Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz touched on some topics beyond Big Ten expansion during Monday’s luncheon.
Yes, Iowa has two incoming freshmen enrolled and in school right now — Iowa City’s A.J. Derby and Chicago native Louis Trinca-Past. But that doesn’t change Ferentz’s opinion on early entrants.
“I’ve got to be candid, I’m a little embarrassed,” Ferentz said. “It started a couple years ago with players being able to come in on scholarship in June. . . . Our profession has said it’s necessary for educational success and academic success. That’s just ridiculous.”
Ferentz said he’s for players entering early on their own, but he won’t mandate it.
“If that’s what it’s come to (mandating it), that’s totally wrong,” he said. “I’ve said that several times. I don’t think anyone is listening. . . . I think kids should go to proms if they want to go to proms.”
Ferentz was also asked about defensive coordinator Norm Parker, a bit of a bon vivant on the I Club tour, which started last month and will run through June.
“He’s on tour now,” Ferentz said.
This segue’d nicely into a comment on continuity, something Ferentz believes has been the key to Iowa’s success during his 11-plus seasons as head coach.
Ferentz also talked about Parker “being in it for the long haul.”
“We’re trying to ease his (work)load down,” Ferentz said. “He’s out making a few speeches. He’s been on the I Club circuit. He’s No. 1 on the list, too. He and (wrestling coach) Tom Brands are traveling together, if you can imagine that.”
On a Tuesday after an I Club stop in Mason City, Parker gave Ferentz a report on Brands, the fiery, intense leader of the three-time national champions.
“Brands is in a sportscoat and he’s down demonstrating wrestling moves on the ground in Mason City,” Ferentz said.
Then the following Wednesday, Ferentz was in a head coaches meeting with Brands.
“Tom’s telling me how Norm is the best,” Ferentz said. “You’ve got these two on tour. They ought to shut everything else down and let them go. They’re unbelievable.”
When looking back on the 11-2 2009 season, Ferentz singled out backup quarterback James Vandenberg.
When starter Ricky Stanzi went down with a high-ankle sprain week 10 against Northwestern, Vandenberg, then a redshirt freshman, led Iowa to a 1-1 record.
The Hawkeyes pushed Ohio State to the brink before falling 27-24 in overtime. Vandenberg completed 20 of 33 for 233 yards, two TDs and three interceptions at a place Iowa hasn’t won at since 1991. The next week, Vandenberg, who enters 2010 as a sophomore backup to Stanzi, a senior, guided Iowa’s offense to a slugfest victory over Minnesota, 12-0.
“I think James did an outstanding job this past year,” Ferentz said. “We’re 9-0 going into the game he comes into and he’d thrown two passes all season. And one of those was pretty ugly. I let him know about that up at Iowa State. He threw a nice ground ball.
“But that was his level of experience going into (Northwestern). I thought he really competed hard in that game. And then what he did in the week after in a very, very tough loss, but a great football game, he led our team in exceptional way for a young guy.
“You can understand why we’re so excited about his future.”