Brian Ferentz unplugged: The one thing Iowa assistant would change about college football
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz’s pet peeve with college football rules enforcement is the cut blocking. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker’s is about illegal downfield blocking.
Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s?
“That’s a great question,” he said during a 20-minute appearance during Wednesday night’s Hawk Central radio program on KxNO (AM 1460) in Des Moines. “How long is your show?”
The always-opinionated Hawkeye assistant coach continued.
“If you just had to pick one thing,” he said, “I think probably deregulation would be my vote.”
In other words, he wants the NCAA to stop with so many restrictions, particularly in the recruiting world.
The insinuation is that some schools play by the rules; others don’t.
Ferentz's stance: Deregulate to help the sport.
He explained with an analogy.
“There’s laws, right? Like, I’m driving down the road today and I’m on the interstate. Is (the speed limit) 65? Is it 70? I don’t know,” Ferentz said. “But nobody on the road is going 100. I know that.
“The reason is simple: Every seven, eight miles you see a state trooper. People, although they may not follow the exact letter of the law, they certainly follow the intent. Because there’s consequences and there's enforcement if you don’t."
As it pertains to the NCAA?
“If you’re not going to enforce rules," he said, "then let’s just not have them.”
Ferentz concedes that deregulation — including zero restrictions on transfers — would benefit the power-conference schools more than the Mid-American and Mountain West conferences of the college world. But he also thinks deregulation would generate a surprising amount of support among college coaches.
And he doesn’t think college football would become the Wild West as a result.
“Really, I don’t think you’d see much change,” Ferentz said. “I just think you’d see a lot of people that were more happy on a day-to-day basis. And things would make a lot more sense.”
Ferentz touched on a slew of fun topics during our show, including his thoughts about eventually becoming Iowa’s head coach — I’ll save that for a column topic coming soon.
Here are some of the highlights.
He’s not as worried as most people about the losses of first-round NFL Draft picks T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant.
He correlated the story line to when he was Iowa’s offensive line coach in the 2015 preseason, and there was incessant discussion about how the Hawkeyes would survive without tackles Brandon Scherff (the Outland Trophy winner) and Andrew Donnal.
“How could we possibly replace those guys and what were we going to do?” Ferentz said. “I didn’t think it was a big deal. … And I don’t think it’s a big deal now. You have to replace good players every year.”
The plan without two dynamic tight ends?
As he always tries to do, play to the team’s strengths.
Iowa coaches were pretty excited this spring about what they saw in the wide receiver group, particularly with outside receiver Brandon Smith and slot receivers Nico Ragaini and Tyrone Tracy Jr.
“You’ve got to make sure your system or your scheme, whatever you’re doing, is able to handle those ebbs and flows,” Ferentz said. “We’re pretty basic and pretty simple in what we do. But the one thing we have the ability to do is feature the players we want to feature.
“So, this year, I think we need to look different.”
That said, Iowa has three tight ends it likes. Even though only one was able to practice all spring.
Nate Wieting and Shaun Beyer, Ferentz said, are the clear top two. And fifth-year senior Drew Cook, a converted quarterback, would be No. 3.
Beyer missed a lot of spring practice while coming back from meniscus surgery. Cook missed the entire spring with an ankle injury.
“I imagine we’re going to need all three guys to contribute at a high level,” Ferentz said.
The biggest change he’s made as offensive coordinator?
Entering Year 3, Ferentz described some personal transformation since taking over for Greg Davis following the 2016 season.
He acknowledged he might’ve made things a little too complicated from the get-go. And he’s finding that, especially with a third-year quarterback in Nate Stanley, that simpler is better.
“I think I’ve learned to be a little bit more comfortable in my skin, a little bit more sure of myself and what I want to do and what’s best for us,” Ferentz said. “And that allows you to be a little bit more simple. You don’t have to try to prove what you know, because ultimately it doesn’t really matter. You need to find out what your players are good at, and put them in a position to be successful.”