Illinois Week: Kirk on the Side

Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media on Tuesday after his main press conference. Read what he had to say about Pat Angerer, Adrian Clayborn, Seth Olsen, Ron Zook, and more in this premium transcript

Q: You had (Jason ford) a couple times. GO through that…

Kirk Ferentz: I'd rather talk about guys that play for us.

Q: How did he tell you he wasn't coming, and what was your reaction?

Ferentz: I don't really remember the details. That's recruiting nowadays. For the most part, until players are signed, you're never 100% sure what's going to happen. That's just one of those things. He changed his mind.

Q: Is Clayborn back to 100%?

Ferentz: He's doing pretty well. Hopefully we'll get through this week.

Q: What do these guys have to show you, injury-wise?

Ferentz: It's just how effectively can they play? In Seth's case, he's got an ankle, so the job description he has, he has to be able to move heavy objects. Can he do that effectively? In Tony's case it's more of a muscle thing. It's just a matter of we'll keep moving his volume of work up and see how he handles that. I think we're close, but these things are tricky.

Q: Your cornerbacks aren't playing like you just replaced two three-year starters. It's taken a while, but they're to the point where they're playing pretty effective football.

Ferentz: They're going to get a workout this week. They've improved. They've worked hard, improved. Bradley Fletcher's a bit like Rob Bruggeman in that he's a senior, fifth-year senior, so we forget sometimes that he didn't come into this year with an awful lot of starting experience. It's a credit to him, what he's been doing. Certainly Amari's done a lot of good things as well.

Q: Spievey, has he been a surprise? He came in and won the job.

Ferentz: Yes and no. We thought he'd be a contestant, but there were a lot of things we weren't sure about. We were hopefully, but not confident, I guess.

Q: What has their play allowed you to do n defense?

Ferentz: We're still playing like we always do, for the most part. The guys are playing at a high level, and I guess we're doing OK statistically. I swear I haven't looked at those other than what I see about Shonn Greene. We're playing pretty steadily on defense, right now. I think it's a sign that everybody's doing their jobs pretty well.

Q: Is the LB corps, the depth there, with the 3-4, that's allowed you to do that. You have a Tillison who came out of nowhere, Tarpinian, I'm forgetting guys, I know.

Ferentz: We've got guys that have started, Johnson's played some, Coleman, Tarpinian, those three guys give us a pool. It's like in the spring, we knew we didn't have any seniors, and outside of AJ Edds, we didn't have much experience. Those guys had always been pretty even, just pretty curious to see how they would emerge. I guess it gives us a way to keep them all active, play to their strengths a bit.

Q: Talk about Angerer a bit. I remember him in the state championship game… You're finally starting to see that now.

Ferentz: We are. He's really traveled a hard road. Last year was a very frustrating year for him, physically and mentally. Then the reality is that he wasn't starting coming into camp this year. It's just a real credit to Pat. He's worked extremely hard, he had our confidence in the spring based on the way he was practicing. Now that he's had the opportunity he's really taken it, run with it, and played a tremendous game the other day. He's a good poster child on our team. Not the biggest guy, not the fastest guy, but he's a good football player.

Q: You said you worried about him doing the run-stuffing.

Ferentz: Initially, we thought he'd end up being a will type linebacker, which he did play the other day, which is a credit to him, the study he puts in. He's played both pretty effectively. It's a good deal.

Q: Zook is blistering his guys pretty good verbally this week, how do you anticipate them to react to that?

Ferentz: We expect this game to be tough regardless of what mental state everyone's in. They're going to want to win the football game. It's going to be a tough Big Ten road contest.

Q: What does a guy like Jayme Murphy bring to the team?

Ferentz: I don't know if I should compare him to Scott Boleyn, but he gives you that spark. He's one of the guys that energizes, ignites the team, particularly the special teams. Big plays on special teams ignite everybody, they create enthusiasm on the entire sideline. He's done that time and time again. He just loves doing it, he's got a knack for it, and he loves doing it.

Q: Does it take a certain mentality, a reckless abandon?

Ferentz: You have be fearless and a full-throttle player. It's interesting, in my career, I've seen guys, particularly on kickoff team, that weren't the fastest guys running races, but some reason, they have a way of getting ahead of everyone on kickoff coverage. That's neck-up and that's Jayme from the day he walked in here. We didn't create it, he's just had that ability, that knack. When you have guys like that, it's rare. It's a good thing to watch.

Q: When he missed the game because his sister passed away, when a guy comes back from that, do you interact with him about that at all?

Ferentz: I think everybody involved was acutely aware of the circumstances that were going on right there. I think he's got some real close friends on the football team. I think everyone felt compassion for he and his family, and his circle of friends, which is a pretty good circle, they were all watching him pretty closely, like anybody would.

Q: When did you think that this offensive line would ‘work' the way it has?

Ferentz: When did I think it would? (pause) Did I wonder if it would, like last Thursday? Or Wednesday? Just give you a little window into practice the last few days… We've felt like we had a chance. Last year we just couldn't. It was a little like 2000, last year, I'm going back to a flashback when Sam Aiello got run into in the back during a run drill, he went down that Wednesday before Ohio State. That snapshot moment is etched in my mind. Last year was a year like that, if you will. We just couldn't quite catch any good breaks, it seemed. The good news is that during that time we were accumulating some pretty good experience. It's funny, when we're doing our game preps, you have clips from last year's game. We did some good things against Indiana a year ago, but those things get erased from your mind. You could see the potential last year and I think now we're just a bit more experienced, maybe a bit more adept at some of the things we're trying to do. We're making a natural progression. It's never been a question of , "Boy, are we going to get it done?" It's just a matter of what we have to do get it done.

Q: During a bye week, do you get into the next opponent much?

Ferentz: We do a little planning, but you can only do so much, I think. What you don't want to do is make this week, particularly with the team, repetitive. The team kind of gets in a routine, a groove. You want this week to be about as normal as we possibly could. With the team it was more so just focused on us getting a little bit better fundamentally, cleaning some things up that we weren't doing well. The coaches got a little jump on it.

Q: When Kyle Calloway came here, he didn't have the blue-chip stuff that came with the other guys. Would you have deemed him a ‘project' type guy?

Ferentz: No, we thought he was a good prospect. We try not to take too many projects on. We thought he was a good prospect. Elgin was more of a project guy. Elgin had intangibles and production that we saw. We didn't know where, but we thought he'd be pretty good. Kyle's dimensions were certainly a little more stereotypical. He was a big guy. We thought we saw some things in him that might bode well in the future for him.

Q: What's been the key to his climb?

Ferentz: I think he's just steadily improved. He's experienced his share of frustration, lack of success, tough moments, but he's worked through them and he's really playing at a pretty high level right now.

Q: How about guard right now, a true rotation, with Seth being hurt? How do you gauge who plays when and why?

Ferentz: It's probably more by feel than anything else.

Q: How do you feel?

Ferentz: I don't know. How we practice…

Q: Certain plays?

Ferentz: Usually series. We rotate by series. There's not a set formula for it. How the game's moving along, too.

Q: Can you talk about Rafael's track. Starter, starter, starter, back-up, now he's a guard.

Ferentz: He's playing pretty well. I look at him like he's a starter. Andy certainly stepped in there and did a good job when he was called upon. Julian's been doing some good things. All those guys have things to work on, but they've all done some real good things, too. Dan Doering isn't far behind those guys, he's working his way back into those things, too. At least we've developed some depth. Josh Koeppel's doing a great job at center behind the scenes. He's not getting a lot of playing time, but he's doing a great job.

Q: Last year was a year with a lot of guys pushed in a year before they were ready?

Ferentz: It was fair to say that we had some guys playing before they were fully ready. But then we were hoping to have Dace last year, Bruggeman would have been a starter, I'm confident in saying that. We ended up being two down in the count there. It puts a lot of pressure, and most programs would be feeling that a bit. Some wouldn't, but most would.

Q: Is it gratifying to see Bulaga, a guy coming in with some recruiting hype, live up to that/

Ferentz: It happens, yeah. It happens. I'm not against that at all. It's unique when a guy can come in and play as a true freshman in the lines. I think that's really unusual. He's up to the task, and just continues to improve.

Q: Has Brugge been the guy to give that nasty streak, an intensity up front?

Ferentz: I think he's kind of a glue player. He's a good player, but he's also a glue guy, adding to the mix from a confidence standpoint. He's a fifth-year senior, with trials and tribulations. Not to say that everybody doesn't appreciate the chance to play, but I think guys who have missed time may have a keener sense of how close the end can be. I think they understand that a bit more astutely than guys where it's just another day.

Q: You're unbeaten against Zook. Last year's game was a little weird in a few areas. Do you know something? Do you have secrets?

Ferentz: No, I wish I did. I'm trying by Saturday, but in a word, no.

Q: People make a big deal of that, people even make fun of Zook. That goes back to the bowl game.

Ferentz: I'm sure people make fun of me too. I think that stuff's all overblown.

Q: You guys had a pretty good time at the bowl game where he was calling Nate Kaeding a running back and then you talked about recruiting, saying, "yeah, they get the livestock off the street."

Ferentz: I'm just glad nobody asked me who their running back was whenever they asked him. I can't remember, it was in December, I know that.

Q: You'd have probably known.

Ferentz: No, I don't think so. It was way before game prep, I think. I'm not great with names, I'm better with numbers.

Q: Who's their running back this year?

Ferentz: They've got four of them, I know that. I'm not sure how they rotate them, but they all seem to play well when they're in there. I know who last year's guy was.

Q: Seth came here with some recruiting hype, but it didn't ignite for him like it did for Bulaga.

Ferentz: He actually worked with our #2 offense during most of his freshman year, but we redshirted him. The difference is that we were healthier at the time, when he was redshirting. Last year, anybody available, we'll take you as long as they said, "no, I don't want to go in there yet." When Seth got here, we were a bit more stable. I thought we were going to be in decent shape last year, then Bruggeman and Dace. I hope this isn't the case, but Dace might be one of the better linemen never to play here. That's another guy that played pretty well as a freshman, he's not your average bear. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to demonstrate it because of health reasons. That's hard, that's tough. I really thought we'd be OK, then boom. Alex Kanellis went down, first of August, we thought he'd be in the two-deep. He'd proven he could play in the Big Ten. You lose three guys that were physically mature guys, it's tough.

Q: Is it especially gratifying for you, since offensive line is ‘your thing' supposedly?

Ferentz: Not so much because of that, it's just more fun if you can block a little bit, it's easier to play. We still believe in blocking here, defeating blocks. If you can do that with some proficiency, it sure makes it easier to move a football?

Q: Does Dace still have contact with the team?

Ferentz: Oh yeah, he's trying to get back. He's still working. He's elevating his rehab program, but it's still going to be a long shot. It would be a real tough recovery for him to make, but he's working for it, he's trying. He's here every day.

Q: You appear to be loading up on tight ends, do you have anticipation to move some of them?

Ferentz: I've always liked tight ends. I don't know. Hadn't thought about that.

Q: How many people are you bringing in for this class?

Ferentz: Mid to high teens.

Q: In august, you mentioned the 2-2-2 you had to replace on defense. Have these guys exceeded the expectations so far?

Ferentz: Yes and no. Christian was injured early, that impeded his progress a bit, and on the other side, Adrian got hurt, but both guys have played well when they've been in there. The bright spot has been Broderick Binns. He's really played well when he had his opportunities. Chad Geary did a nice job against Wisconsin. That was nice to see. Inside, we've got some guys coming on. Klug, Daniels, some younger guys that are making progress. The corners, we've talked about them, they've been playing solid and improving weekly. They're going to get quite a workout this week. The inside backers, Pat Angerer, he's been a great story and I don't see why he'd let his play tail off. Jeremiha Hunter's done a pretty solid job, too. The whole thing, as a collective group, is playing well right now. We'll be tested in the next four weeks.

Q: Hunter was hurt against Wisconsin…

Ferentz: He's fine. Just a contusion.

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