December 28, 2011
THE MODERATOR:Â I would like to welcome Coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes.Â We will open it up for questions from the media.Â Thank you.
Q.Â Your team comes into this game for the second straight year, kind of the underdog.Â What does that label do to your players?Â Does it motivate them to say to go out and prove everyone wrong?
COACH FERENTZ:Â I hope it does.Â It is almost scary how similar the circumstances are.Â Missouri was a top‑ranked team, very athletic, very talented, very well coached, outstanding quarterback.Â They came in with 38, 37 sacks, very similar to what Oklahoma does.
So we look at them on tape.Â They are a little different in terms of the way they attack and the way they play.Â But I think the similarities are extremely talented, very, very well coached and they represent a lot of problems or challenges for us in a lot of areas.
We better be motivated and to have a chance in this game, we will have to play our absolute best in all three phases.Â We can't open the door anywhere and expect to have an opportunity to win the football game.
Q.Â You were able to do that last year, beat kind of a upset.Â What do you sense the confidence level is with your team this year to do the same thing?
COACH FERENTZ:Â You just never know.Â One year is different than the other.Â Game to game is different too.
Certainly, I think if you focus on this year's team, we have been up against some pretty good teams and come up short.Â We have beaten some good teams this year too.
I think to do that again, it really gets back to us really trying to maximize in all three phases.Â That's typically how we are anyway.Â We have to have it all going to beat an outstanding opponent.
That's how we are going into this game.Â So we know we are up against it a little bit in terms of their talent, their athleticism and again, I think they are really well coached.
We will have to be at our best.Â Hopefully we can force a mistake or two on their side, and if they can open the door, if they do open the door, we will need to step into it and we haven't always done that this year and that has been costly to us in some of our losses.Â When we had the opportunity, we haven't cashed in.
Friday night if we have an opportunity, we will be ready to go if the door does open.
Q.Â This time last year Brad Rogers was out of the Bowl game.Â Can you talk about him coming back from a pretty serious condition?
COACH FERENTZ:Â That was‑‑ of all the things that happened last December, that might have been the most serious in my mind just because we didn't know we were dealing with at the front end.Â It took months, significant amount of time, almost two‑thirds of a year to sort through it all medically.
So that was a big concern obviously.Â Just to get them back on our team this year was a huge lift I think for everybody.Â Brad is a great young man.Â Good football player, really a tremendous young guy and any time someone has got health concerns, you worry about that.Â That's a little bit more than a sprained ankle or something like that.
Great to get them back and he has done a nice job this year for us.Â He has got a big role this week for us in this game and hopefully moving forward he will finish out his career in stellar fashion for us.Â That's one of the better things that have happened to me in the past eight months.
Q.Â Have you ever been in a game where both teams are missing key components?
COACH FERENTZ:Â No, it is usually us.Â It was kind enough for them to reciprocate a little bit.Â It is college football.Â That's football.Â Injuries and behavioral issues play into the scheme of things.Â That's just how it is.
I know we have gone in‑‑ I think about LSU.Â We were down four tailbacks in 2004, that season, it was a 2005 game.Â They had a couple guys that could run well in their back field that fell.
Oklahoma has lost some good players.Â The guys they have been recruited‑‑ we are familiar with their recruiting over the last decade.
Q.Â Bob Stoops is the former Iowa guy that is the talk in this Bowl matchup.Â Can you talk about your relationship with Stoops and even the other Iowa‑‑ former Iowa coordinators?
COACH FERENTZ:Â Yeah, it's unusual.Â Bowl functions typically‑‑ when you are paired up with the other, it is usually uncomfortable, quite frankly.
Terry is a tremendous guy, tremendous guy last year, and they had a great staff.Â I'm not suggesting nobody else.Â But it is always uncomfortable.Â Last night we were with their staff and it was really fun.Â It was actually really fun.Â Something I was looking forward to.
Bob was a player in '82.Â My first two years there, he was a player and then became a assistant coach.Â Known he and Carol forever.Â Bruce Kettle (phonetic) was a captain in that ball club and a prominent player on the offensive line when I got here in '81 and stayed on for four years after that in a coaching capacity.
I think James Orville (phonetic), we have always had a tradition of great stories at Iowa.Â We have to have great stories if we are going to have success.Â Orville is one of those things.Â I think he played defensive back, line backer, tight end, and then back to defensive back.Â Four positions or four changes in five years and ends up being a captain.
I can't remember how many interceptions in '85, Big Ten player, a player who moved around like a nomad.Â To see them was great.
We will all compete as hard as we can Friday night against each other.Â That's the nature of what we do.Â Obviously there is a big tie‑in there.Â And then Bill Brazier, a guy I respected so much through the years, played such a prominent role in Jay's life, Bob's life, not only in terms of being players but also coaches.Â There is a million story lines here and that's‑‑ those are all good.Â That's really the fun part about what it is we're doing.
Q.Â Will you have to go running back by committee?Â And how will you split?Â Is it a situational thing?Â How will you use the guy?
COACH FERENTZ:Â Exactly.Â Last year Marcus was going to be the guy.Â We were pretty much down to him.Â And didn't want to dwell on that, but that's where we were last year.
This year, I think in this ball game, really, it is realistic to think we will play all the guys that are healthy and ready to go and the ones that have been practicing.Â Jason White has been steady all season, Bullock is doing a good job in practice.Â Probably use Rogers a little bit back there at times.Â So basically anybody that can go will go.Â Andre Johnson has missed, but it looks like he is healthy and back with us.
So whoever can play it going to play.Â The guys have practiced well.Â As long as we can get them out of the locker room, the younger guys, and on the field, we will see what happens.Â I think they will do fine.
Q.Â From a coaching standpoint?Â What's easier, what you had last year with the running back or this year with the committee?
COACH FERENTZ:Â Last year we had a little bit more evidence.Â Right now Oklahoma is trying to find Canzeri on film.Â They have been working on that on weeks.Â There is evidence that Coker can do it and had done it.Â But I didn't want to dwell on last year.Â If he had broken his shoelace or sprained his ankle, we were in deep trouble.Â We had nobody behind him.Â We have more depth, less proven depth if that makes any sense.
The guys practice well and that's why you play college football.Â It is a chance to get out on the field and do what you can do.Â They have great attitudes and I think they will do really well.
Q.Â You brought up the LSU game.Â The fact that you could run the ball in that game, how big was that?
COACH FERENTZ:Â This game to me feels a little bit like that game and we are playing a team that is just really talented, so we are going to have to do things just about right and have to make plays in that game.Â I think we blocked the punt.Â I don't think we capitalized on it.Â But we hit a couple passes on blitzes, things like that.Â We will have to do the same thing.
Marcus Simmons ran in for a touchdown in that game.Â I don't know how many carries he had that year.Â Not many.Â The thing about him, more on scoring touchdowns.Â I don't think Marcus had too many TDs.Â Wasn't more than a handful.
Whoever is on deck has got to play.Â That's how we will approach it.Â The guys have practiced well.Â It is getting close to being time to go out and play.
Q.Â How much confidence do you have in your offensive line to make the job easier for the inexperienced running backs?
COACH FERENTZ:Â That's one of our more veteran groups.Â I think they have performed really well all season long.Â That's my feeling.Â Look at the game tape, I think they have had a good season.Â It is going to be really critical.Â They lead our team Friday night.
But they can't do it all.Â But they have to do their job certainly.Â They have got to block well.Â That's one of the points we made to the team is we have lost the guy who had 281 carries, a lot of yards, 1,300 yards.
So we talk about next man in all the time.Â That's a phrase we stole a decade ago.Â We didn't invent it.Â We talk about that frequently to our guys.
Part of next man is everybody else has got to grab on a little bit and help out and do a little bit more than they were doing about.Â Any time you have an inexperienced player jump in there, the guys who have been playing will have to do things.Â We will have to block longer and harder inside.Â Block better on the outside and give our guys a chance to do the things they do.Â The guys that haven't played a lot have to get started.
Q.Â What's the criteria for who goes early in the game?
COACH FERENTZ:Â At running back?
COACH FERENTZ:Â I don't know if we have had that conversation yet.Â Right now, we will play it by feel, I think, more than anything else.Â I think it is realistic to think they will be in the first half.Â The guy I mentioned, they will all be playing.Â We have some specific situations cut out for certain guys.Â I think overall we are just going to let them play a little bit and see how they do and go from there.
Q.Â Is there any way you can play this running backs?Â Is it a coincidence since Shonn Greene has left?
COACH FERENTZ:Â I'm not big on conspiracy theories.
We have had a series of things that have happened.Â And that's football.
I think probably the most prominent thing about it is when it happens at a position that everybody knows about, it becomes a bigger issue certainly.
We have had our issues at other positions too with injuries, guys leaving the team and what have you.Â Sometimes it is not as pronounced.
But there is no question about it.Â We've had‑‑ last year we had a series of guys in and out of the lineup, injuries, whatever.Â This year has been kind of the same way.Â So hopefully we will get ahead of the game and go back to when Fred Russell was playing, we had two seasons and he was pretty much in there all the time.Â It is fortune and luck.
We will worry about this game and analyze it when we get done.
Q.Â How are the younger guys coming along at pass protection, the running backs?
COACH FERENTZ:Â I think they are doing well as you might imagine.Â They have done a lot of work on that for the last three weeks.Â It is not something you get to practice live all the time, what have you.Â We have tried to get ample work to make sure they are caught up.
Both in terms of execution but also recognition and these guys throw a lot at you, it has been another very multiple defense.Â It has been a great learning experience for these guys.
Q.Â Anything new on McCall?
COACH FERENTZ:Â No.Â I got nothing right now.Â We will address that when we get back.
Q.Â Talk about the decision to come so early, December22nd?
COACH FERENTZ:Â It is just something we've done.Â I can't speak for other people.Â I kind of try to pay attention of what other people do.Â A big part of this is when your final schedules fall, in our case, we have only‑‑ we are on the second week out of finals, if you would.Â So we really don't do much with our players at all finals week.Â So you lose a big block.Â You lose a five‑day block basically.
We did practice the last night of finals, Friday night.Â And amazingly, we had eight guys‑‑ eight or 12 guys not there because they had finals at 5:00 and 7:00 on a Friday night, if you can imagine that.Â Thought there was a law against that, but apparently not.
So after we get through that, the next day we had graduation.Â We had 12 seniors graduate.Â I excused the seniors from that practice.Â Really our first day together as a team with our focus just straight ahead, not on academics and all that stuff was a week ago Sunday.
So I think from my vantage point, we are usually behind.Â A lot of schools‑‑ Missouri last year, I believe Oklahoma had their finals a week earlier.Â They are able to get a really good jump on things.
I think it is good for our team to be together.Â It is great for us to be outside.Â This is the first chance we have had to be outdoors.Â Indoors is not the same and gives you room to throw deep passes and things like that.
For us, it works.Â There is no right formula.Â It just depends on what your academic schedule is and then just how things are going with your team.
Q.Â Could you talk about your quarterback a little bit, his development.
COACH FERENTZ:Â I think James has really had a good season.Â Just off the top of my head, I can think of two passes he wishes he could have back and I wish he could have back.Â They are both just dumb plays.Â Not bad for a full season's work, 12 games work.
We had all great confidence with him coming into the season.Â We had seen him two years ago play against Ohio State.Â It basically came down to the Big Ten championship game in '09.Â He played well, but they came up short.Â All of us expected him to perform well.
I think his best football is ahead of him.Â Tremendous young guy.Â Great person.Â Really strong leader.Â And we are just really happy for the way he has come along.
Q.Â Does the Minnesota loss and Michigan win the next week explain your season?
COACH FERENTZ:Â Yes and no.Â It is disappointing losses unfortunately is a part of sports when they come your way.Â I give Minnesota credit and hopefully we could have done a better job there too.Â So we have some responsibility there.Â That's usually the case in losses.
But you have to move on.Â You have to move on.Â And I think tradition, our guys have done a decent job of that.Â They usually have the ability to try to learn from what good or bad what happened on one day, and then we try to flip the page over and get going the next week.
Played a team like Michigan, your focus had to be on them.Â Same way going into this game.Â It is a different kind of challenge in Bowls because the month is so long and you have so many things going on.
When you play a excellent football team, you better be moving on, you better be focused on what's in front of you.
Q.Â Was consistency a problem this season?Â Every coach fights that.
COACH FERENTZ:Â Unless you win them all, that's usually the case.Â We weren't good enough to beat Minnesota that day.Â The credit goes to them.
We dealt with it, and we moved on.Â We will go back and slice it and dice it and get through recruiting.Â Deal with the good and the bad.Â Just like after Michigan, had to move on there too.
Q.Â From your experience, what are some of the challenges that Coach Stoops faced this Decemberin having a team that had such high expectations to have three losses to finish the season, and what are some of the emotions that those players go through?
COACH FERENTZ:Â We weren't preseason picks for the top a year ago.Â But there is a lot of high pressure hype last year with our team and we came in with a 7‑5 record.Â Whether you come in undefeated or 7‑5, however you come in, it is still one game, that's what you have to focus on.Â You can't go back and change things.Â There is just no way to do that.
So people that dwell on that, if you are a competitor or coach, you are wasting your time, there is a separate time for that.Â You have to get your focus on where you are trying to go.Â Hopefully you have to be mindful of the things that have to be addressed, what might better help move things forward.
I think that's where you invest your energy and time.Â That's what you have to do.Â So you don't have time to dwell on those things or worry about those things.Â I think you just have to worry about the challenge that's in front of you.
Q.Â Is it tough to get those players to put those disappointments aside?
COACH FERENTZ:Â Depends on your players.Â I know this, they have good players and excellent coaching staff.Â I know we will play a people that's ready to go, motivated to win.
If you line up to play, why wouldn't you be motivated to win?Â I have known Bob Stoops now for 30 years, I guess it is, right?Â I know how he thinks and I know how his coaching staff is.Â I don't think anybody has done a better job in college football quite frankly over the last decade than Oklahoma.Â So we got our work cut out for us.Â We know that.
Q.Â Do you have a timetable for your assistants, Kirk?Â In terms of naming them?
COACH FERENTZ:Â We have been worried about the game.Â In a perfect world, we have also been worried about recruiting, which unfortunately is part of what we have to do year‑round now.
And when we get through Saturday or Friday, then we'll shift our attention and we will be juggling two things there.
Q.Â Do you think it affects recruiting not having people in those spots?
COACH FERENTZ:Â If it does, it does.Â I can't be worried about that.Â And I think the important thing is that we do things the right way.Â It is no different than a 99.
To me the paramount challenge was to get the right people in the right positions and that's really‑‑ when I turn my attention to that, that will be the number one thought.Â If we lose Joey Smith to state U or wherever, that's the way it goes.
These are big things.Â When you hire assistant coaches, I think it is as big a thing you do as head coach.Â I think it is more important to get the right person if it costs us a recruit or two recruits, we will make up for that next year.Â Having the right people in place, replacing Norm Parker is not‑‑ you don't just jump at that.Â I'm going to make sure‑‑ try to make sure we have the right people in place.
Q.Â Will you consult players?
COACH FERENTZ:Â No, that's really not a big part of my thought process.Â I try to do my due diligence and go from there.
Q.Â Is it fair to say you are frustrated with the amount of attention that has been given to the players not here?Â Are you surprised?
COACH FERENTZ:Â I wouldn't say‑‑ frustrated is probably not the right word.Â That's the world we live in.Â I get that.Â I prefer as a coach to focus on who is here, who is playing, who is getting ready.Â That's the way I'm built mentally.Â I don't see that changing.
That's how it is coaching.Â Somebody sprains their ankle and they can't play, we are going to go with the guys we have and do our best to get ready.Â I think our guys have reciprocated.Â The season goes on.Â Especially with injuries, you feel badly.Â We talked about Brad last year, that's the hardest thing you deal with in coaching.Â But it is part of what we do, just like discipline issues are part of what we do, too.
If you are a parent, you understand that.Â And you do what's right and you keep moving.
Q.Â What do you think are fair questions from the media?Â What annoys you?Â What gets under your skin?
COACH FERENTZ:Â Now, there's an open‑ended question.Â I don't think we have time.Â This is only an hour session, right?Â I'm just teasing.Â (Smiling).
I know that's part of my job.Â Every job has a percentage of things that you don't want to do, every job.Â If there is a job where you are 100 percent happy all the time‑‑ I know dealing with injuries, dealing with things that happen, that's no fun but that's part of the job description too.
Obviously I rather be focused on who is out there practicing, team we're playing.Â That's what I really enjoy is the football part of things and what have you.
That's part of coaching.Â The other part is part of coaching.Â If I don't like it, then I need to get out of it.Â It's as simple as that.
Q.Â Do you regret what happened Monday?
COACH FERENTZ:Â What happened Monday?
Q.Â Just the comments made about when you were asked about‑‑
COACH FERENTZ:Â What I said‑‑
Q.Â Something about a bodily function?
COACH FERENTZ:Â It is very likely I did.Â I can't remember exactly if I did or not.Â I don't know if you guys caught wind of that.Â It's possible.Â Everything is so scrutinized now, I think we're getting close to being ridiculous.Â I understand that's the world with all the media outlets now and what have you.Â It is silly talk and silly questions.
Q.Â It wasn't like that when you got here?
COACH FERENTZ:Â The world is changing, I recognize that.Â At the time, when I can't deal with that, I will get out.Â If that drives me out of coaching, it drives me out.Â I doubt it will.Â I can tolerate a lot of things.
Q.Â Are you going to have a national‑‑ quote/unquote, national search for your openings?Â You know how they always say that.
COACH FERENTZ:Â If our H.R. people say it is national, it is national, all right?Â But it's‑‑ it will be thorough hopefully.Â I'm more interested in hopefully.Â It might be international.Â I haven't thought about that.
Q.Â What are the pros and cons of coaching your own son?Â You have done it twice now.Â What's the good and bad of that?
COACH FERENTZ:Â The cons are probably for my kids.Â And I have had two of them now on the team.Â For me‑‑ if I were the line coach, it would probably not be workable or doable because it is a little too close.Â We would be in too close of quarters.
But fortunately there is a buffer there.Â Reese Morgan has to coach both those guys.Â He had to tolerate one for five years and now he has had the other one for four.Â He is in the trenches sotospeak.
There is some filter there and selfishly it has been the best thing in the world for me.Â I think it has been harder for the kids.Â I'm sure their teammates look at them funny, especially at the onset.Â They have had to prove themselves well beyond maybe what somebody else would have to.Â They both knew that coming in.Â They knew the ground rules and they were willing to accept them.Â I think they both adapted pretty well.
Selfishly, it has been great.Â You can't put a price tag on having them walking by their lockers every day, not that they are there but I will walk by the locker and know that's their locker.Â And coincidentally, they are both 50 numbers so it is in my path of travel.
Seeing them on the practice field, being able to watch them on practice tape, things like that, maybe having a couple‑‑ just quiet father‑son moments involving football, that's kind of neat.Â That's more than I ever bargained for.
My wife and I have always been very careful from day one, with all of our children to make sure they never felt like they had to be part of anything we're doing or liked football and all that stuff.Â I think my wife and I both hoped that all of our kids liked something, had a little passion for something.
Besides sitting on the couch, and we are lucky, all four of our kids are doing well and we are happy for them.Â We have two daughters.Â Nobody ever asks that, but we have two daughters who are alive and well and we are extremely proud of them too.
Q.Â Does it help that your sons are linemen?Â No center ever lost a game according to the fans.
COACH FERENTZ:Â You can't play without a center.Â They are MVP.Â I have always said that.Â Can't start a game without one, right?
Q.Â Dan Hawkins, very tense situational three years.
COACH FERENTZ:Â I will say that, if our kids were quarterbacking, I don't think they would be playing at quarterback.Â Their mom would not allow that.Â That would be excruciating.Â It would be like watching them wrestle.
Q.Â Would you consider Brian?
COACH FERENTZ:Â I would consider anybody.Â I think‑‑ I would consider anybody who is a good fit for our program.Â Including former players.Â We have a lot of former players.
Here we go with the rumor mill.
Q.Â Do you feel he has experience to the point where he can move into a position?
COACH FERENTZ:Â He knows more football than I know, I know that.Â He is pretty good.Â He is in a pretty good place right now too.Â So I don't know if he is available right now.Â But I'm not saying we are going that narrow.
Q.Â I don't know if you can talk about Steven.
COACH FERENTZ:Â He was my kid, I think.
Q.Â Would you enjoy that, another four years?Â He would be a different situation?
COACH FERENTZ:Â If it is the best thing for him, then I think it would be great.Â It is like all of our kids, we have tried for make sure they have explored all options possible and really they have got to do what they think is best for them.
So if it turns out that way, that would be great.Â I'm not trying to steer it, encourage it, discourage it, whatever.Â The one thing we have encouraged with all of our kids is to look around and seek places.
If they end up here, that's great.Â We want to make sure they know there are other options available too.Â They got to go where their heart is.
Both our daughters are good illustrations of that.Â One daughter couldn't get into Iowa, so she did find another Big Ten university but came back to grad school, came to her wits.
And our other daughter ended up at Iowa.
Both had similar options but one was a better fit for one.Â That's kind of how it works.
Q.Â Do you they feel neglected?
COACH FERENTZ:Â The daughters?
Q.Â Yeah.Â You talk about Mary, sometimes about her having the athletic genes in the family and a bunch of boys?
COACH FERENTZ:Â I don't think they care at all.Â They are both pretty happy.Â They'd just as soon be way over the right.
Q.Â (Question about trends)?
COACH FERENTZ:Â Without going into detail, they are both great players, talented guys, versatile guys, very tough guys, competitive guys.Â So they are both really good players.
Q.Â Riley said he learned a lot of the detail‑type stuff from Brian.Â I don't remember Brian keeping a notebook and all that stuff.Â I don't think Riley was quite there.
COACH FERENTZ:Â I'm not sure I have seen‑‑ a lot of our better players had notebooks.Â No question.Â That's a big part of having good teams and good programs is mentoring that goes on within, be it a guy like Brian or they come back and spend time with our kickers.
And having them in our weight room prior to the strike, he was there just about every day.Â That's good stuff.Â We are really lucky to have guys like that that have passed on things to our younger players.Â That's really good stuff.
COACH FERENTZ:Â I was on the phone with someone and the board came up on my screen maybe a week ago.Â That's one source.Â Obviously we've gone to some other sources too.Â There is a pretty wide range, I think, with the possibilities.
We'll present him with information from the NFL, NFL people, personnel, what they've given us.Â We have gotten a pretty consistent report there.Â We'll talk about that afterwards here.Â We are both in agreement to table it.
Ultimately, it is his decision.
Q.Â Do you expect it to be a short or long conversation?
COACH FERENTZ:Â I don't want to speak for him, so we will wait and see.
Q.Â Do you think that would be a recruiting tackle that your two left tackles left for the NFL?
COACH FERENTZ:Â It is a good thing but it is a bad thing when they leave.Â We have a couple other guys that are practicing well.Â We will be a better football team with Riley.
You can't replace a guy with his experience.Â All he brings is toughness, production, and this guy is a really good football player.Â I'm hopeful he will be back.Â But I also want what's best for him.Â Every guy we are trying to recruit, we want to help them get to where they want to get through in their college career.
It is his decision.Â And I don't want to speculate right now.Â I think it is an open book at this point.
Q.Â Is there anything about this year on the field not that you want back but keeps coming up in your mind over and over?
COACH FERENTZ:Â No, not at this given point.Â We will spend a lot more time on that once we get through this game and January probably.Â January we start thinking a little bit more about it.Â Every season, there is always‑‑ unless you go undefeated, which we have never done, there are always situations.
The ultimate challenge is how do you better prepare to handle the situations differently, better and get better results with those types of things.Â That is what we will spend time on in the month of January.
Q.Â Have you thought at all about the way that special teams are handled?
COACH FERENTZ:Â A lot of that is depth oriented and injury oriented, that type of thing.Â I think a lot of our issues have been.Â It is interesting, one of the biggest plays in our season, if you, quite frankly, want to know, you go back and look at it and look at the rule book, it was a bad break.
As a result of that, it is not going to come back, it is not going to change any outcome, any‑‑ and I don't expect‑‑ that's part of football.Â As a coach, player, you deal with those things.
The one thing I learned out of that situation, that needs to be a reviewable play.Â And I will push for that in out‑of‑season.
And I certainly don't blame any parties involved there.Â That's a play that is impossible to officiate.Â It is too fast.Â It happens too quickly, too many bodies in there.Â That needs to be a reviewable play.Â I never even thought of that until that Sunday, that Sunday‑‑ Saturday evening watching it on tape.Â I learned something there.Â I advocate for that.
But that was a big play in our season certainly.Â That's football too.Â So you move on and just keep going.
In the big scheme of things, you can always do better.
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