Ferentz: Departure of wide receiver creates opportunities for true freshmen

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

WATERLOO, Ia. — Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz gave wide receiver Jerminic Smith a list of academic goals he had to meet this spring in order to stay on the team, but the junior came up short and was officially dismissed Friday.

“I have pulled players off the field before, and typically there’s a little bit more of a response,” Ferentz said Monday before an I-Club gathering in Waterloo. “It’s just unfortunate.

“You never want a player to leave your program. The goal is for everyone to graduate from Iowa eventually and then hopefully have a good career.”

Kirk Ferentz began his 19th offseason as Iowa football coach with this spring's I-Club circuit at the Sheraton in West Des Moines.

Smith was suspended from team activities in early April over concerns about his coursework. He was Iowa’s top returning wide receiver after grabbing 23 passes for 314 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a sophomore. His absence will open some possibilities for the incoming freshmen when they arrive on campus next month.

“I think it was likely (that some rookies would play right away) anyway — that’s how we looked at it back in the middle of the spring,” Ferentz said. “Probably, where it is different is, we’ll have a very open mind about those guys contributing. But I can say the same about our corners. It’s pretty much our perimeter players right now. If a freshman can come in and help us, we’re going to let it go.”

On other football topics, Ferentz told the Register:

He would support the idea being floated that freshmen be allowed to appear in up to four games while still maintaining a redshirt option.

“I would be in favor of five years of eligibility, quite frankly. I haven’t really thought it out in detail because it seems like these things get brought up and shot down,” Ferentz said.

For an example of how the rule change would benefit Iowa, look no further back then last fall’s usage of backup quarterback Nathan Stanley. The freshman got into a few games in mop-up duty for senior starter C.J. Beathard and lost one of his four years of eligibility in the process.

“It gives you a little bit better protection that way,” Ferentz said of being able to get some game experience for freshmen without using a year of eligibility. “I can also see a scenario, at least in our way of thinking, it may be that in November, there’s a guy that, ‘Jeez, we didn’t see this coming. This guy can probably help us on our kick team or one of our special teams.’ Because of injuries, we don’t have the depth that some teams have and also our newcomers tend to get better as the year goes along.”

He also favors having a designated commissioner for college football. Ferentz said he doesn’t think coaches get enough input when policies are decided, and that the sport — at its highest level — has grown so rapidly in the last 25 years, that it requires more oversight.

“I’d like to see us get together on rules and policies and then, most importantly, consistent enforcement, conference to conference. I think we’re improving. We had good discussion about the recruiting changes (the addition of a December signing date). I’m not sure w ho’s getting all the input, quite frankly. I know the doctors have some input — that’s become quite evident in the last month or so (a reference to the elimination of two-a-day practices).

"Nobody’s ever going to be totally happy, but if everyone has some voice, that’s always a healthier process.

“I would love to see the conference commissioners kind of create a forum and then have conversations — seek advice from people in the conference. I don’t know who that ‘czar’ would be.”

Ferentz ruled himself out as a choice for college football commissioner, if such a position were created.

“I hope to keep coaching for a while,” he said. “That’s going to be a full-time job, whoever has that.”

Iowa's 2017 football schedule