UW Pregame: Kirk on the Side

Kirk Ferentz talked for over 20 minutes with the media following his main press conference on Tuesday. Read what he had to say about his offense, recruiting, Shonn Greene, Matt Kroul, Mitch King and much more in this 3,000-word, super-size edition of Kirk on the Side transcript.

Q: Is it the same coaching going into a bye week?

Kirk Ferentz: It’s not a big ten game. We’ll coach different next week, I’ll tell you that.

Q: From the recliner?

Ferentz: It’ll be a little different.

Q: Can you talk a bit about the play action pass?

Ferentz: We can always do better. One helps the other, but if your run attack is a bit more effective, if people are honoring the run, it gives you a better chance to throw the ball, and you can do it effectively.

Q: How has Ricky done?

Ferentz: Some good, some bad, but overall, pretty well.

Q: Are you worried about going to the well a few too many times?

Ferentz: There are all different forms, but for instance, I think you’re thinking of the play where we came to the right and left the end unblocked. On that play, you’re banking n him taking the cheese, and Rick made a nice adjustment to keep the play alive. That’s a part of playing QB. There are different ways of protecting and not protecting, it’s a matter of what you choose to use. You get an extra receiver if you don’t protect him.

Q: You’re not totally using the bootleg, too. You’ll maybe just run him as far as the tight end.

Ferentz: We pulled our guards 4 years ago, with Tate, that was the year we couldn’t run the ball. We’re not quite into that package, but it might pop up somewhere in the next month.

Q: Are you getting what you want out of it?

Ferentz: For the most part. Things are working fairly well together, we’re not as proficient as you’d like to be, but we’re working fairly well. One thing’s for sure, they’re honoring Shonn. We’re not having problems selling that.

Q: That was a pass play with one or two options.

Ferentz: Sometimes three. Sometimes there are more than that. There’s risk/reward there. The more receivers you get out, the more risk.

Q: Speaking of receivers, do you need to find a couple more? Is Andy OK? The TE as well.

Ferentz: I’ll never object to spreading the ball around, but a lot of that’s dictated by the gameplan and what the defense allows you to do. It’ll come in cycles, spurts. You’d like to get everybody involved, a little bit at least.

Q: You changed Andy’s position when you got him.

Ferentz: He was a RB, we thought he’d be a receiver/safety, that’s how we projected him. Perhaps a free safety. We looked at Hinkel the same way. He was a safety for us until all the receivers got hurt one day, and we threw him over there one day, and he never left. After watching Andy a bit, we thought that’d be his best spot, he’s obviously a fast guy. He’s really developed good hands, but you have to learn to run routes and things of that nature. That’s what Marvin’s going through, not saying they’re the same guy, it’s a real learning process, but Andy’s gone a good job with it.

Q: When he got hurt, it was right in front of the bench, close to where you were?

Ferentz: It was totally undramatic, it was like a sniper got him. There was nothing. The guy from Wisconsin, Swann, that was an ugly play. You could see his and say, “oof.” With Andy, it was, “What happened?”

Q: Is he eligible for a medical year?

Ferentz: No, I don’t’ think so, he’s the same situation as Rob.

Q: It seems like Ricky gets out to a slower start.

Ferentz: That’s fair, you talking about last Saturday? I noticed, you noticed?

Q: Can you relax him a bit?

Ferentz: We can slip something in his Gatorade. I don’t know. I think they call that experience.

Q: He seems to relax as the game goes on.

Ferentz: To his credit, he responded, but he got off to a curious start the other day.

Q: Is too much being made of Wisconsin being 0-3?

Ferentz: They’re a good football team. There’s a reason they were picked second in the conference back in August, in Chicago. They’ve got a lot of good players. The Michigan game was crazy, they played the heck out of Ohio State who’s probably going to be, if they don’t finish first, they’ll be right in the contest. It was a 59-minute game there. Penn State, we’ve been in games like that. We won the championship in 2004, we were in the same kind of game at Arizona State. Ours was uglier, a lot uglier. At least Wisconsin was playing, we didn’t play at all. Those things happen. It’s a good, veteran team, just caught them at the wrong time.

Q: Would you agree that you’ve won the line of scrimmage in every game you’ve played?

Ferentz: We’ve done OK. We’re doing better than last year, that’s for sure, up front.

Q: They base everything on winning the line of scrimmage.

Ferentz: I’m one of those dinosaurs that certainly thinks it helps if your line plays well on both sides of the ball. I think they’re built the same way. It’s usually important in most games. Not all, but most.

Q: Has Jon Clay turned into what you guys thought he would be?

Ferentz: Maybe more. He really looks good. We thought he was an excellent player. He was a delightful guy. I’m really impressed with he and his family. They’re good people, and we would have loved to have him in our program. We thought he was going to be an excellent football player and it sure looks like he’s off to a great start.

Q: Did some of the other guys develop like you thought they would?

Ferentz: You win some, you lose some.

Q: Can you talk about Seth for a bit? Someone called him the spirit of the team. Talk about how he is off the field, around the players.

Ferentz: Seth’s unique in that he’s about as veteran a guy as we have on the offensive side of the ball. Even as a freshman, he ran with the 2s, getting a lot of work. It seems like he’s been around a long time, and he has been. He’s a little different in that he’s like Matt Kroul plus. He’s the only married guy we have on the team. He’s a very mature guy, very business-like. I wouldn’t call him animated, but he’s been a great team member. If you’re going to draw a defensive comparison, I’d link him with Matt Kroul. He’s been here, steady, does a great job. So dependable.

Q: He said his faith is a big part of his life. Do you notice that?

Ferentz: It’s fair to say. We have some guys that are involved with Athletes in Action, it’s strictly optional. To each his own. We do have a significant population that is involved in it. Seth would be this year’s, I guess, unofficial leader of the group as far as linking in with that group.

Q: Did you go to his wedding?

Ferentz: I wasn’t able to. I was in Louisiana, unfortunately. He couldn’t go to Louisiana because he was getting married, that’s a lame excuse.

Q: How does a guy like Shonn get away? What steps do you take to find out what happened?

Ferentz: It was pretty easy. Shonn would be the first to tell you, he dropped the ball. It wasn’t a matter of capability, which it usually isn’t. I’ve been at this institution, my 19th year here, and I’ve seen very few players that weren’t capable of graduating here. One of our most prominent players of this 9-10 year period, one of our most prominent players, nobody had to work harder than him to get his degree, but he got it. I’m really proud of what he did. My point is that typically, it’ll be this way 30 years from now, 50 years ago, typically, guys that don’t’ do well in school, don’t go to class, they drop the ball that way, or let their work build up. Things that young people do, things that I did. I did go to class, I didn’t always keep up with my work. Shonn would be the first to tell you he just dropped the ball.

Q: You know he was working, you know he was trying to get back, it’s not like you were banking on him…

Ferentz: We were, a little bit. I didn’t talk to Shonn much during that whole period. We had Albert Young, who was his roommate. That was as good as talking to Shonn. Everything was coming back positive, that was his goal, he was focused on that. I’ve never had any reason not to believe Shonn. His actions are more important. He was aware of what he had to do and he was taking care of business.

Q: With how well he’s been since he’s been back, how would he stack up against some past backs Iowa’s had?

Ferentz: It’s hard to compare, but we’ve had excellent backs. First was Ladell Betts, I’m still trying to figure out how he had the average per carry that he had, given the circumstances. Fred Russell, a great run there, and we’ve had some other guys doing very well. Certainly Albert, he was the leading rusher in the Big Ten in 2005, you don’t fall into that. That’s including Maroney and Barber. We’ve had some guys and Shonn’s a different style player, but I’d compare him to anybody at any position that’s played here. He’s really performing, through seven games, at a very high level. He brings something besides yardage. He brings personality to the team, and that’s what good players do.

Q: What does it say about him as a player that he would be the fastest to the 1,000 yard mark since you’ve been coaching, if he were to get it this weekend?

Ferentz: It wouldn’t surprise men. Anything with Shonn wouldn’t surprise me, just because of what I’ve seen 7 games into it. When he’s got the ball, he’s running, all business.

Q: He brings personality, how would you define it?

Ferentz: It’s not always “let’s go get em.” It’s just how you play, the intensity you play with. Good players do that. We’ve talked about a lot of guys. King, Kroul, Clark, Sanders, name it. Banks was a smile, he never said anything. Some guys affect their teammates, and that’s what good players do. Shonn’s in that category.

Q: What does it say about a guy who left school twice, Milford, then Kirkwood. There must be some tie here. A girlfriend? What was it that kept him coming back?

Ferentz: I don’t know.

Q: In your opinion.

Ferentz: I think he’s comfortable with his teammates, the program, he’s always liked it here, the family’s always liked it here. I think he wanted to finish up here. That’s important to him, to finish.

Q: James Vandenberg traveled this weekend. How are he and Jon Wienke doing?

Ferentz: They’re both delightful kids. I think they’re both doing well. I know that.

Q: Are the rest of that group that’s redshirting making the progress you thought they would?

Ferentz: They’re working. Our focus right now is moreso on the team that’s getting ready to play Saturday, but we do some work with those guys. Next week will be a bit like spring ball, watch those guys, see where they’re at.

Q: Is it an important week for you guys?

Ferentz: It’s great. I love bye weeks. I wish we had three of them, I really do. If we could have three, 12 weeks, and still play 12 games, it’s probably mathematically impossible, but maybe that Big Ten computer can figure it out. The one that keeps having us open on the road. Not this year, but that didn’t work so well. I think it does next year.

Q: Probably at OSU or Michigan.

Ferentz: Probably, just to get warmed up.

Q: Is this week the biggest challenge to win the line of scrimmage, Wisconsin, because they put so much emphasis on this also?

Ferentz: It’s a similar match-up to Michigan State in a lot of ways. Their styles are a little different in terms of some of things they do, moreso defensively. They’re a physical group. It’s another big challenge. They’re not a spread offense. We’re trying to work more of that into our repertoire.

Q: Is there a subliminal message when you said spread the ball around?

Ferentz: We could get a consultant from down south to come visit us. I heard there was one available.

Q: Do you think the spread is here to stay, or is it like the run-and-shoot, wishbone?

Ferentz: I don’t know. The 46? The 3-4? Things come and go. I don’t know, we’ll see.

Q: What you guys do fits where you can recruit.

Ferentz: If I was at Florida, Southern Cal, I don’t think USC runs the spread, do they? It’s philosophical. NW is a spread, right? We’re right there. Lake Michigan in November? It’s what you believe in, what works for you.

Q: You guys are probably able to find a few more Krouls and Olsens than Kellen Lewises and Juice Williamses.

Ferentz: Kellen Lewis isn’t from Indiana. If he’s going to come play at Indiana, he might as well go to Iowa. We’d take him. We’d play in our Neanderthal offense with him. With all respect to Rick and Jake, we’re not bumping them off the boat, but we’ll play with anybody if they’re a good player. They still have to play for the Neanderthal, Cromagnum man. Bam Bam. Pebbles, all that.

Q: You said you look for a few things, guys like Kroul and King, tree trunks for legs helps.

Ferentz: Both those guys were 225 in high school.

Q: There’s nothing physically you look for?

Ferentz: It really gets back to recruiting. Good players are good players, you recruit good players and good people. You figure out where they belong. I think that’s our philosophy. You get a lot of good stories. The common denominator is that they have the intangibles. Certainly they’ve got to have some requisite skills, too. You look at a guy like Brugge, and I can’t remember who else recruited Matt Kroul. I don’t worry about those things. I think Iowa State recruited Mitch. I don’t think Matt, but he committed early. Our mind was made up. We had a lot of guys like that. What made Brad Banks good? We just thought he was good. We were impressed with him and got lucky. Sometimes you get luckier than others.

Q: There’s nothing physically you look for?

Ferentz: We project, I guess. We’re in the business of projecting. Projections work sometimes, they don’t others. We have to be in the projection business, because the guys my sister could tell you are good don’t always put their hand up and say they want to come here. We’ve got to keep looking for other ideas and other ways to get the puzzle solved.

Q: You’re not going to tell me what you’re looking for.

Ferentz: You can figure that out.

Q: I think I know, but… farm guys. Luebke was built like those two.

Ferentz: He was an interesting story, a walk-on. A better swimmer than a football player. Mitch was a swimmer, too. That’s atypical, but he competed, that’s a good thing. He’s a competitor, that’s good.

Q: Aside from Greving, have you had anybody leave mid-season?

Ferentz: Probably not.

Q: That was before the first game., when he found out he wasn’t starting.

Ferentz: Speaking of soap operas, that was one of the bigger ones in my time. Probably top 5.

Q: Where were your philosophies on offensive football shaped?

Ferentz: Just how I was raised. Every experience I’ve had has helped shape my ideas. I was raised a line coach, that’s part of it. In the NFL, I was always curious about what they good teams were doing. The teams that were successful and consistently winning. That’s a big part of it.

Q: Do you ever wonder if with so many high schools going to the spread, is it harder to recruit, in some ways?

Ferentz: I think you get back to projecting. I think you get back to projecting. The fullback discussion we had a week ago is a good illustration. Not many people end up with fullbacks in high school or college anymore. That’s just how it goes.

Q: We were talking to DiNardo before the season, talking about the spread. If you went to the spread, you’d have to do more than go into the spread, you’d have to get new coaches, too. He brought that up. Not exactly every coach can coach the spread. More to it than just lining up 5-wide.

Ferentz: It depends on what you define as the spread. People have gone out and studied. We had a rapid departure from our offense back in 81, Coach Fry put some option stuff in for Pete Gales. I’m not sure where he got the information, but he kind of shared it with us and we made it work. It’s been done before. I remember reading about Bear Bryant taking a trip out to Texas when they put the wishbone in. They played Scott Hunter, throwing it then upset USC with the wishbone, they had no idea it was coming. Those days are gone, with the internet. He and his staff went out.

Q: Do you guys go places?

Ferentz: We visit with people, we bring people in. The good thing about video is that you can watch video anytime, anywhere now. We have access to any video we want. There are all kinds of ways to learn. Going back to my point earlier. One of the biggest enemies we all have is time. The thing we never get to spend enough time on is just football. Any of our coaches, recruiting, watching our players, things like that. Recruiting has changed everything so dramatically. It’s made college coaching a lot different, in my opinion. It never ends.


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