s great. He was solid last spring, but I think he just feels more comfortable now, more decisive, and looks a little quicker to me, that’s a good thing. He’s a guy that can do a couple things for us, that helps.

Q: The Kicker scholarship, is that tougher to give?

Ferentz: It’s always a little scary. Every now and then, guys just jump off the landscape at you, but usually, a lot of times, it’s just the other way. The first one for me that was tough was Nate Kaeding. In the 80s, we just didn’t do that, we didn’t think about it.

Q: Was he the first you ever did?

Ferentz: Yeah for me, personally. I think Norm said, “Why wouldn’t we? That guy’s a good kicker, why wouldn’t you put him on scholarship?” Good point, Norm. If you know you’ve got one, it makes a lot of sense.

Q: Trent, from Indiana, nowhere. You don’t have a lot of film on him…

Ferentz: He showed up at a camp, that’s what sold us. We ran him through the gamut, this guy looks pretty good. It’s a lot easier if you can see them. It’s a lot better than taking film’s word sometimes.

Q: Do you have kickers in your camp every year?

Ferentz: Usually, yeah.

Q: Speaking of camps, were camps as important back then, as far as recruiting?

Ferentz: Not really. They were more regional back then. Kids didn’t tour camps, they’d come and go all week, camps lasted a whole week back then. Now, it’s the one-day camp phenomenon, that’s the new thing on the second stint for me. It’s not uncommon for them to hit four schools in a row, day-by-day. They probably look fresher and better to the first school than they do the fourth. Those things have changed.

Q: For the better?

Ferentz: No, I don’t think so.

Q: Why?

Ferentz: Just for that reason. I think it puts a lot of pressure on the players, personally. The kids feel pressure.

Q: But you can use it as a tryout.

Ferentz: They come in, “Boy, if I don’t get a scholarship offer today, ‘m a failure.” There are a lot of players right now who aren’t committed to colleges that are pretty good players. A lot of parents and a lot of recruitniks think that these kids are miserable failures because they haven’t been offered. Usually about half of our class are people that get offered after our senior season starts. A novel concept, waiting to see what a guy looks like as a senior. A lot of guys improve, it’s kind of like us. Guys look different with each year. High school players, the improvement can be more dramatic. That’s the downside of the early commitments, the downside of making decisions too rashly based on camp performances, all that.

Q: Did the tape show, for Bruggeman, what you thought he’d bring?

Ferentz: He did well, really well. I was a little bit surprised, I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised reading that he was one of the first-time starters, 7 or 8 of them. He was nervous. I guess he should have been, it was his first start. I think of him as a 3-year starter, because of the way he acts and practices. It was really positive for him to get out there and get going.

Q: With the LG position, Eubanks/Vandervelde. What are you looking for in terms of separation?

Ferentz: If one guy separates, it won’t be a race. Right now it’s pretty close. The good news, again, is that both those guys played better Saturday than they had been practicing, that was a positive.

Q: What are you hoping to get out of the OL, in terms of improvement?

Ferentz: First of all, I hope our guys just keep getting better, more detailed, more meticulous. It would be nice if we end up having 7 or 8 guys we can really play in there that can do well. We’re not there yet, but it would be nice.

Q: What kind of challenge was it, up front, with all the stuff they were throwing at you, pass-protection wise?

Ferentz: It was a challenge. The preparation was a challenge, they’re a very active group, that one end, he was running all over the joint. That was a good work day for our guys. The mental and the physical part were both good. It’s a starting point.

Q: What, ultimately, has sold you on Jacody right now at MLB?

Ferentz: He’s doing well, but Pat’s doing a lot of good things, too. We have a pretty good comfort level with both guys right now.

Q: Have you ever had 3 walk-ons from the same school?

Ferentz: Probably not. Emmetsburg has been pretty good, too. Going through a drought there right now. Nelson, Brownlee, and Steen, but they weren’t here at the same time. We didn’t do it purpose, ending up with two captains from Washington out there. That was kind of neat, too. Those three guys, it speaks well of them, their families, their program. They’re all great young guys on top of it, besides being good players.

Q: You guys have played 20 true freshman, in that area, the last two years. A bit of a change in the previous few years, what does that say?

Ferentz: Not necessarily by design, but injuries have facilitated some of that. We haven’t had the biggest senior classes the last two years. That’s part of the equation too. We feel pretty good about all the guys that have played, obviously. I don’t think in too many cases we’ve had to do it grudgingly, holding our breath. Hopefully it’ll pay out a bit, work out for us. Reisner might be an exception to that rule, we didn’t have much choice with him. In retrospect, it ended up being a great thing, he’s a lot further along, the A.J. Edds analogy, that bit of playing they did as freshmen really propelled them forward faster than if we had redshirted them. That’s helped me rethink things a bit, too. A.J.’s example has factored in there a bit with some guys.

Q: Do guys come in more prepared these days?

Ferentz: Yes and no. The biggest exception to the whole rule would have been Bulaga. There aren’t many guys that can walk into anywhere and play as a true freshman as an OL. Not just play, but play well. I go back to the 80s, a couple guys did it at Pitt, that was exceptional. You can’t, just because of the physical nature of the position.

Q: Dace did it too.

Ferentz: Dace did it pretty well. He didn’t start as much as Bryan did, but he was pretty ready to go. That’s been a big loss for us, losing him. That’s a tough one to overcome. I think kids are probably a bit more. Jones did it out of necessity, when Brian got hurt, we shoved him in there. In some cases, I think guys are more prepared. They don’t seem to be overly intimidated by it.

Q: What do you need to see when a kid comes in? Position need is big.

Ferentz: They have to demonstrate that they can handle the volume of work and also the information that they get, handle it well. You can protect guys in certain cases, but at some positions, you can’t protect. You can substitute to protect guys, only in certain groups, etc. There are some positions you just can’t do that.

Q: Was the big thing with that change, 06 and the special teams?

Ferentz: That was part of it. I go back to 2001, that group redshirted. Hinkel, Greenway, Hodge, those guys could have helped our special teams. If a guy’s going to play as a true freshman, a lot of those guys, we’ll get them involved in special teams, just so they’re out on the field, it makes it easier to transition.

Q: How do you feel about this year’s special teams?

Ferentz: We’re off to a good start, a decent start. The best thing I saw on Saturday was the fact that our kickers performed pretty well. That’s a huge step for us. It’s one game. We have a long road to go. It’s a start. We executed fairly well, for a first game. We executed better on special teams than we did offensively or defensively.

Q: Are there areas that you felt were a significant improvement, on special teams?

Ferentz: I think just overall, all of them did a pretty decent job. The punt team didn’t get much work, but the other groups, it was good, a good start.

Q: Is kicker kind of like the QB, you want “one guy”?

Ferentz: You have a possibility at kicker where it’s tough to do with quarterbacks, you can divide labor a bit easier with kickers.

Q: You can’t have a long/short QB?

Ferentz: They might figure it out. Guys are kind of sharp in this league, they might be onto us after a bit.

Q: Do DJK’s drops concern you?

Ferentz: Oh yeah. I’m an anti-drop coach. Drops disturb us. Drops are not good. It’s not like we’ve been racking up enough passing yards to start dropping balls.

Q: Speak of the devil (DJK just walked into the room, asking where media gathering is)

Ferentz: (To Derrell: Derrell, you’re not going to drop the ball this week, right?

DJK: No sir.

Ferentz: We were just talking about that, your timing’s impeccable.

Q: Is there any one thing that you need to see out of the QBs?

Ferentz: Not really. Just take it a day at a time.

Q: Tough day with the NFL cuts. Have you talked to any of those guys?

Ferentz: I saw Albert on the sideline. Quite frankly, I’ve got Monday’s paper behind my desk, I haven’t gone through it yet. It’s that time of year, that’s the NFL. Now the question is what happens in the next couple weeks. A lot o the guys will get re-shuffled. Chris talked to Pete, Pete’s hoping Houston. I just saw they had a guy shot last night, that’d be a tough way to get a spot. The next couple weeks will dictate what happens as far as how that goes. Hopefully they’ll all find a spot.

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