IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz twice Wednesday led into a statement about the Hawkeyes’ disappointing 2012 season with reference to the national deficit.
It only got worse from there.
Right off the bat, Ferentz was asked if offensive coordinator Greg Davis would be retained. Forget the stats — they were among the worst in Ferentz’s 14 seasons for the offense — if that’s the first question out of the chute for a postseason news conference, that’s pretty much everything you need to know about the 2012 Hawkeyes.
Well, there’s this, too: Iowa finished 11th in the Big Ten in scoring and total offense and 111th nationally in scoring and 114th in total offense.
“As far as I know, yeah,” Ferentz said when asked about Davis, who in his first season presided over an offense that generated 310.4 yards a game, lowest since 2000.
Pressed further . . .
“I think Greg is an excellent football coach, I think he’s a tremendous professional and a tremendous person,” Ferentz said. “I have every bit of confidence that Greg will be in . . . and I don’t want to get into tenures or job security and all that stuff, that’s really not what we’re here for, but Greg’s a tremendous football coach and we wouldn’t have brought him here 10 months ago if we didn’t feel that way.
“I feel stronger about the kind of coach and person he is now after working with him.”
Probably don’t read too much into that pause. This is five days after a 4-8 disaster that saw Iowa’s season end with a six-game losing streak, the quarterback throw the fewest TDs since 1999 (single-digit TD passes have happened just three times in the last 31 seasons at Iowa) and the defense allow 5.54 yards a play (worst since 2003).
Ferentz acknowledged at the outset that all of the rumors about assistant coaches, resignations and transfers weren’t true and wouldn’t be discussed. This is all still very fresh and so Ferentz might well be in a “no declarations” mode.
“This won’t be as interesting and dramatic as maybe people want it to be,” he said.
On if he’d consider any tweaks in a coaching staff that was overhauled prior to 2012 (all but two assistants changing positions): “We’re 4-8 right now, so I think we have to be open to everything, be it staff, players, where guys line up, all those types of things,” Ferentz said. “It’s not something you typically make a rash decision on. It’s things you have to look at, and I think we have to look at how all the pieces to the puzzle fit together.”
Asked if he anticipates changes, Ferentz said too early to tell, see how it plays out.
The hot transfer rumor that whisked around Iowa-dom last week centered on quarterback Jake Rudock. Ferentz said that definitely wasn’t true.
“The fact that the player in question came and grabbed me yesterday morning after the meeting and said, ‘Could I visit with you,’ ” Ferentz said. “We sat down at 2 o’clock, and it was the exact opposite of him going [transferrring] to New Orleans.”
Ferentz talked about “swings of momentum” this season — injuries to running back Mark Weisman and season-ending injuries to O-linemen Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal — and not being good enough to “push through.”
“We had a lot of good guys working their tails off this year, but we just didn’t have enough,” Ferentz said.
Beyond sending the offensive coordinator into the sunset, there was no talk about changing schemes. Ferentz was asked about philosophy and he boiled it down to what Iowa does best when it’s working at its best.
“Defensively, if you miss tackles and give up big plays [Iowa allowed 20 20-plus yard plays during a 0-for-4 November], you’re not going to successful,” he said. “Offensively, if you don’t block people . . . Some people can move the ball without blocking, that’s become a new art, but I don’t think fits here. I don’t think that’s ever going to fit here. It’d be really tough to pull off.
“My biggest thing is we’re doing things that are smart fundamentally, where people turn on the film and say, ‘hey, that team is coached.’ Quite frankly, there were some times this year where you can’t say that.”
Ferentz said Iowa has a “deficit.” It’s a matter of facing it head on.
“I’m not going to try to spin that [4-8 in '12],” Ferentz said. “That’s like saying ‘what $15 trillion deficit?’ There is one and it ain’t going away, so we’ve got to knock our deficit down.
“We’ve got to realize there is one and work on that.”
– Fullback Brad Rogers will undergo back surgery this offseason. He missed four games and played sparingly this season. Ferentz said one other starter from 2012 might face surgery, but didn’t name the player or injury.
– O-linemen Brandon Scherff (broken fibula, dislocated ankle) and Andrew Donnal (ACL) should be full speed this spring, Ferentz said. Also, cornerback Jordan Lomax (torn labrum) and safety Ruben Lile (ACL) should be good to go this spring. Ferentz said Lomax has a strong shot at one of the starting corner spots.
– Iowa will have three contenders at quarterback next fall, sophomore Jake Rudock, junior Cody Sokol and redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard. Here’s what Ferentz said he’d be looking for: “Who moves the team, who reacts under pressure, who is accurate throwing the football, and who has leadership capabilities? All of those kinds of things. There is a lot that goes into it. I think all three of the guys are eager to compete.”
– On recruiting needs: “We have three senior linebackers, but we’re thin and we’ve been depleted there medically, so that is certainly a concern. Then on the offensive side, guys who could score touchdowns would be a good thing. We’ve got a couple, so if we could get some more, that would be great.”
The Iowa coach mentions Iowa’s postseason honorees, the fact that the 4-8 season was disappointing, some of the positives over the years, six games lost by an average of 4.5 points.
Q. Do you tweak your staff in any way going into next year?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, we’re 4‑8 right now, so I think we have to be open to everything: Be it staff, players, where guys lineup, all those types of things. It’s not something typically you make a rash decision on. It’s things that you have to look at, and I think you have to look at how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. I think I said it Friday or last Tuesday. I think it was Friday, but we’ve got good people on our staff, good coaches.
“The majority of these guys were here in ’08 and ’09. It’s not like we’ve got a bunch of dumbbells here. They did a good job of carrying me during that period, so hopefully we can get back to that point. We have good people here.”
Q. At what point do you confirm a transfer?
COACH FERENTZ: It could be any time. That was another rumor that came to me. That was not only out there. It landed on my desk somewhere in the last 48 hours. Someone had one of our quarterbacks transferring to a school in New Orleans, which may be true. I don’t know.
“But the fact that the player in question came and grabbed me yesterday morning after the meeting and said, Coach, we sat down at 2:00, and it was the exact opposite of him going to New Orleans. I just said I can’t tell you the source on that one either, but it was interesting. Had me nervous for a while. Said I can’t wait till 2:00 o’clock to find out what’s going to happen here.”
Q. How does a season like this affect recruiting short term and longer term?
COACH FERENTZ: I would be more concerned longer term than short. I think, you know, it’s like transfers. I think anything could happen at any time. We’ve got approximately 15 guys committed. As far as I know, everything’s solid, and our guys were actually out seeing people and talking to them face‑to‑face as opposed to the phone and things like that. All of our guys are out seeing the guys right now. Everything’s really positive.”
Q. At quarterback, you’re going to have at least three guys competing. What is going to go into the evaluation period as far as determining whether one of those guys is going to stand out?
COACH FERENTZ: The bottom line, the acid test for everything is how are they playing in games? And we’re not going to know that until next September. I know there is some clamoring to get guys throughout for a series here and there. It’s something that we’re going to have to go through and we know that. We knew that a year ago going into this thing.
But basically, we’ll make it a fair competition. We’ll evaluate them like we would anybody. They’ll have a chance to go first offense, and hopefully they’ll work better with the first offense than the second and factor all that in. And we’ll make a call when it’s appropriate and go with whomever.
The good news is we’ve for a long time felt good about all three of the guys here on campus. Cody got here last year, was here for the spring ball practice, and C.J. joined us in August, and Jake was here prior to both of those guys. We’ve had a good vibe about all three of them. So I think it’s going to be a really good, healthy competition, and I’m anxious to see those guys compete. I think Greg feels the same way.”
Q. Have other people done that when you guys have been preparing?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, I’ve said that before. Decembers are crazy when you’re in a bowl. It’s a good crazy, but you’re sitting there recruiting and trying to do some game prep. You’re trying to keep an eye on everybody on campus. It’s a real contradiction in college sports. Our guys all hit the road Sunday, our coaches did Sunday, Monday morning, and our players are in the most critical period academically. They have two weeks of class and finals coming up, and we’ll be on the road all three of those weeks and I’ll be gone a lot here in the next two weeks.”
Q. Are you going into new recruiting territories?
COACH FERENTZ: You guys probably know more about it than I do, but basically we try to accentuate the Big Ten areas which are expanding. I guess we beat them to the punch on that, because we’ve gone around to New Jersey and Maryland, and D.C. area. We fool around a little bit down in Texas. I think that’s a little bit more of a challenge than maybe it was just the way things have gone in the conferences and TV and all that type of thing. Then we’ll look at other areas too, but that is the focus right now.”