Conversation with Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz met with Wisconsin's media today to answer questions about Saturday's game.

Can you talk a little bit about the development of your receivers, C.J. Jones, Ed Hinkel, and the maturity they've reached this year?

Ferentz: Yeah, it's been very pleasing obviously. That was a real question mark we had coming into the season. We really felt pretty good about the group of guys we had, but we didn't know enough about them, mainly because we had just had so many injury problems in the spring. Whereas with the defensive line, we could see how those guys were progressing, the receivers, it was just a real wildcard for us, in terms of demonstrated production on the field. But they stayed healthy in August. We felt pretty good going into the season, and certainly I think they continue to improve every week.

Everybody knows about your relationship with Barry Alvarez, but can you talk about your relationship with Mike Sherman of the Packers? He said you guys are good friends.

Ferentz: Those are his words, not mine.

Ha ha…can you talk about your days at the Worchester Academy with Mike, and did you have any inkling that things could work out so well for both of you?

Ferentz: We had such a great situation there. Ken O'Keefe who is our Offensive Coordinator here, was the head coach at Worchester. I played with Ken's brother Jim at Uconn, so that's kind of the connection there. I had no idea what I was going to do. I was 21 years old and stayed on as a graduate assistant after my eligibility was over. It was just kind of a freakish thing I ended up up there. Our second year there, that was Ken's first year, my second year, Sherm shows up and it was a great fit, a great addition. I don't know if Sherman is saying this, but I think all of us probably feel that some of the best years of our lives coaching and just enjoying the people you are with happened up at Worchester Academy. It was a great place. There were a lot of great people there. It was a great place. We were all young guys just having a great time. Mike is just a tremendous person. I'm so happy for his success.

With your 8-1 start, do you have to worry about keeping your players grounded at all? Is it a concern, to make sure your players don't get too carried away?

Ferentz: It is, because we're so far away from that yet. We have a long road to hoe here and we all know that, I think. It was a concern. It's been a process for us, certainly, and I think Barry probably went through the same thing his first couple of years up there. Learning how to win can be as tricky as everything. If you can handle a little prosperity, that's the next test. The great thing right now is I think we're getting great leadership from our older players. I think they remember, it wasn't that far back, we were really getting our butts kicked quite frequently and pretty sternly. So I think they've gone through enough of the hard times, where they understand how fragile, how delicate this stuff all is. They've done a great job, I think, of conveying the message to our younger players in terms of the way they have to practice and where they have to be mentally.

Can you talk about what you've seen from Dwayne Smith from Wisconsin, with his different style of running that he brings?

Ferentz: Well he's a little stronger, a bigger guy than Anthony. It gives them a nice compliment back there. The bottom line is Davis, what a great job he did last year jumping in there as a freshman. He's not the biggest guy in the world, but boy, what production. What a great year he had. He runs like an older guy. He's really patient. He lets the line do its work, then he knows what to do after that. That's probably our biggest concern, more so than the change up that the younger player gives them. Probably more important than that is what the guys up front are doing. Smith is a very talented player, but those guys up front are veterans. They really know how to get the job done.

When you were working for Hayden Fry in the 80's, who would you tab as the most likely to succeed as a head coach – Bill Snyder, Barry Alvarez, Dan McCarney or yourself?

Ferentz: That's a tough question for anybody to mention. To single out the guys you mentioned…we just had such a great staff. The guys you mentioned outside of myself were tremendous coaches and they are tremendous friends. Bill Brazier and Carl Jackson are two other veteran guys, and Don Patterson has done a great job at Western Illinois. We were all just so lucky because it was a great group to be with, they were great coaches, no egos, and more importantly, I think we're all pretty good friends. That doesn't happen every day. I think if you asked all of us, we would all tell you that was a great period, and we were all pretty fortunate to be together.

What are Darrell Wilson's responsibilities on special teams, what kind of job has he done for you, and when he became available, is he a guy you immediately became interested in?

Ferentz: Darrell's a guy I've known for quite some time, tremendous person, he's done a great job with our guys. He's coaching the same position basically he coached last year. He has the outside linebackers. Then also he's responsible for our punt defense, and he's done a fantastic job. So it just worked out. Some times those things just work out. We had an opening and Darrell was available. I talked to several people and I just felt like he was the best fit for our program. It just worked out beautifully so far.

Can you talk about the development of Brad Banks at quarterback? It seems like he's made a big jump from the last couple of years.

Ferentz: He has. Brad came here as a junior college transfer and we got him in the game randomly last year. He played pretty well against Wisconsin, coincidentally, and then played pretty poorly against Wisconsin in the last quarter. But Brad was a young, inexperienced player last year and he's gone through some bumps in the road this year. But I think the most significant thing is the way he's handled the adversity he's faced. He's done it like a winner and as a result, he's done a great job of leading our football team.

When you first saw Dallas Clark work out at tight end, did you have any idea how good he would be?

Ferentz: Well the first time I saw Dallas was in our winter conditioning my first year here, and was just extremely impressed with his attitude, his athleticism, his work ethic. He was one of those guys that just wanted to finish first no matter what he did. That's certainly a great sign. He was a redshirt player his first year, second year he played just phenomenally well on special teams, while being our third team outside backer. I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but at the end of the year, you look at what he was doing on special teams, we figured we had to find a way to give this guy a chance to crack the lineup. We decided to move him to tight end. He was reluctant initially but I think he would probably not regret that move now. He's done a great job. He really played well last year and he's taken his game a step higher this year.

Would you have guessed at the start of the year that Jermelle Lewis would be on the field in the fourth quarter with a victory at Michigan?

Ferentz: Well I'm not surprised at anything this team has done. Jermelle's a guy who really has matured also. A year ago, he wasn't ready to play. He ended up ineligible in the fall basically due to poor work habits. He paid a painful lesson. It cost him probably $8-10,000, he and his mom, when he lost his scholarship for the fall, so he had to work his way back into the equation. The thing I am happy about is the way he's matured as a person. He's done a great job this year, not unlike what Fred Russell did last year in terms of really learning the maturity that it takes and work ethic. So I'm not surprised with any success he's having right now. We're certainly hoping he has more down the road.

Going back to Banks, what has he done for your offense in terms of getting on the edge and creating problems with his mobility, and then just how good he's been distributing the ball to so many people?

Ferentz: First and foremost, I think Brad's a quarterback. He's a guy that plays the position very well. He just happens to be a quarterback who has athleticism as well, so that makes him a little bit more dangerous in terms of moving him out of the pocket, or if things break down, he can improvise a little bit. Most of it is his demeanor, the way he's led our football team. I can't compare him to Bollinger, because Bollinger has four years of experience. Coming into this season, he's the quarterback I had the most respect for in our conference just because of the fact he wears a Rose Bowl championship ring, and he was an integral part of that. That guy's a winner, and we hope that Brad is kind of emulating some of things he's done for Wisconsin's team.

Wisconsin has been pretty inconsistent this year, but what are some of the things you see on film that worry you about the Badgers?

Ferentz: I think the first thing you look at is they've lost three games by a total of 10-12 points. They know how to win. They've proven that they know how to win, week in and week out. That's the first thing that stands out. I think a big part of that, not to single anybody out, but that quarterback, he sets the tempo. He's a guy that's a proven winner in my opinion. So that's where it all starts. Factor in on top of that, they've got a very veteran, strong, typically physical offensive line. A back that, all he does is average 100-plus a game. It makes them very dangerous, and then defensively, they are very athletic. They run to the ball very well and they've changed their scheme a little bit. Their guys will be a little faster version of what we've seen the last couple of years which is a little concerning.

A couple of your guys pointed to the 2000 loss against Wisconsin, as a turning point in their minds because they felt they were a more physical team. Do you recall?

Ferentz: Yeah, I must have conned them on that one because Wisconsin only had the ball about 38 minutes in that game. I tried to…at least we made them sweat a little bit in that ballgame, so we tried to use that as an advantage. I think the real difference is, the year before that, '99, if Barry had wanted to, that could have been 100-3. If we wanted to, they could have scored (100) in that game. At least the next year, that 2000 game, we made them workout a little bit. We had them at least line up and struggle, put some effort into it, whereas the year before we gave no resistance. I think in terms of looking from one year to the next, that was a significant thing for us to point to. At that point, we were looking for anything to point to, because there wasn't much positive going on. I think we were about 2-18 at that point in my tenure, so we were looking for any positive we could find.

Can you give us an update on Aaron Greving's status and the availability of Fred Russell for Saturday?

Ferentz: Fred will be day-to-day. He's sore right now. He took a shot on the hand the other day. As far as Aaron goes, we really, as I said last week, I'd welcome him back. He's a valued team member, but I just don't see it happening right now. He's really going through some frustration problems due to the injuries he's had these past 6-8 months, so I don't think that front is going to change at all.

Is the success your special teams have had contagious? How do you explain all of their success?

Ferentz: I think it's strictly attitude. We don't have the most skilled guys out there in any segment of our team, special teams probably more so because we're playing a lot of backup guys. They've just taken tremendous pride in what they're doing when they get a chance to get on the field and that's gone a long way for us.

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