JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the final media availabilities before Friday's TaxSlayer Bowl, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was asked whether he could still sell the football program as "developmental" in his 16th season.
In response, Ferentz directed his answer to Exhibits A, B, C and D seated to his right at the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center in downtown Jacksonsville.
Exhibit A, to his far right, Mark Weisman. The Air Force transfer has basically been Iowa's starting running back for 2½ seasons and has 30 career rushing touchdowns – three short of tying the school record shared by Tavian Banks and Sedrick Shaw.
"A guy who came to Iowa as a fullback," Ferentz said. "The next thing you know, he's knocking on the door of being a touchdown leader, career wise."
The Iowa running back is preparing for his final game as a Hawkeye.
Exhibit B, Quinton Alston. The senior middle linebacker has been a one-year starter after sitting behind three seniors a year ago that got NFL calls – Anthony Hitchens, James Morris and Christian Kirksey.
"Q got stuck behind some really good players in his career path," Ferentz said, "so he had to be very patient last year and lead in his own way on special teams."
Exhibit C, defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat. LTP might has well been nicknamed TFL – he was second on the team to Drew Ott with 11½ tackles for loss for 53 yards. The Chicago native entertained transferring after his redshirt freshman season in 2011, in which he saw action in one game.
"Had one-and-a-half feet out the door at one point in his career and decided to come back," Ferentz said. "… The last two years, he's been doing more than holding his own."
Sticking it out is something that Ferentz emphasized during his long answer to the "developmental" question.
Coincidence or not, the biggest news story of Iowa's pre-bowl practices has been whether backup quarterback C.J. Beathard will transfer. Beathard's father, Casey, told The (Nashville) Tennessean that his son is "really hoping he doesn't have to transfer. I said (to him), 'Hopefully it'll be obvious in this game, one way or the other.' "
This is what Ferentz said about this year's senior class — 25 percent of which were on stage Wednesday in advance of facing Tennessee at EverBank Field.
"To me, that's the beauty of college football. That's the beauty of sports, I think, when they're done right," Ferentz said. "We have 16 seniors on our team. Every year I say this, but I have such respect for guys that run the whole race, stay their entire four or five years of their career, earn their degrees. Our guys have done a great job of that, first and foremost.
"I don't care how good a player they may be, none of them are going to be playing when they're 40."
And that even applies one of the greatest Hawkeyes of all-time, Exhibit D: Brandon Scherff. The Outland Trophy-winning left tackle and consensus all-American is projected to be a high-first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
"He had a lot of work to do when he got here as a freshman," Ferentz said. "He was on Mike Martin's highlight film when Martin got drafted (in the third round in 2012 out of Michigan). To watch the progress all these guys make, that to me, is what this whole thing is about."
Who: Iowa (7-5) vs. Tennessee (6-6)
Time, TV: 2:20 p.m. Friday, ESPN
Where: EverBank Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.