Ferentz finds humor amid pain of another runner-up recruiting finish

By Pat Harty
Jul 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz  addresses the media during the Big Ten football media day at Hilton Chicago.

Originally published on 7/29/2014

CHICAGO – Kirk Ferentz probably could have used a bowl of his favorite ice cream at about 9:30 p.m. Monday.

Around that time, Texas high school running back Aca'cedric Ware announced his verbal commitment to the University of Southern California.

Ware, a three-star recruit from Cedar Hill, Texas, picked the Trojans over Iowa, Ohio State and Notre Dame. He said that Iowa was his leader until he visited USC.

"I wish I had a pint of Ben and Jerry's for every time we've come in second on somebody," Ferentz said Tuesday at Big Ten football media days. "That's just recruiting. It means we get close. But that's the nature of recruiting. You lose more than you win."

Ware is the third running back in the 2015 senior class to recently pick another school over Iowa. Texas native Devine Ozigbo committed to Iowa State over Iowa and Boise State on July 22, while Missouri native Alec Murphy committed to Mississippi State on July 18 after having Iowa among his top schools.

Iowa also was among the finalists to land four-star linebacker Justin Hilliard and four-star defensive end Jashon Cornell, but they both committed to Ohio State on the same day earlier this month.

Ware spoke highly of his recent visit to Iowa City this summer, saying he was impressed with the family atmosphere.

Ware also said that he might still visit some other schools despite being committed to USC. That's a rising trend in recruiting, where a prospect secures a scholarship by making a verbal commitment, only to still sniff around at other schools.

"So when a prospect chooses to do that, we just have to make a decision: Do we want to continue to recruit that prospect?" Ferentz said. "That's the question you have to ask yourself.

"If he flips and commits to you in December, what's he going to do in January? So it's an interesting world, the world of recruiting. Just hang on."

Ferentz said some recruits go through what he did after being hired as the Iowa offensive line coach in 1981. They visit Iowa City for the first time and realize that it's more than they envisioned.

"The challenge is being realistic because we probably get in deeper than we should sometimes," Ferentz said. "And I think part of that is because kids come to Iowa not expecting much and they get here, and (think), 'Boy, this place is a lot better than I thought.' Just like what I went through in 1981.

"And so we get them thinking about us where they were just being nice to us. But historically, we haven't won a lot of battles against USC and Ohio State. It's just the nature of football. And it's been that way for a long time. And it's probably going to be that way for a long time."

Ferentz told several stories on Tuesday about recruiting near-misses dating back to when he was an Iowa assistant coach under Hayden Fry from 1981 to 1989. He talked about losing two Chicago offensive linemen to Texas and Notre Dame in the early 1980s.

He also joked about when three recruits committed to Michigan about a week after Ferentz had visited each of them at their high school. One of the recruits was Detroit defensive tackle Mike Martin, who committed to Michigan in 2007 when Lloyd Carr still was the head coach.

"I swear I went around and saw like three different guys in a row that committed to Michigan within a week after I had been there in the school still thinking about spring recruiting," Ferentz said. "It was right before our meetings here so I asked our staff, 'Hey, is there anybody else? I'm going to ask Lloyd and see if he wants me to help him with anybody else so we could get their guys off the board. I'll show up wherever his recruit list is so they can commit to him. I'll help him out with their whole class."

Michigan also won the recruiting battle over Iowa for former West Des Moines Dowling Catholic star receiver Amara Darboh, who will be a sophomore for the Wolverines this season.

"We loved him, obviously," Ferentz said of Darboh. "But we couldn't get him. We tried. You talk about coming in second again. I don't know what else we could have done.

"I still love him. I think he's a great player. But the guys like that tend to go to the blue-blood schools or the name schools. They don't always, but they tend to."

Iowa senior defensive tackle Carl Davis said he doesn't pay any attention to recruiting, including what's happening with the Hawkeyes.

"I don't know who coming in or what's what," said Davis, a native of Detroit. "I don't know anything. The only thing we worry about is who we have right now.

"As a freshman, you might keep up with recruiting a little bit. But as you go on it doesn't matter anymore. You start to understand that."

Davis said he tries to avoid being a host for recruits.

"I don't think I'm the best host," he said. "I'm just relaxed. I don't like to do too much."

Davis was hosted by former Iowa defensive lineman Mike Daniels on his recruiting visit. The visit apparently could've been better.

"I had the worst visit, honestly, with him," Davis said. "It was a night game versus Michigan. All he did was take me right to the hotel and said, 'Alright, I'm tired, I'm going to the hotel.'

"That's how it went for me. And I still came here."