Kirk Ferentz unplugged: On possible redshirt for Butler, alternate uniforms, bye week

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has thought about pursuing a medical redshirt for injured running bback James Butler, he revealed Wednesday evening during an interview on KxNO’s “HawkCentral” radio program.

Butler, a senior, hurt his elbow in a Week 3 win over North Texas and hasn’t played since. He was the primary backup to Hawkeye star Akrum Wadley.

Originally, the thought was Butler would be healthy enough to return for Iowa’s Oct. 21 game at Northwestern. That timeline may not be realistic, Ferentz indicated.

“I think he’s scheduled for an X-ray this coming week and a re-check,” Ferentz said of Butler. “The one variable right now is when you come back from one of those, typically you have to have a brace on, and it’s not real common for a running back to wear a brace, an elbow brace. … That may be a little tricky. It’s tough, because he’s a very good football player.”

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz watches the replay against Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

Ferentz addressed a range of other topics Wednesday, including:

  • His involvement in calling plays. Ferentz’s son, Brian, is in his first year as offensive coordinator at Iowa. Ferentz said he is treating him just the same as previous offensive coordinators Ken O’Keefe and Greg Davis, with one comical exception.

“We did our conversations during the course of the week for the most part and then let those guys call plays,” Ferentz said of his pattern during 19 years as head coach at Iowa. “I think whoever’s calling the plays needs to have the ability to do that. It’s hard to do that job if you’ve got people in your ear all the time.

"In fact, I’ve already been reprimanded once this year for interjecting. I think it was the North Texas game, I got a little bit over-involved, maybe. But I was reprimanded, put in my place. But I get that. The guy calling plays has to be able to focus, concentrate and all the discussion has to happen in-between series.”

  • His lack of involvement when it comes to alternate uniforms. Ferentz revealed in July that the Hawkeyes would wear a different style of uniform for one home game this season. It hasn’t happened yet, with three opportunities remaining — against Minnesota, Ohio State and Purdue. Ferentz said even he's not sure which game will feature the new look.

“I’m supportive of that initiative, but I’m not sitting on the edge of my seat. I’m a little more worried about who’s playing here and there and how much improvement we’re making in this phase or that phase,” Ferentz said.

  • He nearly changed his approach to Iowa’s bye week, following the lead of Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid. Ferentz is a great admirer of Reid's, and noted that the NFL coach has a 16-2 record after byes during his time with the Eagles and Chiefs. Ferentz’s teams have gone 6-4 after having an in-season week off since 2008.

“Their secret is they meet, I think, the day after the game and then they’re off the rest of the week. They don’t do a thing,” Ferentz said of Reid’s philosophy. “I gave that thought this summer. We just can’t do that. We’re not an NFL outfit, and so we've got to try to find a balance. We track everybody’s snaps. So we kind of draw a line there and then really rest guys over a certain limit, a certain number, and then guys under that bar get more work.

"… It’s a chance to try move those guys forward, keep the other guys sharp. And then most important of all, is when we start up again on Sunday that everybody’s really focused on (that) we don’t waste a day trying to get back into action. We come in here ready to go and get something done on Sunday so we can start moving into game week.”

You can hear the full interview on our podcast at