NW Pregame: Kirk on the Side

Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media on Tuesday after his main press conference. Read what he had to say about the decision to start Stanzi, the Stolar report, rumors of arguments on the sideline and more in this premium transcript.

Q: You seem like you have something you want to get off your chest.

Kirk Ferentz: Nah, not at all. Out of my gut or off my chest?

Q: That’s what I mean.

Ferentz: Nah.

Q: Did Ricky run through a red light at the end of the half?

Ferentz: No. I’ve read that, and no. That’s an interesting topic, too. Upon further review. Did anyone see the review of that one?

Q: I thought maybe you could make an argument that he did get it.

Ferentz: I’m not disputing the call, I thought close calls got reviewed, but the film was interesting there. That’s not what we wanted to do, but that wasn’t the deciding factor.

Q: Did he say anything, after the game? He didn’t seem to have a problem with not playing.

Ferentz: He didn’t say a word to me, and I didn’t ask him.

Q: There was nothing diabolical?

Ferentz: No, absolutely not. Don’t read anything into it. It was my decision to go the course we went.

Q: Does he get a longer leash, now?

Ferentz: I think it’s fair to say that he’s not as experienced of a player. A better way to say is that he’s an inexperienced player. That being said, we all have to realize that there will be a few more peaks and valleys than an experienced player would have.

Q: How have you been splitting reps in practice?

Ferentz: Fairly even. Last year it was a straight rotation.

Q: What kind of affect do you think that’ll have on the timing?

Ferentz: The only upside of doing it that way is that if a guy got hurt, then it’s not as dramatic of a change, but the downside is what you’re alluding to. The starter doesn’t get quite as many reps as he would normally. Although we try to watch that a bit. That’s the advantage of, at some given point, making a decision. We’ve been trying to get there. I think you’ve got to let things play out, too.

Q: The rotation then, you think, might show up in that lack of timing?

Ferentz: It’s a possibility. It could be a factor. I would also argue, too, that we should be able to operate with whoever’s in there, that’s part of the challenge of football. I wouldn’t say it’s a huge factor, but it’s part of the equation.

Q: Are you ready to take some lumps with an inexperienced quarterback?

Ferentz: I hope we don’t, but it’s any young player that’s in there. I think you have to understand that we went through some with Nate Kaeding, you go through them with everybody. When Bob Sanders first went in, we could only play one coverage, but we made the decision that was worth the tradeoff. It evolved. That’s part of the deal. Any time you put a player in that hasn’t played a lot, that’s going to be part of the equation.

Q: The things you’re looking at that you’re not willing to talk about, is it statistical? Is it obvious to people watching it?

Ferentz: The statistics got hashed around pretty well, that’s obvious, but at every position, there are a lot of things. There are certain things that don’t need to be talked about with everybody. It’s not like there’s some diabolical or ‘something going on’ or ‘gurgling’, nothing like that at all. I don’t feel like I need to share everything I think to everybody at all times.

Q: TV Cameras showed Ken appearing to get upset.

Ferentz: When?

Q: The last play of the half.

Ferentz: Oh yeah. Believe me, none of us were happy about that play. In our opinion, it was a dumb play, but it happened. That had nothing to do with my decision in the second half. Nothing at all. I can tell you that. It was my decision. If it did, I’d tell you, believe me.

Q: Did you want to run the clock out?

Ferentz: Yeah. One punt block is enough in a half. That was the plan. That being said, I understood why it didn’t. It’s a teaching experience.

Q: The play that was called was run?

Ferentz: Our preference was to run the ball at that point, but we were in a two-minute deal. We were trying to get him to run the play, get the hell out of here, and go from there. Again, that’s an example of some of the things that are going to happen with a younger guy. That’s not life or death.

Q: Did you make your decision after talking to both guys at halftime?

Ferentz: I didn’t talk to both guys, no. I could have changed my mind anywhere during the second half, I just chose not to. I’ll say this. My spirits were dampened when we got the ball on the one, but I had every confidence we were going to win the football game, that was my feeling during the game.

Q: What did Jake show you in the first half to warrant the start in the second half?

Ferentz: It wasn’t so much what he’s shown in the first half, but what he’s shown in a couple years, I guess.

Q: Well, what has he shown in a couple years?

Ferentz: His body of work gave me the confidence that he was the best guy to lead our team at that point. I’ll give you that answer.

Q: Does Ricky get a lot more reps in practice now than he has been?

Ferentz: He’ll flip into the starter’s rotation. Jake will still work, he’ll be ready, but our plan is to start Rick.

Q: 50/50?

Ferentz: No. It won’t be 50/50. It wasn’t last week. Whoever’s starting will still have it tilted his direction for more reps.

Q: Where is the competition at, is it more clear than it was at the beginning of the year?

Ferentz: We have one more game of evidence to add. I wouldn’t say it’s crystal clear now, no.

Q: I think people assume now that Stanzi goes in, that he’s ‘the guy’ going forward.

Ferentz: We’ll see how things progress, we’ll see how things progress.

Q: Who is #3?

Ferentz: (Laughs) We’re trying to get through 1 and 2 right now, ok? If we were playing, the 4th quarter on Saturday, it would have been Marvin McNutt, he was the only guy on the trip, he’s the #3 guy.

Q: Do you understand the….

Ferentz: Sure. (Laughs) Sure…

Q: Outrage? That’s a bad word. People look at the statistics, us included…

Ferentz: There are not guarantees. Nobody can give me statistical information that would have made a difference. We don’t’ know that, we’ll never know that, unfortunately. If we had converted some of the things I mentioned earlier, it wouldn’t be a discussion right now. That’s just part of the territory. We haven’t been in this territory for seven or eight years. We’re back there now, and we’ll just see if we can get through it.

Q: Can I ask about tight ends?

Ferentz: If you want to. I understand people have opinions, that’s part of the deal.

Q: Are you using more two-tight end sets?

Ferentz: I don’t think our proportions have changed, necessarily. As Tony’s health becomes better, we’d be foolish not to. Not that I’m not sincere about everything I say, but Brandon Myers is a quality Big Ten tight end, we have a very good player there. He wasn’t at the beginning of the year last year, but he was by the end. He really established himself. Tony clearly is a very good player. That gives us two guys. You decide which 11 you want on the field, to have both on the bench, there are times where it’ll happen, but they’re good players, so we need to keep them involved. It doesn’t hurt to have those guys rotating either, they get worn out sometimes. They’re both prominent in our thoughts. Reisner’s not far off that track, he’s one of our more improved players. We have a good situation there when they’re healthy. We didn’t have that situation the first three ball games.

Q: Is Paul Chaney healthy right now?

Ferentz: Yeah, he is.

Q: He’s dropped out of the rotation.

Ferentz: We’re hoping he’ll emerge. That would help us.

Q: Will Paki be healthy enough to play on Saturday?

Ferentz: That’s a jump ball right now. We’ll see how it goes this week. I’m not overly optimistic. If Paki’s not there, then Jewel will be #2.

Q: One thing I’ve heard since the game, some wondered if the receivers aren’t getting separation. Is that a fair assessment?

Ferentz: Yeah, we didn’t have a lot of guys wide open the other day, but we had some open receivers. The only thing I would say there is that last weekend, from here on in, the windows are tighter, because the games are going to be more competitive.

Q: Why did wins against Northwestern stop being a gimme for Iowa?

Ferentz: I feel like we’re back in ISU week. Let me think about that. Clearly, that’s been a signature, a target game, or a landmark game for their program, just reading Pat’s comments. I did read Gary Barnett’s book years ago, but I remember a story told there. I think he took offense to something Coach said. I know both parties, and I’ll tell you Coach Fry didn’t mean it that way. When you’re building a program, you take things to use them however you can. They’ve done a good job. They spanked us two years ago, right in front of our home crowd. I’m not big on booing, but we deserved it that day, I understood it.

Q: Regardless of the QB at the next to last series against Pitt, do you think running the ball may have been more effective?

Ferentz: You can go back and look at that one and say that maybe we should have.

Q: Was Shonn Greene maybe tired at that point?

Ferentz: That wasn’t a factor, I don’t think that was the deal.

Q: What was the factor, then?

Ferentz: We just chose to go the other direction. We had two choices, run or pass, and we chose pass. Hindsight’s always pretty good.

Q: Some of the things you see from Jake after 15 starts, how does a quarterback evolve past this point in their career? Is he what he is?

Ferentz: Players all evolve at different rates. Not to jump positions, but Jay Norvell was one of the most inspirational players on our team in 1985. Nobody wanted him on our team. He played DB, TE, LB, and nobody wanted him. He ended up being an all-conference strong safety in his fifth year. I had three linemen in the 80s who had NFL careers who didn’t start until their fifth year.

Q: You’re not saying Jake could be a SS.

Ferentz: Players change, they improve, if they have good attitudes and word hard. Some don’t, that’s the reality, too.

Q: Do you have any comments on the Stolar report?

Ferentz: Probably Gary’s already covered it from the athletic standpoint.

Q: What about a personal standpoint?

Ferentz: I’d say Gary covered the waterfront there. I may have something to say at a more appropriate time, but I’ll let our administration handle that one.

Q: Talk about the offensive line, specifically a few players, Bryan Bulaga, where is he last year versus where he is now.

Ferentz: Last year he was in and out of the lineup. This was one of his worst games. He really struggled in this ballgame. This is a guy who was playing as a true freshman where it doesn’t happen often. I admire what he did. He’s got a year of experience, he’s playing a new position, he’s learning every week. Nobody works harder or is more coachable that him, on our team. He’s a tremendous young person, and he’s improving weekly. That’s what we look for from everybody. I think his future here is really good. He’s the kind of football player we love having on our team.

Q: Bruggeman, for instance.

Ferentz: I have to keep reminding myself that it’s his first year. He told us after the first game, it was his first game, but I think of him as a three-year starter, that’s just how we think of him. He’s a highly-respected guy. He’s been down a tough road, I think players respect that. He’s playing very well. He’s not a man of many words, he doesn’t say a lot, but he’s there every day, working hard, and he’s really playing well.

Q: What do you think of the conference scheduling, teams dropping off the schedules?

Ferentz: I don’t have a big opinion about that. I really don’t. Only because my entire 19-year experience, that’s been how it’s always been. It used to be a one-game rotation, now it’s two. It’s a roll of the dice. There’s no sense worrying about it. I do know this, it was good, my first couple years, we missed Brees and we missed Henson. Not that it mattered, everyone was beating us anyway. It might have been fun to watch them in person, actually. I saw enough on film, it wouldn’t have been good.

Q: Is this the year of the running back in the Big Ten?

Ferentz: I haven’t thought that far out, but in one of the papers, had a picture of Shonn and Ringer, both wearing 23 in similar poses. I picked up on him, this Sutton guy, and it looks like Penn State has a couple guys running for miles right now. I’m sure I haven’t really thought much about the other teams. Possibly. There’s a guy in Wisconsin that’s pretty good too.

Q: Do you pick up on guys, like Hardy last year, you knew he had incredible stats, Sutton is in that same realm.

Ferentz: Yeah. They’re tough players to defend. Hardy got drafted in the second round. With a couple variables changing, he’s a first round. There’s a reason why he was second, but he’s a first-round player. Sutton’s a heck of a football player. Amazingly, he was like that when he walked in there. I remember seeing him as a freshman and thinking, “Whoa, where did this guy come from?” Kind of like a Bob Sanders of running backs, in some ways. He looks pretty good to me.

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