Spring Football Kickoff: Kirk on the Side

Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media on Wednesday, to kick off spring practice. Read what he had to say after his main press conference in this premium transcript.

Q: In light of the Clayborn stuff, are you satisfied? The last year it's been pretty quiet, are things headed in the right direction?

Kirk Ferentz: I'm not commenting on Adrian right now, but we've had four since we got started. Zero would be a better number, but we're moving in the right direction. Our guys are, for the most part, aware. It's going to be continual.

Q: Talk about receiver. Colin, Derrell, those guys.

Ferentz: We have a lot of question marks. We have guys that have played, but we have a lot of question marks too. Hopefully Trey can stay healthy, we have reason to think he can play well, but he's had some health issues. None since mid-season. Hopefully we get that cleaned up a little bit. Derrell's played. We count on Colin to improve. He's been here two years, this is his time to hopefully step forward and get some things going. I was happy to see Paul Chaney do so well in track, hopefully that's a sign that he's getting ready to knuckle down and get with it. I'm anxious to see how Marvin's doing with it. He's been out there running around, but this is really the first period where we'll get to work with him intensively. He'll make some strides as well.

Q: You had a lot of true freshmen play in the past few years, do you anticipate, because o the number of returners, going down a bit?

Ferentz: We'll still leave the door open. If you look at our depth chart, there are certain spots where it's more feasible. Flipping it around, I don't really envision either on offense or defensive line, but you never know. We'll just keep an open mind like we always do. It's a combination of how our current depth chart is and how the incoming freshmen do once they get here.

Q: Did any of the redshirt freshmen turn heads in December?

Ferentz: There are some guys that did well. We'll see if they can do it for 15 more days. There are some really encouraging things out there. That would help us, if that can happen. I think there's reason to think it can. Most of them are on the right track right now. We have a couple lagging behind, but we'll get there.

Q: James Vandenberg.

Ferentz: He's done a nice job. Both he and John, they're a lot alike in a lot of ways. They've got great personalities, they love football, they love being on the field, they make you feel good just being around them. Rick's the same way, they like the game, they're positive, they compete well with each other. They compete hard, yet they like each other and work well with each other. It's an interesting dynamic, but both the guys are really sharp. None of them have been hit yet, they haven't been nailed out there, they haven't thrown interceptions when it counts, all those types of things. We're anxious o see where they're going to be at after 15 days. I think both of them have good futures.

Q: Are they both equally tied at second?

Ferentz: Right now it is. That's part of the process here in the next 15 days, is to see who does what and see if one will move ahead of the other.

Q: With Mitch King, I wonder if you're hearing from people, I she going to be able to stay at tackle at the next level, or will he have to move?

Ferentz: They threw a couple balls to him the other day, as a potential fullback< I guess, just from one person's opinion, I think when Jonathan Babineaux came through, there was a certain niche for him, maybe for 2/3rds or 3/4ths of the teams, there wasn't a spot for him, but he found a home and is playing well for Atlanta right now. I think Mitch is a similar type player. He's never going to be a 320-pound guy, but he's an awfully good football player. People have acknowledged that, and for certain teams, that's going to be really attractive. It's just a matter of him finding the right niche.

Q: How'd he do catching passes?

Ferentz: OK. I think they caught him off guard. You can read between the lines on that one. You probably won't see him at FB next year.

Q: The fact that you dealt with expectations before, will that help going into next season? One service had you guys ranked 8th in the pre-season.

Ferentz: Oh my god. In the Big Ten?

Q: A lot of them have you in the top 20, no lower than third, picked to win, will that help having been through that before?

Ferentz: I'd advise everyone to slow the train down. We're too close to it all, obviously, and we're so aware of what we need to do and how many things have to happen. I just got back and we've had some really good teams, but the teams that have been good, everything has to fall into place for us to be there. Can it happen? Yeah, but boy it's a long road, a long process. We're hardly there in March. Even if we have a good spring, we'll have a lot of work to do on a lot of things. Usually it's pretty paper-thin for us to get there. I really don't care if our fans appreciate that, but our players have to. There have been years where we haven't been very effective. You just need to g back to a few years ago, we didn't get that message across, and it wasn't a very happy ending. It's important that we understand, for us, we better be working.

Q: Like at a lot of positions, the perceived weakness might have been linebacker, now you have 5, 6, 7 guys you feel good about. Is anyone thinking of moving?

Ferentz: We like the guys we have there, and it's going to be a pretty good competition. We thought Tarpinian was going to be our WILL, but he got injured and Hunter came in there. It's just going to make everybody better. We've got some guys that we're intrigued in seeing, but right now we're going to keep status quo. Norm's still trying to get Herman back over to linebacker, for what, 4th team? You can't blame him for trying, but we need to take care of some other areas. We're pretty settled on those guys.

Q: When you do get Adrian back, do you count on him and Pat to provide similar leadership?

Ferentz: Adrian is only a third year player, but he acts like an older guy and has for a long time. He's been doing a good job in the out-of-season, being a leader. Pat's the same way. He's grown into that role. He's accepted that, embraced that. It's not good if your linebackers aren't leaders. He's ready to go there.

Q: What is Edds injury?

Ferentz: He's got a shoulder. Year of the shoulders.

Q: Is Tony's an old injury?

Ferentz: We're still working through his foot, but he'll get there. He trained all winter, looked great, but he's had pain in there. I'm guessing it might be what Crabtree had. We could have waited until after spring, but we just wanted to get it done and get this guy healthy so he could have a great fifth year.

Q: What kind of update can you give on Trey, the injury in the Outback bowl?

Ferentz: That healed, fast. Those are the kind we like, they heal right away, he's back up and running. He was back up and running. Not to minimize it, but it was clean and he's ready to go.

Q: Was Brinson hurt last summer? Did that cost him?

Ferentz: Not really hurt. He's got asthma, it was a tough adjustment for it. The volume of work, a lot of times for the younger guys, he wasn't here the entire summer. He made progress in camp. We dabbled with the idea of playing him a bit. We decided that we had Jewel playing, so let's stagger them. We'll be OK.

Q: Sash and Greenwood, what are they fighting through?

Ferentz: Shoulders.

Q: Do people appreciate, in retrospect, how many things he made happen on his own last year? The pressure to make those highlight plays?

Ferentz: Those are making something out of less than nothing. Those are the things that you look at and analyze. We can't count on those things. If you get them, that's wonderful, but you can't count on them. That being said, I think we'll be good at the RB position. We just had a guy win the Doak Walker. He earned it, hands down. TO expect that from anyone in the next decade, that isn't going to happen. That's the first time we've had one, and we've had some good backs. The good news is that it's football and you play to your strengths.

Q: You moved Riley Reiff over to OL, did you do that in December?

Ferentz: It was in the fall, somewhere in the middle of the fall. December was good for him. It gave him a chance to be coached a bit, in terms of what the offense is, that was helpful.

Q: Will you cap the number of carries for Hampton?

Ferentz: Not at this point. He was a pleasant surprise. You never count on a freshman to do what he did. Just like Shonn, he kept an even keel, I think that helped Jewel. He did a nice job in all areas. He did a nice job in the classroom, in all areas.

Q: He could be a 30-carry guy?

Ferentz: Maybe down the road, we're not counting on that right now. We'll be happy to get whatever, 10-15, 20 would be great. We'll see how it all goes. I thought he did some good things when he had that chance. You never know, when it's his turn, what he'll do, how he'll react. Paki's improved at every phrase, Brinson has the chance to do some good things.

Q: Are you feeling good about special teams, with the experience of Donahue, Murray, Mossbrucker?

Ferentz: We feel good about all those guys, two guys that can kick field goals, a punter we feel is excellent, and Schulze is a good snapper. The biggest question for us would be our return game. Jewel did a nice job as a kick returner. Outside of that, we've been a little bit void back there in our punt returning. We're going to miss Andy's returning and judgment back there. That's a big thing on our concern list right now, we have to identify that one. We've got candidates for both, but we haven't done it, that's the question.

Q: Would you redshirt Mossbrucker?

Ferentz: It's a possibility, but we're not planning on that. We're committed to winning any game, any week we can. We'll worry about next year, next year. That's the same thing with our true freshmen. There's give and take there. I mentioned Lowe, Prater, they didn't play a lot last year, but I think they got valuable experience and that'll help them compete this spring. It'll be interesting.

Q: You talked about Brodell a bit, I know he didn't get invited to the combine, but given his Pro Day on Monday, how successful do you think he could be at the next level?

Ferentz: The injury he suffered, that's the first time I've had experience being around one of those. What I learned is just how significant it is. It's extremely significant, and how lengthy the process is. I'm not sure in the fall that we saw him run the way he had in 2006. Chris told me he's been running well all winter, the way he ran on Monday, he be a really intriguing guy for somebody. You go back to the Alamo Bowl performance against pretty good competition and he was pulling away from people. He might be an interesting guy to watch. He's a talented player, he's a good guy and a good team guy.

Q: Have you had a more enjoyable January/February/March this year than you did last year?

Ferentz: Not even close. Winning bowl games helps anyway, but the whole season. The thing that was gratifying was the way the team improved, especially our seniors. We'll see what happens this year.

Q: You've got another small senior class, do you see those guys taking the reins?

Ferentz: So far, so good. Our leadership, it's ongoing. The other thing we got last year, not only the seniors, but we had younger guys helping, too. TO talk about it is one thing, but to see it and have it happen is another, and that's where we're at.

Q: You had two defensive backs leave. Was it mainly playing time with Lance and Diauntae?

Ferentz: I can't really answer that. I think Lance was interested in getting closer to home, but I don't know that's materializing. He mentioned a couple schools down there. They both left in good standing, we wish them both the best.

Q: What about Jake, any word on where he's headed?

Ferentz: I haven't heard. He's trying to get his degree work finished up.

Q: Rob Bruggeman and Matt Kroul aren't getting a lot of play, but they seemed to have pretty good days the other day.

Ferentz: Matt's a little bit like Mitch. His size, he's kind of a tweener for some people. I've had several people say they were really impressed with him. It's going to be him finding the right spot, right place, right time. I think he probably not unlike Mitch, has some potential to do a couple other things, too. From my vantage point, he's a guy that's going to make someone's team better and help them win football games. Brugge's flying under the radar but people are onto him a little bit more than what's out there.

Q: You chuckle sometimes at these pro days where everyone's fixated on the 40-time?

Ferentz: You can use 40s to kill guys or move them up. I understand there's got to be some validation sometimes, but it's really, the most important thing, is what guys do on the field and how they play, what speed do they play at, not what they run a 40 at. I've been in some of those meetings, it's a tough battle sometimes. In Shonn's case, him moving into the 4.5 area, that was helpful. That'll help unlock some brainlocks that might be out there, if there are any. It'll make it easier for someone to say that we could see taking him at this spot as opposed to this spot. If that's what happens, that's what happens. I always felt like going to the combine is the worst thing you can do, it can screw up your mind.

Q: Brugge, knowing the way he came up, paying for college, getting injured, getting to this point, is that taken into account?

Ferentz: I'd look at that. He's only been a one year starter, we had to remind ourselves of that, but he really hadn't played. We caught ourselves wondering why he made that mistake, but it's the first time he'd played. He's a highly intelligent guy, very competitive. He really played well on film. I can think of 3 guys that I had association with during my time in the NFL that he's better than, and all those guys played 9 or 10 years. He belongs, he'll find a spot. I don't know how he's going to get there, but once he gets on a team, I just can't see him getting cut.

Q: What about Seth?

Ferentz: Seth's played well for a long time for us. He's got a lot more evidence on tape. I have no idea where these guys will be drafted or if they're free agents. I'd imagine they both get drafted. Probably second day. I couldn't tell you 4th round or 7th but they're both capable of playing and playing well. They're both great team guys.

Q: The one guy we haven't talked much about is Bradley.

Ferentz: I think he turned some heads the other day. Another one-year player. He did pretty well. You get a sense there's a lot of interest in him. The draft's a funny thing, it's hard to predict.

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