Here's the transcript for Kirk Ferentz's two hours at the table during Big Ten media days Friday in Chicago.
I teamed up with HawkeyeNation's Jon Miller to transcribe all of this. We now own all the carpal tunnel that you can own.
Kirk Ferentz:†Oh boy...
Ferentz:†OK. That is good news. that is the kind of news we like. I have heard itís a great deal. I have never heard anyone complain about it. The end of October.
Q: On a game day?
Q: What do you do if it is?
Ferentz:†We will figure that out when it happens.
Q: All that timing thing...
Ferentz:†Itís a rookie mistake. I had one of those myself. Number five.
Q: Did you miss a game?
Ferentz:†No. It was perfectly time. Mary went into labor early Saturday morning. The hospital was five minutes from our facility. I dropped her off, went back and did our meetings and walk through. Steve arrived that afternoon, I made the walk through that night and we beat New Orleans on Sunday. It worked out well.
Q: Talk about that Michigan game when Brian was coming off the staph infection and you didnít play him.
Ferentz:†He went through a tough situation there. He got cleared that week to play and practice. We were not going to start him. We wanted to get him going. I got caught up on that one. I just couldnít do it. That is when he gave me a lecture. He said that ďyou have always treated me like a coach and today you treated me like a son.Ē Lesson well served.
Q: When you took over in Iowa in 1998, did you have any idea how long youíd be at Iowa or how long you wanted?
Ferentz:†I had some ideas how long I wanted to be there, but no idea how long I would be. It doesnít work that way. Every job I have taken...my first job at Worcester, I wasnít thinking too far down the road. When you are a GA you donít expect to be there a long time. When I went to Iowa the first time in 1981, I needed to get a resume started. I didnít know anything about Iowa or what was about to happen. But since then, every job I have taken has been a long term thing in my mind. In this profession, and others, you donít get to make that choice.
Q: Replacing a legend like Coach Fry, it can be dicey. It has worked out for others, but you got compared to him I am sure early on.
Ferentz:†Part of the reason that worked so well is because he was so great. He went over the top to give me distance. It was tough to get him to even come around. He was reluctant to say anything to the team, and that was a process. He couldnít have been more helpful, and he was helpful on the outside telling people to give me a chance.
Q: Did he give you any advice early on?
Ferentz:†Not really. I think the conversation we had was afterwards, he was hopeful it was someone who had been in the Iowa family who would take over for him. He didnít have a horse in the race, but he wanted some continuation of linkage to his past.
Q: I know you are not done..
Ferentz:†I hope not.
Q: Are you proud of what you have done at Iowa? Do you think you have honored what Fry built?
Ferentz:†We have tried to and that was a goal coming in. Having worked for Coach, I was not on his original staff and I got here in year three. That was a magical year in Iowa football history, going back 100 years. Going through those nine years with Coach Fry and the staff, what happened during that time meant a lot to me. It has always been meaningful. It was important to come back here and try to continue something that was really significant.
Q: Do you think you have done that?
Ferentz:†History will judge that as we go along. We have put an honest effort in.
Q: What else would you like to do? Obviously win some more, but do you have any goals left?
Ferentz:†Lou Holtz had a book, 149 things he wants to do. I donít have any lists. I enjoy what I do and I try to get smarter and do things better. That is the goal every year.
Q: Getting to a Rose Bowl?
Ferentz:†Absolutely, that is a given. Any coach in this conference...that is something we havenít done. Iíd like to go more than once, but you canít go twice if you donít go once.
Q: Motivation to get the program back to the Top 10?
Ferentz:†College football is tough terrain, realistically. There arenít a lot of teams in the Top Ten every year. Itís a tough thing to do. We have some inherent challenges but I thoroughly enjoy working at Iowa and we are capable of having success each year. the goal is to maximize each season. You go through the season and you start over, learn from it and move on. That is as far down the road as I will look.
Q: Have you gained an appreciation for what Hayden did at Iowa and how hard it is there?
Ferentz:†I have always had tremendous appreciation. I have said this before; there is not a guy in the country, I donít think, that could have done what he did back in 1979 and on. It was a program that needed work. It had some flaws at that point. He and Bump Elliott made a great team. Bump was supportive and they did the things necessary to get the program going. I will say the same thing about Bill Snyder at Kansas State; no one in captivity could have done what he did. Hopefully when this one is over, they will say ďyou did a good job, tooí. We will see what happens.
Q: You donít believe in curses..but itís like the Cubs with your running backs. I know itís bad decisions, a combination of a lot of stuff but itís weird that itís one position. Have you given that any thought?
Ferentz:†No. Uh uh. If you look at each case individually, and I am going back to 1999...itís true at every position...I donít think we have ever seen any common threads. I think I am fair in saying that itís more recent history. You can lump Shonn in there with teh academic. The bottom line is you try to find a way to be successful. We have been able to do that at that position for the most part.
Q: It sort of seems like that Bugs Bunny cartoon, where he is knocked out and walking on steel girders and one slides in before he drops. You guys seem to find enough, even in the bowl game last year.
Ferentz:†That is how college football is. You have those rare years where things go really smoothly and you donít have many injury problems to deal with. When you have those you enjoy them, but they are infrequent.
Q: 2002 was freakish
Ferentz:†Things went well. Fredís hand was the biggest bump. Bob was always..you thought he was on his way out and he was back in five minutes later. That is how it works.
Q: I know in the NFL has a very different attitude towards running backs. There are teams who sign the big contract back and others pick them up off the waiver wire. Do you have a philosophy that way where you are not so worried about five-star kid.
Ferentz:†You have a chance to find backs if you are patient, or good players. We are not averse to getting one of those obvious guys, either. that would be OK with us. The reality is we havenít had many of them. Shonn wasnít one. We stubmled into Fred Russell.
Q: Jermelle was close to that, and Ladell.
Ferentz:†Ladell earned his yards. At least when I was here. We would not mind having one of those guys.
Q: Can this offense operate with a running back by committee?
Ferentz:†We did that in 2009 just fine. It worked out well. My suspicion this year will be more like 2009 than 2008. I donít see a 2008 coming. Although sitting here in August in 2008, I was not sure where Shonn was at physically. He got started in late July when he was able to train in our building. I think this will more like a 2009 thing, where we will have a rotation.
Q: Do you Canzeri making a comeback this year?
Ferentz:†We will see. He is doing well. We will probably be conservative on that one. You never want to say never.
Q: Are you comfortable with two freshmen running the ball?
Ferentz:†One was an MVP in a BCS game a few years ago. It depends on how they do.
Q: When you look back to last year, how do you evaluate Vandenbergís season?
Ferentz:†I thought he played well. I know there is a road deficiency knock on him. My answer to that, he played pretty well at the Purdue game. I will go back to the Ohio State game in 2009 and he couldnít have played better that day. I think he played well last year and the exciting thing is there is no substitute for experience at any position. that only helps you if you make it help you. James is one of those guys who takes what happens to him and learns from it. I am really excited about watching him play this year. The biggest concern we have now is to make sure he has a good supporting cast. Those road losses were team things. We needed to play better as a team. I wasnít all the quarterback. That is hardly the story, usually. Occasionally a guy lays and egg but I dont see him doing that.
Q: Then you have to separate ďplaying on roadĒ from ďwho you playĒ.
Ferentz:†That is another factor. Itís easy to generalize. The facts are itís always more difficult to win on the road in any BCS conference. I know it is in the Big Ten. If you want to be a championship contender you have to win on the road and your quarterback has to play well. I look at it more than a team thing. There are a lot of things we could have done better in those games to have an opportunity. Itís a protection thing, guys getting open thing, a lot of factors. We didnít play well on the road in general.
Q: Are there specific things you want to see out of him this fall?
Ferentz:†I think the biggest thing is he will continue to improve. That is what the game is all about. He works so hard at it and as hard as anyone we have ever had. The other challenge for him is a new system, a lot of new verbiage, a lot of newness to the whole thing. He has had a bigger load than anyone on the football team. He really welcomed that. He knew it from the onset and nobody has spent more time with Greg Davis than James. He saw that one coming down the road and was ready to go.
Q: Did James have the offense figured out by the end of spring?
Ferentz:†he did really well. He was way ahead of most of the coaches in terms of being comfortable with Gregís terminology, all of the things that go with a new system. I think he is off to a great start. I know he has been working hard this summer. He chose not to work (a job). I think I know where he has been a lot this summer. He has been in the building more than I have.
Q: It was an unprecedented offseason for you, replacing both coordinators. Talk about that process and what was going through your mind.
Ferentz:†We have not had a lot of staff changes, period. The coordinators are even more significant. We knew about Norm before the bowl game and Ken after recruiting. I knew we had one change to make and I didnít see any benefit in rushing that and I am really glad that I didnít. Once we got into January, things looked different to me overall and it gave me some time to think and reflect. We ended up with one outsider coming in and elevating one guy. In Philís case, I felt great about him. He has been with us for 13 years and has done an outstanding job. We had two obvious good inhouse candidates with he and Darrell. Both have worked in Normís system and they are the two most experienced in the system. There will be some differences and different ideas, with things also looking similar. On the flip side, I had some really good options offensively and Greg emerged as the guy who looked like our best choice. YOu hope you are right when you do it and since then I know we have gotten a tremendous person.
Q: Might be too early to tell, Greg there just for a few months, you said he has fit in well with the community and program.
Ferentz:†You do a lot of research before interviews. It was a real consistent picture on Greg from a lot of people I know well. The interview was impressive. The nuts and bolts of it gets down to what happens to once a guy gets in place and he has been great with it. He was great with our staff on the front end and he did a great job with our players during the spring. Everything has been really positive. He is a tremendous professional but a tremendous person too. We are fortunate to have him on our staff.
Q: Is this something you just decide on? Do you consult with staff?
Ferentz:†It depends on the circumstances. For the most part I did a lot of thinking and talking with people on the outside. Trying to research people, that type of thing. One of the big keys with the interview, I want to see what the staff thinks, what their sense is and what kind of feeling they have one a prospective coach comes to campus. I did a lot of it on my own and when Greg came it was unanimous. ďIf we can get him, it would be a great thing.Ē
Q: Do the two young guns add new excitement and/or energy?
Ferentz:†That is a sign of me getting older. Hiring a former Iowa player was not a prerequisite that we had to do. I am glad we had the chance to do it. I think both guys had distinguished careers here, they were both captains and great leaders. I think both have had significant experience since they left and that will be good for our program. The idea is for us to grow and move forward, get some new ideas and maybe look at things different. We have a blend of a veteran coach who has had a lot of success in his career and two younger guys who have had success. Itís been interesting to hear the ideas and meld them together.
Q: How different is it to have new people on the staff. Adjustment process for you?
Ferentz:†A little bit. Every year with your team, every team is different. When you flip the calendar in January, there are a bunch of guys that are gone and guys who will have to do things who have not done much. Itís a similar deal. When we had three new staff members, which we have never had that experience and certainly not two new coordinators, it is different. There is more talking that has to be done and more things we have to cover to be sure we we are on the same page with and all together. that is a healthy thing, after 13 years that probably didnít hurt anything. Itís energizing in some ways.
Q: Did you find that it added a spark?
Ferentz:†Absolutely. It wasnít by design. We were at the point where we needed to go back and look at some things again. We have had some success but there are always things you need to consider and look at. We have done that; added some things and thrown some things out and some things are the same.
Q: How eager are you to see what the offense will look like?
Ferentz:†The first phase of spring practice, you never know what will happen. The first day we hit the field, we only had two guys coaching the same positions they were in December. Three changes, but guys in different spots. That was fun. It was fun to watch that, watch guys teaching at a new position, new guys teaching guys they hadnít worked with before. I was pleased with how the staff worked together, how things were being communicated. It was a real positive period for us. The next opportunity for us to get back with our players is next Friday.
Q: Inaudible question
Ferentz:†Not at all. Our two former players, I know. I know what they are about and who they are. I have known Greg for a while, but only professionally in tight quarters for several months. Greg is a professional. He has coached in a lot of big games. I have already learned a few things from him. It will be more me getting things from him than the other way. He is a true pro and an outstanding football coach.
Q: You have always cited staff continuity as a strength. Do you think this will hurt you?
Ferentz:†Not at all. I think we are together. That to me is why the selection part of the whole thing is so important. Above everything else, itís not always getting the smartest or best guy, but getting the right guy. I have total trust levels with both former players. I have known LeVar since December of 1998. I known Brian longer than that. I know their backgrounds. WHen I look at Greg Davis, I think of Norm Parker or Bill Brashier; two veteran coaches who were as fine a coaches I have worked with at anytime or any place. Bill was one of the best defensive coaches I have been around and is a great person. Norm is the same way. They know how to be good role models on the staff, which is important.
Q: Did you learn anything from Coach Fry on how to pick people for your staff? I donít know if anyone had better staffs.
Ferentz:†Two guys took huge risks on me in my career. My high school coach and mentor Joe Moore, that was more father/son. Coach Fry took a leap of faith in hiring me. He is the only guy in the world who would have hired me in 1981. I didnít try them all, but I tried a few. Bill Belichick is the only guy in captivity who would have hired me from Maine. I was like the 9th choice as they ran out of names, but he gave me an opportunity. I have studied how both of those guys went about putting a staff together and hiring people. I didnít ask either one a lot of questions but I tried to study both of them. COach Fry in retrospect, I thought about how that staff came together. None of us had resumes. Bill operates in that same area, he didnít go out to get big name guys but the right fits for your program.
Q: Do you make hires on instinct?
Ferentz:†I think that is part of anything you do related to people. Itís not different than who is starting. Itís not just numbers or what have you. You try to hire people who are going to fit what your program is all about. Recruiting is like that, too. You see things in players that maybe will fit with your program that might not work somewhere else. Itís the same with coaches. There are places I know I could not coach, it would not work or be fun for anyone. That is a big part of it.
Q: For years Iowa closed the season with Minnesota, now you are playing them early in the season. Does that change the rivalry?
Ferentz:†Not at all. My first year here, my first experience with losing a trophy game, at least a Big Ten trophy game. We lost Floyd of Rosedale in 1981. It was early October. For whatever reason, 1981, 1982, we played them early in the season. I canít tell you why. they were still knock down, drag out games. In 1981 they beat us at our place and the next year we beat them up there in a physical game. I could suggest the rivalry is more bitter and unhealthy back in the early 1980ís. Maybe it was my perception of things at that time. It was not always...there were some bad jokes going back and forth. I donít think it affects things.
Q: Does their having beaten you two times in a row ratchet things up for you or make things more bitter?
Ferentz:†One loss does. You never like losing. To their credit, they beat us straight up both times. Neither one was a fluke. They beat us fair and square in two different circumstances. Jerry Kill is a great coach, he has a staff that has been with him for a long time and they will have a great program up there.
Q: With a playoff impending in college football, strength of schedule will be an emphasis. How will you approach that going forward?
Ferentz:†I havenít given it much thought. Our basic thought in the past is we play Iowa State each year for obvious reasons. We have tried to play a BCS conference team in an area where we might recruit. We have played some Big East teams. Scheduling is becoming a bigger challenge and with the playoff impending like that, it will be different and weíll probably stay in that same area. To that point, we talked at one point about playing nine games in conference, then it looked like a Pac 12 scheduling agreement and that is off the table. Somehow, some way, it is a concern with athletic directors because scheduling is challenging.
Q: I know you canít talk about recruits, I am from Dayton...We see two of our kids there at Iowa...talk about the Dayton area football players and what you see.
Ferentz:†The state of Ohio is such a strong football state. Itís a big part of the culture there and high school football is outstanding. There are a lot of good programs in that area. Micah Hyde is right over there...Ohio State canít take everybody. They do have more players in that state than just the 25 limit. Itís heavily recruited for obvious reasons. We feel there are still a lot of good players available. WIth our state population, we have to recruit a lot more out of state than we do in state, unfortunately. Itís a Big Ten area, good high school football and we have had some players have success out of there. Micah, Ricky Stanzi, some guys who have done very, very well.
Q: What did you seen in Micah that others didnít see?
Ferentz:†He just really impressed us being an all around athlete. He was good in a lot of sports. Itís not the same as, but I think back to Marcus Paschal, he did a lot of things in high school. Punt returning, quarterback, a lot of different things. We think Micah could have played receiver or defensive back. He has been a return for us. We felt he was flying under the radar. then once we got to know him, we were so impressed with him. Now that he has been with us, you ask me what the first impression of him or first response, it would be he is the kind of guy you want on your team. He is positive and genuine. Itís hard to catch him on a bad day. Those are the kind of guys you like to have on the team. It gets back to some people saying that coaches job to pick team up. Itís nice to have players pick coaches up and Micah is like that. Good players are like that; they have an energy about them that permeates and that is the first attribute I think of. he has done good things on the field, too.
Q: He even kicked.
Ferentz:†Snort...those are all good signs. He is a gym rat. There are fewer and fewer of them out there now. Technology has had something to do with that. I can envision him going out in the back yard and throwing the ball around with friends, or shooting hoops. Doing things kinds of things. those guys typically bring good energy to your team.
Q: Different tangent, you are a Pennsylvania guy...I donít know how many PSU games you went to....
Ferentz:†They didnít invite me to any.
Ferentz:†I think it has been for a lot of people. As I said yesterday, the bottom line is that itís hard to comprehend. It really is. On all levels. Itís historic. Itís gut wrenching and tough to comprehend.
Q: Setting aside the crimes involved, can you understand how a program or an institution could get to the point where protecting a program means more than anything?
Ferentz:†I will say yes and no. Yes in that I am not naive. But no, in that you never want to think that is a possibility. We have all seen in life that anything is possible, but this one is tough to comprehend.
Q: Again, putting crime aside, but the insulation, is it something that you talk to yourself about sometimes, or say I canít be bigger than the institution, I am not the king?
Ferentz:†I donít think I have ever had a problem in that regard. I donít want to take anything for granted here, either. Balance in life is a big thing. I am not here to preach and I am in no position to. I have always looked at this, I think what I do is important, but I am just coaching football. That being said, there is a lot more to it. Believe it or not I am still..when this changes I will try to get out of football. At the beginning of the season its about the challenges and the people you are working with and there is a unique set of circumstances in high school and college. Itís different at the pro level. You are coaching football and there are more important things going on out there.
Q: You have been doing this 14 years...I am sure everywhere you go people tell you how great you are...
Ferentz:†I am laughing because for everyone that tells me that, there are a few over here saying ĎWhen are you going to...Ē you know.
Q: You have more people telling you that you are wonderful than the average joe does.
Ferentz:†We have our...the people who are more euphoric tend to tell you those things, where people on the other side do it in other ways...they are not quite as direct. It starts at home with me. My wife does a good job of keeping me humble and there are things in life that do that. We have disappointments every year, be it a game or a player not doing what he is supposed to be doing. There are plenty of things that remind you that you donít have it figured out. I quit golf a long time ago. When you think you have it figured out, you find out quickly...that is like life. there are a lot of reminders that tell you you have a long way to go.
Q: I have been to a lot of these things but I canít recall another father/son instance. What does that mean to you? James said he thought a lot about it, and did today coming in here.
Ferentz:†I am not sure if it has happened or not. It was not by design. Itís a neat thing and I have appreciated the fact that Brian was able to play in our program, it has been great having James for four years and I am looking forward to his 5th. With Steve coming in...not that I think we foresaw this a decade ago, itís just one of those things that has worked out. It has been a nice side bonus for sure
Q: Has James grown a lot as a person since he has been here?
Ferentz:†His story is more public than a lot of guys. That is what college is about. College athletics, certainly. There was more drama around his missteps than the average guy on the team but he knew that when he signed on and I think it has made him a better person. That is part of this process. A high percentage o the population will make academic or social mistakes and its our job to help guys grow. He got a lot of good assistance from a lot of people on campus during his issue. he has done the right things to move forward and you hope to see that with every player.
Q: James said Iowa was his only offer out of high school. Did you envision this kind of success for him?
Ferentz:†Northern Illinois did try to recruit Brian. Kansas State threw one in the water and I am not so sure that was..he as not on their A list. They threw an offer in there. In Jamesí case, it was strange. I assumed everyone thought he was going to Iowa and he was a better high school than Brian was. Brian would tell you that. He was a no brainer other than he was not tall. So, that's the way that one just kind of worked out. Brian would tell you that James was the better high school player. Brian's not delusional on that. He's delusional on some things, he's not delusional on that.
Q: What made James better? Just more physical?
Ferentz: Brian was a good player and had a really good career with us. James was just at a little different level. He has a little different tempo about himself. James has a high tempo out there on the field.
Q: So is it fair to say you knew what you were getting, obviously some schools wouldn't know because he was your son, but you had to feel pretty good about that.
Ferentz: I wasn't really worried about him. I thought he was going to come in and do just fine. All that being said, he still had to do it and he had a lot of work to do. Just like most of our players, he was hardly ready to play when he got here. He's kind of representative of our program. We get a lot of guys who are two-star, three-star guys, but really what counts is where they are when they're seniors. He still has another season to play. We'll see where it all ends up. He hasn't embarrassed himself out there, that's for sure.
Q: How does Lomaxís injury impact you guys
Ferentz: Basically, we went from being healthy, pardon the pun, to being unhealthy. Coming out of spring, we really felt good about the two starters. Jordan really made big strides and Greg had a good spring. Itís rare when you have four guys you feel pretty good with at corner. We went from being in that rare situation with a luxury to where weíre going to be scrambling a little bit.
Q: Can Torrey Campbell help?
Ferentz: Torrey made strides, too, in the spring, so thatís a positive. He was a little slower in his progress than Jordan, but heís progressing. There is going to be a little bit more opportunity for him now and the freshmen will have an opportunity just as Jordan did a year ago. The good news, if thereís a silver lining here, Jordan has that redshirt year to take. I think realistically thatís what weíre facing right now.
Q: How does this impact Fleming? I know you guys were toying with him at WR.
Ferentz: Our plans now are to keep Reese on the offensive side. Thatís where heís worked this summer. I understand heís doing OK. Thatís our intention right now. I know we have two guys who can play and play well, on defense at the corner position. Iím not sure we know what our depth is or who are top three receivers are let alone depth at that position. So if Reese could be in the top three or top four or top five at receiver, because youíre more apt to play four or five receivers than you are certainly four corners, so thatís probably going to be our approach.
Q: Are you going to toy with him at return game because he can be pretty dynamic?
Ferentz: Yeah, weíve got a handful of guys in the freshmen class weíll get a good look at. If they can help us, weíll put them in there.
Q: Will both true freshmen running backs play this year?
Ferentz: Possibly, yeah. Absolutely. Thatís my mindset right now.
Q: Can you talk about Nico a little bit, the strides heís made?
Ferentz:†Itís not the same as Jordan, but itís similar. They both played on special teams and did some good things. Both clearly grew a lot this spring. Itís really hard for first-year players at a lot of positions to really get it and understand everything in totality, especially at certain positions. I think both of those guys made a lot of strides this spring. They got a lot of work. With Nico right now, heís right in the thick of it. Itís a jump ball at strong safety. Itís kind of like our whole football team. Weíve got a lot of things going into preseason that are up for grabs right now. Thatís certainly one of those positions. Heís certainly put himself in position to compete and have a chance to start.
Q: Do you enjoy coaching more with expectations or without?
Ferentz: My expectations, outside of the first years, have really been pretty similar every year. Iím not ignorant to the fact the way our team is hearing things is certainly different from year to year. The bottom line is . . . I think really going into the 2001 season and since, weíve had an opportunity to put a good team out there. Some teams have progressed better than others. There are certain things you can control and certain things you canít control. The things you can control, depending on how well you do with those, that determines what the seasonís going to be.
Q: How well do you know Bill OíBrien and how do you feel about what heís been going through?
Ferentz: I canít tell you that Bill and I are best friends, but I think he would tell you weíre friends. I hope he would. Iíd hope he say we were friends. And then we have a connection, my oldest boy worked with him the last couple of years. There are two Bills in that building who were really good in taking time and mentoring him and helping him grow as a coach and person. On that front, Iím very appreciative. I know what kind of person Bill is, I know what his family is like and what that means to him. And I think some people overlook his college experience, how diverse it was. The kinds of attacks he was familiar with. Heís been with a lot of really good coaches in his career. Theyíve done a lot of different things offensively, so that gives you a little idea of the depth of his knowledge. The other thing, he gave up a pretty good job to go, basically, to take a lower-paying job. It was a real leap of faith on his part, and I really admire him for that. It just tells you heís all about coaching, heís all about learning and getting better. It wouldíve been tough for anybody. I said yesterday, I believe Penn State is really fortunate to have a person of Billís caliber lead the program. I donít pretend to be lifelong friends with Bill, but the Bill OíBrien I know, heís up for it. Heíll handle it. Itís going to be tough to knock him off his feet. Thereís no question in my mind that heíll do a good job leading the program.
Q: As a head coach, do you have any kind of empathy for him?
Ferentz: Absolutely. Itís just a hard situation, really a hard situation. Whatís taken place on that front, itís complex and, as I said yesterday, itís confusing whatís all going on right now, what the rules are and why the are the way they are. Absolutely, I wouldnít wish that on anybody, quite frankly.
Q: The NCAA rules are drawn out so that you can go after their guys. Is something wrong with that, in the spirit of sportsmanship or ethics?
Ferentz: Iím stick to the term confused. Iím really confused by what Iíve read, on a lot of fronts and a lot of levels. Iím really confused what the thought process is. I understand it, but I donít understand it.
Q: What kind of competitive advantage does a team have when it loses 10 scholarships a year with a ceiling of 65?
Ferentz: Iíve never been through that, so I donít know if Iím one to comment. It canít be good, it just canít be good. But I also know this, too. Weíre playing them on Oct. 20. I know theyíll be well coached and I know that team will be galvanized. Theyíre going to be tough to beat, I know that. They handled us pretty well last year and Iím expecting a tough challenge when we play in October.
Q: Heís going to have to rely on walk-ons. He says you guys have a strong walk-on program. What does it take to develop the walk-on program?
Ferentz: With the walk-ons weíve had whoíve had success, the common denominator has been the personality and characteristics they possess. Just the mentality theyíve had. A guy like Dallas Clark, he was high energy. Brett Greenwood was a very different personality. He wasnít an outgoing guy or charismatic necessarily, but both of them were serious, hard-working guys who had great pride in everything they did. They had great confidence in themselves, not arrogance but confidence. They were willing to work hard. Our first spring, we had a guy named Bruce Nelson. He was a fourth- or fifth-team walk-on tight end. After a day or two, he looked like the most aggressive blocker we had so we made him our left tackle at 250 pounds, 248 pounds, whatever he weighed. He started every game for the next four years. In 2002, his senior year, he ended up being a second-round draft pick. Just a delightful guy, but hard-working and confident. Guys have to work, because as walk-ons theyíre typically not as developed as some other players. Theyíve got to be willing to work hard and catch up. Our wrestling program has done a great job with that historically. They get guys who maybe arenít the sexiest girl at the dance, but after four years they end up being pretty good players. Thatís important in college football at a lot of places.
Q: Do you think thereís enough talent in Pennsylvania for him to find some?
Ferentz: Pennsylvania is a great football state.
Q: Does that give him an advantage?
Ferentz: Most, not all, but most of our successful walk-ons have come from in-state. Sean Considine is probably the biggest exception. Heís still playing, in Baltimore now. He was from Byron, Illinois. The in-state tuition thing helps. Itís more affordable. Itís a steeper challenge when a guy has to cross state boundaries to come in.
Q: Why is 85 scholarships a good number? Some people might say thatís too many, but why is that a good number?
Ferentz: When we moved to 12 games, I suggested we mightíve considered expanding scholarships, quite frankly. I was in favor. At that time, I think I was the only coach in the mid-2000s who was in favor of 12 games. I think players like to play games. I also think you need to have a healthy roster, so I think 90 or 95 might be a better number in this day and age. But I know there are Title IX issues that go along with that. At our place, weíve never had enough good players, thatís just how it is. I think itís probably that way at a lot of places. It just makes the challenge that much steeper. There are years we have guys injured, but thatís just part of coaching. You navigate the waters that youíre in.
Q: You brought in Greg Davis this winter to be offensive coordinator. What was the biggest factor in his hiring?
Ferentz: I gave a lot of thought to a lot of different people. Basically in a nutshell, there were several people I have a lot of respect for and faith in who said nothing but great things about Greg. There was a very consistent picture being painted by everyone I talked with. Joe Philbin worked with Greg. Ken OíKeefe has gotten to know Greg through Joe in the last decade. And then Jim Caldwell [former Colts head coach and now Baltimore Ravens quarterbacks coach], whoís an Iowa grad, just said nothing about great things about Greg as well. Jim had gotten to know Greg through the yeards and I know Jim wouldnít do anything to hurt this program. Those are guys I have great respect for. Getting to know Greg a little bit, it was pretty easy to see what those guys were telling me was really consistent, so I felt good when we hired him and I feel even better now that heís been with us half of the year. Heís a phenomenal professional. When I look at him, I compare him to a guy like Norm Parker or a guy like Bill Brashier, another guy Iíve had the pleasure to work with. Theyíre two of the best coordinators Iíve been around at any level, pro or college. I look Greg as being that kind of guy. What I mean by that is not only are they excellent at what theyíre doing as coaches, but theyíre just great guys on the staff. Great leaders who know how to bring the best out of everybody, the best out of coaches and players. Thatís part of being a coordinator. I just think weíve got a true professional and feel very fortunate that heís with us.
Q: He got kind of criticized in Texas for being a button-down playcaller with all of the talent he had surrounding him. Is that going to change any of the way you control the playcalling?
Ferentz: Iím not a big stat guy, but if you go back and look, I think Texas over a 10-year period was first or second in overall scoring in FBS or whatever we are. Are we FBS?
Ferentz: FBS, I can never remember the name. So, if you just look at statistics, thatís really laughable. The other reason Iím laughing is my son Brian worked with Billy OíBrien in New England and they broke about every record you could break out there. The lightning rod in New England was Billy OíBrien, so anytime things didnít go quite the way everybody had hoped, all the experts, Billy OíBrien was the lightning rod. Itís an interesting phenomenon. The offensive coordinator position has become a bigger lightning rod than head coach, which I donít understand but I guess I should be happy on that front. Thatís why I think itís kind of laughable. If you look at the record of places that Greg has been. My first indirect contact with him was when we drafter Eric Zeier in Cleveland out of Georgia. Greg coached Eric in, I believe, his last two years. It comes with the territory. Greg would be the first one to tell you that. Thatís just part of being a coordinator. If Vince Lombardi was alive today and he was an offensive coordinator, heíd be getting ripped on Sundays the first time his team lost. Thatís just how football is.
Q: Does Greg give you more insight into Texas recruiting and does he give you an in there?
Ferentz: He obviously has great connections down there. He spent 13 years at the University of Texas and I think is highly regarded by everybody in that state. On that front, absolutely. The other side of that coin, though, is that Texas, in recent years anyway, has not been a primary area for Big Ten recruiting. It seems to me itís been more Big 12 oriented and the Southeast Conference might play into that with A&M going into that conference. For whatever reason, I donít think as many players have come to the Big Ten out of Texas as maybe they did a decade ago. But it certainly doesnít hurt and weíre going to continue to recruit down there.
Q: What about being the dean of Big Ten coaches?
Ferentz: I havenít even thought of it. Itís come up a couple of times since Iíve been here. I think if you go around my first two years, some would say itís a remarkable feat. Itís safe to say, no one wouldíve predicted it then, not back in 2000. Itís just the way itís worked out. Itís kind of like birthdays. You donít always want to see another birthday coming, but if you start to think about it, yeah, you do. You want to see a lot of them coming. I feel really fortunate to be coaching at a great school. Iím thrilled to be there. Iím very appreciative of the opportunity that everyone in Iowa has given me and my family for being there. Iím just kind of enjoying life and enjoying coaching.
Q: The kickoff rule this year will kind of tamp down special teams. Will true freshmen be able to work their way into the lineup through special teams?
Ferentz: I think so. It might not be as dramatic, but I think so. Iíll be interested to see how this all plays out with the kickoff rule being enacted. I still think there will be ample opportunity. The kickoff team tends to be one where guys can make a little more obvious impact, but there are still opportunities in all of the special teams for first-year guys to really get their feet wet, do some things and help our team.
Q: Coach, youíre your crew did the best job of anybody last year containing Denard Robinson and Michigan in general.
Ferentz: It was close.
Q: It was, but maybe what went into that?
Ferentz: Heís such an electric performer. Norm Parker said this many times and I really believe in this, anytime you play a really dynamic performer, which Denard really is, itís got to be a team thing, with maybe a rare exception. I remember 2001, we we had Bob Sanders just kind of track Antwaan Randle El. We had one great player tracking another great player. Unfortunately, we only had one Bob Sanders in the last 13 years and donít really anticipate many more coming along. Typically, when you have those types of matchups, you have to play really good team defense. It really imperative everyone does their job the way itís designed to be done. If you have a breakdown, players like that just exploit you. Sometimes, you might make a mistake and get away with it, but guys like him find you pretty fast and itís scary.
Q: In a lot of peoplesí minds, Michigan got out of character. Where do you see Michigan going with Brady Hoke?
Ferentz: I donít want to say I told you so, but maybe I can. Itís not because Iím smart. We played Brady in I think it was his first game at Ball State in one of our openers. He inherited a team that wasnít very good at that point. They werenít very good when we played them that day. Shortly thereafter, Ball State would show up on our tape looking at Indiana or whomever, and then he goes for an undefeated season. When you watched the tape, that was a team that was really well coached. Fast forward, we played Missouri in the bowl game a year ago December, and the best tape we had to look at to prepare for Missouri was San Diego State, an obvious connection there again, too. I had a chance to watch what he did at Ball State on film. I had a chance to see, on film, what he did at San Diego State. They lost to Missouri in a very close game in December, but that was a very well coached football team. I had reason to believe we would really see †. . . †Heís put a great staff together. A lot of those guys have been with him for quite some time. He had great coaching ties. Heís got an excellent football team. Michigan has always had excellent football players as far as I can remember. Itís a pretty good combination. Youíve got good players, good coach and a good tradition. Theyíre going to do very well in the future just like they did last year.
Q: Kirk, how will the Combat uniforms translate into recruiting?
Ferentz: It has come to my attention that is important. Right, wrong or indifferent, itís one of those things that high school kids and younger tune into. Iíve witnessed it with sons of my own, being on the computer and all the video games they play and picking uniforms and all that kind of stuff. Itís a sign of the times. We may integrate some of that into our thinking.
Q: You may? You are.
Q: The catís out of the bag.
Ferentz: The catís out of the bag, huh? OK. Did they tell you what game it is?
Ferentz: Oh, OK. Good. Thatís right up there on my list of priorities. You can see that. I just hope we can line up and play well.
Q: What are your thoughts on the uniform?
Ferentz: I think it looks good. It should be well received I would think.
Q: Over the last couple of years with a lot of new coaches in the league and so many playing styles, have you seen the Big Ten evolve in a way, in that sense, the last three or four years?
Ferentz: Not necessarily. Not to make light of it, but I think our image is so ingrained and so fixed. I go back to 1982, expose my age to you here. I think it was Mark Wilson from Illinois set a stadium passing record in Kinnick Stadium. I think we beat them 10-7 or 14-10 or something like that. He threw for 400-something yards. It was unbelievable. What Iím saying is Mike White was throwing the ball a lot back then in the Ď80s. We threw the ball pretty liberally, too., in the Ď80s. I think thereís this image of Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes. Itís been a while since those guys have coached. In my 13 years, there have been a lot of teams that have opened it up and, quote, unquote, opened it up with three receivers, four receivers. Certainly weíre seeing more of that. Certainly weíre seeing the option or whatever they want to call it, the read option stuff. Thereís a lot of diversity in our conference. I think thatís probably true in most conferences. The neatest thing about college football is thereís a lot of different ways to be successful. Ironically, a team thatís been, if you want to use the word ďdominantĒ and they are in my mind at least, I think of Alabama in the last five years, four years. Their offense looks a lot like Wisconsinís, Michigan Stateís or ours in a lot of ways. Itís still really about having well-coached players, having good players who are well coached. And then, whatever it is you do, do it well. Those are the teams that are successful. The year before it was Auburn and Oregon, both with running quarterbacks and that kind of stuff. So, there are a lot of different ways to be successful. Weíve had change in our conference, no question. Thatís representative of college football, too. You have a lot of change in staffs every year and a lot of different ideas. You just never know what to expect. I think thatís part of the reason, maybe, the fan interest is so strong.
Q: You mentioned thereís sort of a brand thing going on with the Big Ten. Do you think† . . .
Ferentz: Maybe in 30 years people wonít know who those guys are. I really do think thatís still kind of hovers over our conference. We run the ball, our guys are slow, all that stuff. We have big lumbering linemen, slow players. There have been a lot of good No. 1 draft picks in our conference who played skill positions over the years. So yeah, I think itís really easy to generalize sometimes. Iím not so sure thatís always accurate.
Q: When Bill OíBrien was put under these NCAA sanctions, his athletic director said, look, weíve got to keep TV. TV is very important. Why is TV so important?
Ferentz: Just that exposure. I think players love that, first and foremost, and everybody does. Itís great for programs and certainly thatís something thatís changed in college football, too. If you go back just 10 years ago and now, think about how much exposure there is and all the contracts. You want to be relevant. You want to be out there. You want to be seen. The other thing they were talking about was looking into some creative scheduling, which I thought was a great idea, very creative. I donít know where theyíre at on it, but I thought that was a great concept.
Q: Do you think itís important for recruits to watch you on TV?
Ferentz: Absolutely. Absolutely. You want that exposure. Itís really good.
[Question on when Penn State players can make a decision on transferring.]
Ferentz: Itís my understanding itís the first day of classes, which is Aug. 27, I think. And then as I understand it, I donít understand it, but as I understand it, they can still transfer anywhere through the year.
Q: Do you have a magic date set up in your mind?
Ferentz: Weíre just going to do what we think is appropriate. I donít think there are going to be any bombshells. I donít anticipate that.
Q: Are you interested in some of their players?
Ferentz: What I said yesterday, this whole thing is confusing, complex and I think everybody is just going to have to decide to do what they feel is appropriate. Thatís kind of where itís at.
Q: Youíre a guy who held Joe Paterno in high regard over the years. In light of everything thatís come out, I wonder if youíve revisited those feelings.
Ferentz: I would imagine there were a lot of people who felt that way. Thatís a pretty obvious statement. The only thing I would say on this whole thing, and I said this yesterday, I drove in two nights ago and it dawned on me that every time I drive into here, itís kind of the kickoff of the season. Once I get back into the car, itís pretty much us and our football team for the next four months, which is a fun time. But the point there is how much things change in a yearís time and that happens in life, in a lot of different areas not just sports. The whole thing is just really hard to comprehend. Itís just really hard to comprehend.
Q: Iím from Detroit. Tell me about Riley Reiff, what are we going to see?
Ferentz: I was, too. I was born in Royal Oak, Beaumont Hospital. They kicked me out in third grade. Riley is just a delightful guy. Weíve been fortunate. Weíve had some a lot of good players in our place and Riley right there in the upper echelon, a first-round draft pick. He had the option of staying another year. I make the comparison with he and Bryan Bulaga. I think both those guys, had they chosen to stay for their senior years, they probably wouldíve been in the top eight picks. They wouldíve kept improving, kept developing. With that being said, theyíre still first-round picks. Bryan proved it. He went in there and played well as a first-year guy. [Marshal] Yanda did the same thing in Baltimore. All three of them are similar. Iíve told people theyíre going to get better as pros. Marshal Yanda has already done that. Heís a Pro Bowl player. He probably wouldíve been a year ago if he hadnít have been injured so severely. Bryan Bulaga is a tremendous football player and Riley is the same kind of guy. Riley is hard-nosed and tough.
Q: And you switched him from D to O.
Ferentz: That was kind of the master plan all along. I think he knows that now, so Iím not letting the cat out of the bag. We really envisioned him being an offensive lineman. When Bryan had a thyroid issue back in í09, Riley jumped in and played left tackle at Iowa State and Penn State and he did a great job. He played left guard the rest of that year and then we moved him out to left tackle went to the draft. Heís a tremendous football player. His best football is ahead of him.
Q: You and Schwartz [Detroit Lions head coach] seemed to have a good connection. Does he pick your brain on these guys before they come in?
Ferentz: Their whole organization does a good job on doing their homework. Jim is a guy I have tremendous respect for. He was another one of those ďdown the roadĒ guys in Cleveland, you know. He was a young guy who was really smart, you could tell that. He started out in personnel and then when we went to Baltimore, he ended up working with Marvin Lewis and the rest is history. He climbed with every step. Jim is a highly intelligent guy, great football coach and heís already done a great job with the Lions in a short period of time.
Q: Do you think the playoff is going to dramatically change the way teams schedule non-conference games?
Ferentz: I havenít given it a lot of thought, quite frankly. To answer the question, I think yes. You certainly have to favor it in or think about it a little bit. Our policy has been to play two BCS schools. Is that term still relevant or not? You get the idea, at least. Thatís been our guiding principle over the long haul. As you know, in the Big Ten, we talked about playing nine conference games at one juncture. And we talked about playing the Pac-12. Now weíre still kind of working on the equation. I think people are going to have to consider it.
Q: Does it matter where your program is as well, thinking about a national championship? Or you might want to think differently if youíre building a program.
Ferentz: Yeah, I think it does. If I were the head coach at Alabama, Iím not but if I was Iíd probably look at it a bit differently, I think for sure. Depending on where youíre sitting, you try to gauge whatís best for your program.
Q: You think weíll get away from the FCS?
Ferentz: That I donít know about. I havenít thought that far ahead. As you know, scheduling has become a real challenge. That really was the impetus for us exploring the nine-game conference thing, because itís been a real challenge. The FCS teams have had a good market to go out and get paydays. To their credit, why not? There are going to be a lot of discussions, certainly at a higher level over the next couple of months.
Q: I think fans think you snap your fingers and create a schedule. Wouldnít they all love Alabama, USC and whoever. But really, there are a lot of obstacles, arenít there?
Ferentz: You have to do whatís best for your program. Weíve had four top 10 teams here in the last 10 years. None of those teams were really prolific in September. For example, if we had gone out and played Alabama, any one of our top four teams, we were fortunate to beat Northern Iowa in 2009 when we ended up winning the Orange Bowl. I think you have to look at your program and do whatís best for your particular situation.
Q: By the way, Iíve seen every game Bryan Bulaga has played for the Packers. Do you follow those guys when they leave the program? Bryan was terrific last year.
Ferentz: When I was in the NFL it was hard to follow the college guys and vice versa. And really, my biggest interest if Iím walking by the TV or itís a bye week, Iím hoping itís someone whoís come through the program. So yeah, if the Packers or the Colts, when Dallas and Bob were there, itís a lot more fun when one of your guys is out there. I try to follow them and keep up with guys. Iím very happy for them.
Q: How does he rank [Bulaga] with guys who have come through your program? I think heís on the verge. Theyíre going to push him for the Pro Bowl this year, I think.
Ferentz: We had a pretty good guy graduate a couple of years ahead of him named Marshal Yanda. Weíve had some good guys go through whoíve done very well as pros. Heís certainly in that group. You donít luck your way into being a first-round draft pick. You just donít luck your way into it. His story is more amazing because most people donít realize he was in college three years. For an offensive lineman to go to college for three years and be a first-round draft pick and then to play as a rookie . . . He shouldíve been playing in whatever game we played in that year. Missouri? He shouldíve been playing against Missouri, but he ended up playing in the Super Bowl. So, you know, thatís quite s story. That doesnít happen very often for a three-year guy on the offensive line. That tells you a little bit about his attitude and work ethic. Heís an exceptional guy.
Q: And the flip side is, thereís still a lot of room for growth because he is such a young guy?
Ferentz: I thought the Packers really got great value with their pick. I think the Detroit Lions did the same thing with Riley Reiff. Those guys wouldíve been top five, top eight picks a year later. Instead of developing a guy who played his senior year at Iowa, he played his senior year at Green Bay. A year later, you wouldíve gotten a guy who wouldíve been a lot more expensive, at least back in the old days. Now theyíve got it all slotted. I thought it was just an outstanding pick. I wasnít surprised, though. Ted Thompson does as well as anybody.
[Bill OíBrien question]
Ferentz: Iíve got great respect for Bill in all areas. I think heís done just an absolutely great job. I said yesterday, itís just an extremely challenging circumstance. Iím a little biased, but I think Penn State is so fortunate to have Bill there. Heís a tremendous person, first and foremost. Great family. Heís a tremendous football coach. I know everyone is aware of what he did in New England, and thatís not easy, either. Coaching a veteran quarterback whoís established, thatís one of the hardest things in the world. Really a hard job, a challenging job. He did just an outstanding job there. If you look at his college career, he was with great coaches in college. A lot of different systems, great depth of knowledge and he has great flexibility that way. He did a really great job and then stepped backwards professionally Ė quote, unquote, backwards Ė that was all about him wanting to learn and grow and develop. Not a lot of people in our profession do something like that. So, I think that gives you a good insight into how he thinks and what heís all about.
Q: What has your son said about him?
Ferentz: Iím just so appreciative. He was a great mentor, a great teacher. My son asked a lot of question. Heís very inquisitive. Bill always found time for him. He really helped him grow, so on a personal level, Iím really grateful and appreciative. I canít ever pay him enough for that.
Q: His leadership through this whole deal, comment on that.
Ferentz: I think itís public knowledge with Bill and his son. He and Colleen have a unique there.† [The OíBriens have a severely disabled son.] Iíll draw a parallel to Norm Parker, our defensive coordinator. He had a son, Jeffery, who had some challenges. When I hired Norm, the one thing I knew was it would be hard to rock his world. Things like that put everything into perspective for you. One thing I knew about Norm was we were getting a guy who was stable, a guy who wasnít going to be complaining about little, stupid things and who was focus on things that were important and have a great attitude about it and persevere. I think youíre going to see the same thing out of Bill. I donít want to pretend that there the same, but I think thereís a common bond there. I canít imagine someone whoíd be better equipped for the challenges that are in front of them right now than Bill OíBrien.
Q: From Iowaís Facebook page, fans are curious what Jordan Walshís role on the team will be this year.
Ferentz: Weíre curious to learn what thatís going to be, too. We have a lot of positions up for grabs right now that will be in competition this camp. Jordan very quietly had an outstanding spring. He did a nice job last fall, but this spring he got a lot of quality work with our second and first unit, at times with the first but mostly with the second and mad great progress with each and every day. Heís certainly in contention right now with the offensive line. Weíre going to have a lot of interesting competition and healthy competition. Based what I saw at the end of spring, I think Jordan will be right in the middle of it.
Q: Well, breaking news. DeíAndre Johnson got a disorderly house last night. I donít know how you process this. You probably already know about it.
Ferentz: I donít. Firstly, Iíd like to learn the facts. A disorderly house, thatís not going to rock the Richter scale, but there will be consequences. He didnít sneeze too, did he? Certainly, I donít condone that.
Q: I know there has been some dialog with a player from Penn State. Is there a timeline for that? Does the door shut at some point this year?
Ferentz: I think the position weíre going to take is weíre going to do whatís appropriate. I think thatís something everyone has to do nationally. Just reading the papers, it looks like everyone has a little different approach to it.
Q: Your son whoís on the staff now hinted on a tweet at some point that you might be joining the Twitter nation. -- Iíve been told to get a baseball bat for that one.
Ferentz: I joked about that yesterday and Iím sure that everyone is sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the arrival mainly because the things that get tweeted are so insightful and so interesting. I could see why they would want to know what I might have to say.† Weíre still working through that process.
Q: I can tell youíre excited about the idea.
Ferentz: Never say never. Iíve got to make sure itís a Styrofoam bat when I do receive that blow.
Q: You seem to be making concessions to youth, with the Pro Combat, with the more open media policy in the spring. Everybody kind of jumps to the conclusion that itís Brianís influence, is it?
Ferentz: Yes and no. And itís Brian and LeVar. That was one of the motivating factors for me with both of those guys. LeVar has been working in our office for the last couple of years. Iíve gotten to see his work habits. Iíve gotten to see the way he thinks. Heís sat in our staff meetings. Unfortunately for him, a lot of times, Iíd turn the camera to him and ask, what do you think? What do you think about that from your perspective, that type of thing. That was one of the motivating factors, and I will lump the two together. They both played in our program. Theyíve seen it from a playersí perspective. I think theyíre both young enough to have that real connection for what itís like to be in the program. I thought that was good insight. I always want to be firm in my beliefs, I think thatís a positive, but I donít want to be stubborn, either, or certainly not stupid. I guess thatís probably the progression Ė firm, stubborn, stupid. I try to avoid the stubborn, stupid part because itís not going to move things forward. Iím open to ideas. Iíll go back to high school., when I was at Upper St. Clair High School and Joe Moore came in. At the time in August, you couldnít play football if you didnít have a crewcut and you couldnít drink water. This is 1971 at that time. And then Joe Moore came to town and you could have hair down to your belt if you wanted and facial hair, if you wanted that, the Ď70s. There was Gatorade everywhere. He was ahead of his time. And we worked harder than we ever worked in our lives. We all thought we were getting away with something because we all had long hair and got to drink Gatorade. Really, if you read about Vince Lombardi, people ask if he couldíve coached Ė ďWhen Pride Still Mattered,Ē if you read that book Ė he couldíve done anything, anywhere at anytime. Thatís my conclusion. So, part of the lesson there is you have to know whatís important, I think. Itís like marriage. You have to make concessions. You canít win every battle.
Q: Did you have long hair in high school?
Ferentz: Oh yeah.
Q: How long?
Ferentz: Long enough. Until August, then Iíd cut it off.
Q: Youíve dealt with the tattoos and the long hair and even the neck tattoos and all that kind of stuff, now itís communication. Now itís expression that youíre managing with young guys. Some of the Twitter is scary stuff.
Ferentz: Robert Gallery is a good example of that one. He had the tattoos. The guy was an Eagle Scout. You would love to have your daughter marry a guy like him. Youíve got to be careful when youíre making judgments on folks or things. My biggest reservation with social media, and it remains that way with Twitter, there are just so many examples of people causing undue issue. Just so many examples. The Facebook and all that. Iím not sure everybody understands all the time what theyíre doing. Itís kind of like a tattoo, though. Itís hard to get those off, too, when you walk into a job interview.
Q: I know Brian and LeVar and Eric Johnson, he doesnít get enough credit for this quick start in recruiting. They can speak kid. Do you feel like you can do it? Do you try to do it?
Ferentz: I think itís like coaching. You have to be who you are. I think that sells. I donít think thatís changing in any era. Players, prospects but mostly players on your team, if they know you have their best interests at heart . . . It may take awhile. Players have to know they can trust you. They have to know that you do care about them and you are concerned about them. I think thatís been the essence of coaching and teaching forever. Itís not always the package you present. If you have long hair or a flat top or whatever it may be, itís really about how you act. And sometimes, itís hard for people to see that you do care about them. Itís a little painful at times. But thereís no question in recruiting, you have to get their attention somehow, someway.
Q: Is it a truism that with the old staff, did you guys win parents over more and these guys Brian, LeVar and Eric, is this a chance for you guys to win kids more?
Ferentz: I know where youíre going with that. Norm would tell you heís not modern, but I also would tell you if you interviewed a guy like Abdul Hodge or Chad Greenway or Matt Bowen, who was back in town two or three Fridays ago for the Special Olympics. If youíve ever heard Matt Bowen talk, the first thing he talks about is his relationship with Norm. Mattís a modern guy. I think this whole thing is a little deeper than the superficial stuff. I would suggest that when a kid or a parent would meet Norm Parker and take some time and really talk with them Ė or Ken OíKeefe Ė they were typically impressed. Iíll flip it around, too. One of the things thatís always impressed me about Eric Johnson, every coach or parent that Iíve come in contact with through the recruiting process, they go out of their way to tell me what a great representative heís been for our program. And then, I personally like both Brian and LeVar, theyíre exactly what we want walking into a living room. I think theyíll play well with any parent whoís concerned about their kid getting a good education and getting into a good program with structure and expectations. Both those guys have gone through that. They believe in it. They believe in what we do and yet theyíre younger and maybe they can relate on the face-to-face level. Iíll say this, too, there were a handful of guys we couldíve brought in, too, as opposed to Brian and LeVar who were players here and are in the coaching profession who I think would do a wonderful job. Sooner or later, weíll probably have more of them on our staff, at some point.
Q: How close are you to being done with recruiting in this class?
Ferentz: Closer than weíve ever been at this time, I can say that.
Q: In the season, now you have to babysit. It never stops, I guess.
Ferentz: Itís kind of like a lot of things going on right now. Weíve never been in this situation. Weíve had some discussions about it. Unfortunately, we now move on to the next class, so weíre looking harder at juniors as well, next yearís juniors. Wow. But yeah, we canít take anything for granted with the guys who are committed, because thereís nothing binding at this point. And then my other thing is, itís probably not a bad idea to keep some room in the class because historically, we have had a lot of guys whoíve had good senior years but were maybe in the B range and not on the offer list.
Q: Rick Stanzi?
Ferentz: Vandenberg, Micah Hyde, all three of the guys sitting here. They didnít have any offers going into their senior year. Thatís really the history of our program. I donít want us to lose sight of who weíve been. But things have changed, so itís not exactly the same as it was five years ago.
Q: Three or four more guys?
Ferentz: Probably less than a handful, I would think.
Q: Why do you guys not make a big deal when you give a walk-on a scholarship? I know itís a personal thing and itís a big deal for the young guys. Maybe itís putting your cards on the table, too, maybe thereís some of that.
Ferentz: Thereís a degree of that. We also donít announce publicly who the scout team player of the week was. Iím not saying itís right or wrong, but we typically donít put our stuff out there. Itís always one of my highlights of the year to tell someone whoís walked on that theyíve earned a scholarship. I have to deliver bad news more than I like, but I sure do like delivering good news.
Q: I think you might have a little bit of that coming up or was that done in the spring this year?
Ferentz: Weíre fairly close right now, but usually in camp we have a decision or two to make.
Q: Do you have a story about a walk-on who got a scholarship that sticks out in your mind?
Ferentz: Theyíve all been pretty good. Theyíve all been pretty good. Sometimes, it might be to a player who wasnít going to hit the field, a service award, if you will. If thereís not someone whoís an obvious choice, then typically, weíll go to that senior class. And last year, Tom Nardo hadnít really done anything on the game field and really hadnít done much that spring, but we just felt like he was a guy who stuck with the program, had done a nice job and then materialized into a pretty good story as the year went on. That was more of a reward for paying out-of-state tuition for four years and persevering through some injuries. It was a good way to reward his dedication to the program. Itís always nice if youíre in that position. Weíre not going to let one sit empty just to have it sit empty. Weíre not going to do that.
Q: Coach, what is your policy on your players using social media?
Ferentz: Pretty simply, we discourage Twitter or ban it.
Ferentz: Just because there are just way too many examples right now . . . And it doesnít mean our players would be guilty of it, but the likelihood of it happening is too high, so weíve really pretty much banned Twitter. I donít think we have to make a national announcement on that, but thatís just been our policy. Then, Facebook, MySpace, YourSpace, MyFace, all that stuff, I think itís probably going too far for me to say you canít do that and unrealistic, but we sure have tried to educate our players to just think about what theyíre doing and that itís part of their DNA once they post something. Itís an educational process and I think players are smarter now than they were five years ago. It just really opens the door to get in trouble really easily. We all do things we wish we hadnít done, and thatís just one more avenue to do that.
Q: Have you ever as a coach considered getting Twitter or anything like that?
Ferentz: I have a member of the staff suggest that I do that. Weíll see. Itís not beyond the realm of possibilities. Not that Iíve read anything, but they give me copies of things that have been on Twitter and I havenít seen much thatís really insightful. To me, life would be fine without it, but I realize times have changed too.
Q: Do you think your players are OK with it?
Ferentz: Iím sure there are some who wish they could. I tell them, hey, as soon as you play your last game, you can Twitter your life away. They can do a lot of things, go do what they want to do, but Iíd really like to see them have good careers and be as uncomplicated as possible and I really like to see them get their degrees. Thatís really all I care about.
Q: Is there any other place where you can communicate with fans?
Ferentz: I still think thatís what press conferences are for. Not to give you too much commentary on Twitter, I think itís OK for people to watch things and to draw their own conclusions sometimes. When they get done playing, they can Twitter their lives away.
Q: Do you think with Iowa having a policy against Twitter that theyíre kind of behind other schools who let players use it?
Ferentz: You never say never, so Iím not saying weíll never change our policy, but if that really becomes a determining factor for a guy picking our school or another school, he probably wouldnít function real well in our program anyway so weíll just live without him. I may eat those words down the road, weíll see. Iíll Twitter it if I do, if we switch that.
Q: What is it with all these Ferentzes running around?
Ferentz: Right now, the body count is three, soon to be four. I just thoroughly enjoy it. It wasnít a master plan by any stretch. Itís just something that happened. However many years ago, there was just one in the building besides myself and it was something I thoroughly enjoyed. I think the challenge is on their end more than mine. Itís easier for me. Theyíre the ones who have to prove themselves to their teammates and everyone else. Iím sure the world looks at them a little funny, but I thoroughly enjoy it. Part of that is as a coach you miss a lot of your kidsí growing up. Iím not singing the blues or complaining about it, we signed up for it, but what I learned with Brian as a player, just having him out there and be on the field, see at his locker . . . I might not even say anything, but to just see him in the building, that was a really neat thing, that was a really neat experience for me. To watch him in practice film, I wouldnít have been able to do that if he were at a different school. I obviously got to watch all of his games in college. That was like a bonus for the things I missed in high school and when he was in junior high.
Q: Would you say because of their last name, they have to prove themselves more?
Ferentz: Absolutely. They have the tough job, not me, starting with their teammates. One of the good things about our program, this goes back to my first experience in í81, walking into Iowa not knowing anything about it, I was amazed in the early Ď80s and just throughout the Ď80s how receptive our players seem to be to newcomers. Itís just a tradition, I canít explain it, at Iowa. So, I think that added to it. I think his classmates have given him and his teammates have given him a fair opportunity to prove himself. Thatís one of the great things about sports, too. There are no victims. Typically, you earn what you get. You canít say that about a lot of things in life, but in sports, you earn what you get out there on the field. Thereís no judgments or debating or any of that stuff. Either you are getting it done or you donít. So, the onus was on him, but I think everyone looks a little differently at him than Joe Smith.
Q: Vandenberg actually said that he thinks Brian is overqualified for the position.
Ferentz: I donít know about overqualified, but there was no doubt in my mind that he was qualified. I wouldnít have hired him if he wasnít, because you know, I want to win. Thatís part of my job, too. Part of my job is my responsibility to our program, our athletes. I have to do everything I can in my best judgment to give us the best chance to be successful. I love my son, donít get me wrong, but I was going to hire the person I felt was the best fit for that position. We had three great choices at the position, not including Reese Morgan, who is obviously a great line coach.
Q: James is one of the top pro-style quarterbacks in the Big Ten. There has been a proliferation of dual-threat quarterbacks, why do you think that is?
Ferentz: Itís just a sign of the times. The read option has become bigger and bigger through the years now and in the last decade. Randle El was a running quarterback. Weíve had some running quarterbacks in our conference. It shifts this way, it shifts that way. I think thatís one of the neat things about college football and one of the reasons itís as popular as it is. In every conference, fans see this, this and this. Thereís no magical way to do things. Thereís not right way or wrong way to do things. Thereís always a flavor of the day, but typically it gets down to execution.
Q: Kirk, do you have any idea what coach OíBrienís offense is going to be like?
Ferentz: I donít. I a couple of things people need to understand about Bill, heís had a really tough job. Coaching Tom Brady might look like an easy job, but when you coach a pro player whoís that established, I mean heís a Hall of Fame player, a guy like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or go back through history, veteran quarterbacks are pretty firm on their opinions, so thereís a lot of give and take there when you coach a player like that. That has a unique set of challenges. One of the things I admire most Bill, he left a very good job to take a step back Ė quote, unquote Ė professionally. I know it was pay-wise. He went into New England basically as a low-level guy, but he did it because Bill is all about being the best coach he can be. Thatís my perception of Bill. Heís interested in doing whatís best to grow and develop. There arenít a lot of guys in our profession who would do that, have the guts to take that kind of step. And then I would add that his experience in college, heís been around a lot of successful coaches in programs and a lot of different kinds of attacks. Heís been with throwing programs. Last year, no one threw the ball better than New England. But heís also gone with option attacks, so heís got a really diverse background. My assumption is heíll take what they saw in 15 days of spring ball and mold the system to fit their personnel.
Q: Could they have one of the most diverse attacks in the league?
Ferentz: Anything is possible. Just knowing his background, anything is possible. I wouldnít know what to expect frankly. Fortunately, weíre not playing them until October. At least weíll have some idea.
Q: How has Twitter and Facebook changed the life of a head coach?
Ferentz: Itís one more challenge. Itís one more thing to educate them about. There was a long list prior to Facebook and Twitter. Now, just throw those two on there. The potential for missteps, not everyday but frequently, of things that come out that I would imagine, now Iím talking about athletes, athletes might regret what they said or put out there. I know coaches do.
Q: Do you have any restrictions on players?
Ferentz: Yeah, weíre not really big on Twitter. Iíll let them Twitter their lives away after theyíve played their last game. We encourage them not to use that. If they want to Twitter away for the next 60 years, have at it.. Itís just like if they make a comment to the media. Theyíre responsible for that. Just like any actions you take, youíre responsible for those. Just add it to the list. My concern as a parent or coach is sometimes people donít think about what the long-range ramifications might be, as a player and, more importantly, trying to go out and get a real job in the real world. NFL people look at all that stuff, too. They look at all that stuff in the NFL process.
Q: The NCAA is raising academic requirements going forward for core classes. I was curious to get your take on that.
Ferentz: Iím all for anything thatís going to help in that area. My only concern would be getting the word out, grassroots. That was the challenge back in the day of the initial Prop 48 or whatever it was. How do you get the word out to all of the high school counselors? There are a lot of places in this country where people arenít aware of that. When I went to Maine in 1990, we had a young man from a high school in Maine out in the middle of the state. His dad was an educator and this young guy had no idea. He was in no way qualified. He didnít have the core courses. A lot of people think of it as an inner city issue. Hardly. There are a lot of places. Thatíd be my concern. The key thing with all these core courses, they need to know in ninth grade. I spent some tie with Phil Savage yesterday. Phil is from Mobile. Heís in charge of the Senior Bowl now, the director. He does a lot of work in that community and we had that same conversation, just on the lack of awareness. A lot of young people and parents donít understand. So when a guy finds out his junior year that he might be a Division I prospect and he and his parents find out thereís no way he can get the work done, thatíd be my concern. If weíre adding to that list, weíve got to get the word out sooner. Thatís a real challenge.
Q: Something about Brett Bielema and Urban Meyer and being in a room when something had to be worked out among coaches.
Ferentz: What we do is competitive. Itís a recruiting and a game competition. It gets intense. I think as a result of that, things may happen that need to be talked about and discussed. Iíve only been in that room for 13 years now. I think going back as an assistant in the Ď80s, I think this conference has in general terms have had a group of coaches whoíve had good working relationships, with an exception here and there and I can think of one during the Ď80s that was interesting. I think for the most part this conference has gotten along. Guys arenít afraid to pick up the phone and talk things out. I donít know if youíve been married, but Iíve had a few conversations where hmmmm, one of those deals. You work through those things. Thatís part of life. I think in this conference weíve had a pretty good tradition of that and I donít see that changing down the road.
Q: Knowing Brett as you do, how do you think he handled that particular circumstance?
Ferentz: My sense was walking out after the meeting in February that we all gained ground and weíre all moving forward.
Q: [Something about Dan Gable and if KF wants to leave that sort of mark on Iowa football.]
Ferentz: Probably unrelated, but my appreciation for Dan Gable . . . I knew who he was in the Ď70s. He won a gold medal and what have you. My appreciation for him grew when I went there as an assistant in the Ď80s, watching that program. Iíve had three sons wrestle in high school now. To this day, I donít pretend to understand the sport and all the technicalities, but the people in Iowa do understand it pretty well and what I do understand and respect is just what a demanding sport it is. Itís unique in a lot of ways. To watch his program and watch him coach, itís a real treat. Iíve gotten to know him even better over the last 13 years. Heís one of the great figures not only in collegiate sports, but in all of sports. His record is phenomenal. Heís just a great person. Heís all about his family. Heís all about the wrestlers who wrestled for him and the people in his program. Those have been his two life priorities, once he quit competing. Indirectly, heís been a great role model. His values, everything he stands for, how lucky am I to be coaching at the school where he made such a large impact. Ironically, he competed at one of our rival schools. That part is almost kind of interesting and funny, but heís an all-time legendary figure.
Q: Whatís it like after 13 years? Do you just like what youíre doing and where your at? You donít need anything to rejuvenate your coaching?
Ferentz: Absolutely. As a coach growing up, you look around and you watch people. I Ďll throw a name out for you, I always admired Tubby Raymond, legendary coach at Delaware. He did a phenomenal job and he was smart enough to know he had a good job. Thatís how I felt about Iowa. I loved coaching there in the Ď80s as an assistant. My life loved living there. Four of our kids were born there. We have a real history with the community. Ironically, the plan when we went there, the plan was to get in and get out. That was my first full-time job. I was going to get my resume started and get the heck out of there, but we stayed nine years and loved it. It was a no-brainer for us to move back here when we had that opportunity. Pretty much my professional life has been dictated by two things: Any move had to be something we felt was good for our family, personally. And secondly, it had to be a good professional opportunity. Iíve seen no compelling reason to leave Iowa. Itís just been great for our family and great for me professionally, so I really like where Iím at and I really love living in the state.
Q: You talked about coach OíBrien a few minutes ago, what do you think coach Meyer and coach Beckman bring to the Big Ten on the field.
Ferentz: I donít know as much about coach Beckman, but he did a fantastic job at Toledoís program. His dad coached at Iowa back in the Ď70s. Heíll do an outstanding job. Coach Meyerís reputation certainly precedes him. Everywhere heís been, heís had tremendous success.† In my 22-year association with the league, nobody has had better players year in and year out. Iíd throw in my six years in the NFL watching the draft board. Ohio State, I could argue very easily, has had the best NFL personnel each and every year. You have a great staff and great personnel, thereís no reason they wonít have great success. Thereís no reason to think things will change there.
Q: What are your thoughts on the four-team playoff?
Ferentz: I think itís a positive step. Itís something I think everyone has been clamoring for, at least the public has. My only request would be, and I donít think this is going to happen, but if I were commissioner of sports, I would mandate that thereís at least 12 to 15 days buffer after the two teams get determined, give those teams at least 12 plus days to prepare for the championship game. I think thatís important from a health standpoint and a I think itís going to be important from a preparation standpoint. You want that to be a marquee game, a quality game, so to better increase the odds of that, I think itís better to give it a couple week buffer, but I donít think thatís going to happen. Thereís a chance those two teams might not be really familiar with each other, so it will allow them to have ample opportunity to really do some homework and also get the players rested. Thatíd be my two sense.
Q: I talked to Nathan Scheelhaase for a while. He said growing up he was around Kinnick all the time and, of course, his dad (Nate Creer) played there. He said you were the first to offer him.
Ferentz: Tremendous young guy. Outstanding student, too. He played at Rockhurst High School, which is a very traditional program. Heís just an outstanding young guy. Dynamic player, dynamic athlete, which weíve seen now in conference play. Great personality, smart, just everything youíd want in a player.
Q: What do you remember about his dad and his career at Iowa?
Ferentz: Nate had a real good run in the í80s. He was a teammate of Owen Gillís and Devon Mitchellís. Those guys had great careers at Iowa. Nateís a different personality than Nathan, whoís probably a little bit more measured. Nate was the life of the party.
Q: He wanted to play Iowa and you guys go six years without playing.
Ferentz: Thatís just one of those freak things. Who couldíve predicted that? With the divisional stuff, who knew what was going to go on and there you go.
Q: I think yesterday the whole eight-game schedule was locked in with the Big Ten. As far as non-conference scheduling goes, where do you see the future going?
Ferentz: I donít know if weíll deviate from where we are. I know scheduling is still a big challenge for the administrators and understandably so. To that point, I think the scheduling of the Pac-12 thing made a lot of sense and maybe there will be an opportunity somewhere else along those lines. I donít know. I know they met yesterday on that and Iím sure that was a big part of their discussion. Iíll be curious to see where it goes. I stick to my feelings that in conference I donít think itís healthy to have a four-five split. I donít think thatís a good thing. I think that gives a competitive edge.
Q: You prefer to go east, right? Thatís more of a primary recruiting area.†Ferentz: If I could, Iíd rather play somebody thatís in our recruiting area. That might not be realistic.