ISU Week: Kirk on the Side

As he prepares for his second match-up against Gene Chizik, Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media following his main press conference. Read what he had to say about the rivalry, Rick Stanzi, true freshmen and more in this premium On The Side transcript.

Q: What do you know of the Chizik defense?

Kirk Ferentz: It’s like any good defense. There’s a system, there’s a rhyme and reason to everything they do. They create problems for you in your planning. Iowa State certainly does that.

Q: Are teams with head coaches who are based in defense, are they usually better on defense?

Ferentz: I don’t know. You would think so. I’m thinking of an example where it went the other way, an offensive guy where the offense wasn’t going well. I can think of two right now that contradict, one’s an offensive guy, one’s a defense, pro head coaches. It’s gone the other direction, they haven’t been able to stop anybody on one hand, then the other guy couldn’t score. I think it’s not uncommon to expect that.

Q: Iowa has had trouble stopping shifty quarterbacks in the past, why is that?

Ferentz: Good quarterbacks are good quarterbacks. You could also argue we’ve had our hard times against guys who could really throw it. If you’ve got an NFL quarterback that can fire the ball around, that’s a tough challenge. Conversely, a guy that can run it, Seneca Wallace is an exception, he’s an NFL quarterback. He had an NFL arm, but he was such a great athlete. It’s another back in the backfield, really. When you get guys like that, Randle El was an NFL player, but not an NFL quarterback, those guys are tough to defend.

Q: Is Bates Seneca Wallace-like, in your eyes?

Ferentz: Time will tell. Wallace was such a dangerous player. The play that’s etched in my memory forever is the throw he made from where our old locker room was, across the hash. I don’t’ know how far the throw was, 3rd and 18, if you can figure out a way to defend that play…. When you face guys like that that have the best of both, it’s a challenge. It presents a problem.

Q: You guys have dug yourselves a pretty big hole the last three years in this game, anything you can pinpoint?

Ferentz: No. Did we dig a big hole in 2006?

Q: You were down 14 or 10…

Ferentz: Yeah, you’re right, that’s big enough. The ones we lost, we certainly didn’t help our cause, but you have to give the other team credit, too, for that. They forced us into mistakes. The interception, then Drew getting knocked out, I remember that play visibly. It all started trying to force a pass where it shouldn’t go. I don’t know if we’ve pressed too hard or what. You have to give your opponent a lot of credit.

Q: Do you feel like you’ve been ready to go in those situations?

Ferentz: Yeah, I think so. Maybe in 2005 we were pressing too hard, I don’t know. We turned it over a couple times, that didn’t help the cause. We started out OK in that ball game, as you recall. Took it right to midfield, then put the ball on the ground. When you turn it over, that’s not a good thing, especially in a big series like this. I think we’ve been ready to go. I don’t’ know if it’s been too much, but we’ll have to find that right level, that’s for sure.

Q: With Rick at QB, how do you make it so he’s not looking over his shoulder?

Ferentz: To me, whoever’s out there, it’s easy for me to say, “Don’t look over your shoulder,” but whoever’s out there has to worry about playing. We’ll handle the substitutions, they just have to worry about playing.

Q: You’re favored by 13.5

Ferentz: This week? Oh great, wonderful. What was it last year?

Q: Similar.

Ferentz: Great.

Q: How do you explain that?

Ferentz: Delusional people. You bring that up, I just stumbled across an article from last year, going through my files, it listed the point spreads from the last however many years ,you guys saw it last year, but point spreads don’t mean anything in this series. We’ve proven that. We’ve proven that. I’m not telling anybody how to bet, but, you know….

Q: Do you worry about that playing into ISU’s hands, as it has in the past?

Ferentz: I’m sure it doesn’t hurt their cause, but I don’t know how we could be favored against anybody right now. By teens, anyway. Home field’s not work 13, is it?

Q: 3.

Ferentz: OK… We do have a nice stadium, you know?

Q: You’re getting votes in the coaches poll.

Ferentz: For what? You know how I feel about polls in September.

Q: Can you talk about the recruitment of Stanzi, how you found him?

Ferentz: He’s like a lot of guys. I’ll throw a ballpark figure, I’d say about half the guys we’ve signed in recent years are guys that didn’t get offers… that’s a novel concept, waiting until they play football as a senior. It’s something we’re working on, a new approach. He was a guy we had some interest in, then as his season went on, he kept getting better and better, the team played well, that’s something you like to see. A high school QB be on a team that’s winning a lot of games. Those things went hand-in-hand. It was in November when we made our mind up that he’s a guy we wanted to offer, don’t quote me on that, but I think that’s when it was. He fits in that category there. He wasn’t the kind of player that your sister would say, in his junior year, “hey, he’s a good guy.” He was not a USC offer.

Q: He was a late offer.

Ferentz: Yeah, for us he was. Fall, thanksgiving. November, somewhere in there. I think it was us and Miami (Ohio).

Q: Did Purdue offer him?

Ferentz: I don’t think they did. I might be wrong. Quarterbacks usually don't get as many offers, because you can only have one.

Q: Was he one of those guys weighing about 180 pounds when you got him?

Ferentz: A lean guy. There was a guy out there last year in Ohio, he ended up going to a MAC school that we were real interested in, then things worked out differently here. There’s usually a few interesting prospects out there, some hit, some don’t. That’s probably why the MAC has had as good quarterbacks as any in the country. Probably the best in the last 10 years.

Q: How do you recruit quarterbacks?

Ferentz: You get the category of guys that everybody offers. I don’t’ know the percentage on those guys hitting is, but it’s not 100%, that’s for sure. It’s the Ryan Leaf/Peyton Manning deal. A lot of those guys hit, a lot of them don’t. After that, you look at guys. Ken’s the ultimate authority, then usually I’ll give a yea or nay after those guys make decisions.

Q: Do you see film?

Ferentz: Typically, yeah.

Q: Do you see them live?

Ferentz: In a perfect world, you like to see them live. In a real perfect world, you’d like to meet them. That doesn’t always happen.

Q: Stanzi, you met him?

Ferentz: We offered him before that. Ken had been through the school, so we had some idea of what he was about. Quarterbacks are different, we’ve thrown some shots out to people in far-lying areas. Banks, we didn’t meet Banks until he came in. Ron met him when he was down there, but we took him off of film because we thought he was a good player.

Q: That year, Arvell was in there, too, right?

Ferentz: Yeah. They were the same year, exactly. He had been to camp.

Q: How do you handle that, when you get two guys that are about 20 miles away from each other?

Ferentz: It doesn’t matter if they’re 20 or 200 miles, it comes down to the players. Are they willing to entertain offers? If guys aren’t worried about competition. You look at James and John last year, both guys knew about each other, and they were willing to give it a shot.

Q: With QB, there’s a lot of stage-parenting going on. You have to admire a kid when he does commit in the face of competition.

Ferentz: I’ve never coached basketball, but my guess is it’s probably like recruiting a point guard in basketball. There’s only one point guard, you have to recruit more than one of them.

Q: That way, you liked Tate.

Ferentz: He wasn’t afraid.

Q: Has Stanzi’s father coached?

Ferentz: Not that I know of, no.

Q: Last year you guys were out looking at indoor facilities, what does the bubble do, what can you and can’t you do in there?

Ferentz: It’s, to me, totally functional. Occasionally, if you’ve got a good punter, he’ll hit the ceiling. The biggest restriction is how we film. That’s the biggest challenge. It’s also a challenge when we’re practicing two teams, offensive team and defensive team at the same time. In-season it’s a challenge, but for bowl prep, it’s functional because we just practice against each other in the early stage of bowl prep. In camp, if we have to go in there during a thunderstorm, same thing. It’s just not a state of the art thing, but it’s functional for what we use it for.

Q: Do you need a new one?

Ferentz: It’s on my list. I don’t think it’s a hot-list item. It’d be nice to have one, but what we have is workable and functional, I’ve always been more into practicality. There are other things we need more than that, that we’d benefit from. That’s our focus. Down the road… It’s not going to be there forever, something’s going to happen there.

Q: You talked about when you were with Hayden, what was his stance on true freshmen?

Ferentz: We were more apt to redshirt back in the 80s, but the difference is, the scholarship numbers have changed. We were at 105, 95, now 85. It’s really changed the landscape. Unless you want to have started on every special team, the sheer numbers of the game have changed things.

Q: Have you paid attention Big Ten wise, what they’re doing?

Ferentz: Not really. I’m not in tune, not recently at least. I’ll go on record as saying this, if I were the king of the world, the commissioner of college football, freshmen would be ineligible. I think that was the best thing in the world, for a lot of reasons. Give them a year to not go to school, not talk to the media, just get their lives, get a foundation. That’s not the society we live in any more. It goes directly against Title IX issues and all that. It’s never going to happen, but that’s my fantasy football world, if we want what’s best for our student athletes, that’s the best thing.

Q: Leaving after the junior year, does that have any impact as to why you’d want to play a freshman?

Ferentz: If I were coaching at USC or Ohio State, then yeah. We haven’t been impacted too much by that. The only guy we’ve had come out “early” was Dallas, but he was still a fifth-year guy because of the shoulder injury. It was his fifth fall in camp, he had one left. I totally understood his reason for leaving. We haven’t had many players in the neighborhood. Most guys that leave are a bit misguided.

Q: Fred could have had another year too.

Ferentz: Fred could have gone. Gallery could have bolted, Gallery would have been a first-rounder. He wouldn’t have been the second pick, but a first rounder. I think he had his sights on some other things. It paid off for him.

Q: What is that Sunday film like, last year, after a loss in this game?

Ferentz: It stinks. Any time you lose, films stink. They stink when you win, too, but they don’t feel as bad.

Q: Is it a little different?

Ferentz: We live in Iowa. I don’t want to speak for the folks on that side of the fence, but this is where we live. Bear Bryant had a quote about kids having to go back and answer questions when they visit the drug store. Times have changed, nobody goes to the drug store anymore, but that quote says it all. The thing that’s changed, no matter where they went to high school, they live in Iowa 10 months of the year. They’re here in the summer, just like their guys. If you win, it’s a big thing. That’s what makes the game so good.

Q: Walden said that in Ames, he was 0-8, he said people were supportive and a little sympathetic. Are they sympathetic the Monday after an ISU game?

Ferentz: I haven’t experienced that sensation, no. Starting at home. I haven’t experienced that, I’ll have to talk to Jim about that.

Q: Does that also further the perception that Iowa is supposed to win the game?

Ferentz: I think when Jim was there, that was fair. The state of the program really went down and I think you have to give credit, certainly Gene and his staff did a great job last year, doing a great job, but the whole turning point in this thing, two turning points, 1983, we ended up nailing them pretty good up there, then, for whatever reason, it went one direction. The huge turning point in this thing was 1998, I do stand corrected, as 28 point underdogs. I remember on the tape, punt being dropped inside the 10, they recovered it, went in, game over. It was a romp. Since that time, it hasn’t been a series, it’s been one-sided the other direction, unfortunately.

Q: It’s perception though. When Iowa had that run, it’s tough to get that out of people’s minds.

Ferentz: We were pretty good in the 50s, too.

Q: A lot of Iowa fans thing Saturday’s game is going to be a rout.

Ferentz: All you have to do is look at the records. Hey, we’ve won 3 of out 5, and we’ve won 3 out of 9 since I’ve been here, dismiss the first two, they were favored and they should have been. In the 7 years we’ve been a competitive team, we’re 3-4. We were pretty good in 2002, and came up short in that one. Bottom line, the old clichés are usually true. Throw the record books out. This game, the last 10 years, everyone has an even chance to win the thing.

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