Q&A: Kirk Ferentz at the Big Ten Media Days
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz met with the media during Day 1 of the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. Here's the transcript of his media session, as provided by the Big Ten:
KIRK FERENTZ: Thanks, Doug. We're just very enthused about getting started. As I'm sure every coach feels the same way. Very, very excited to get back on the field with our players and get going. And we've had a lot of really positive things, I think, have happened since we got going in January. Working with tremendous group of young people.
Feel really good about our staff right now and the positioning our staff. Obviously, we just moved into a brand new facility, a state-of-the-art facility, which we're very appreciative of. A lot of people in Iowa made that possible for us.
And it's been just fantastic to work there, the efficiency of it. And the impact it's had on recruiting has been exciting. Just overall I think our team has worked hard. They've had a great attitude and are making great, great progress right now. We're eager to pick up and see where we're at.
Personnel-wise, certainly, we lost -- like, every year you lose good seniors. And if you look at our football team, we have two outstanding senior defensive tackles, two outstanding offensive tackles. So the discussion really starts kind of there. The good news is I think we have good players that are working hard to try to follow those players. Follow in their
footsteps. They're progressing.
And certainly what we do in the next month is going to be really important for our development as a football team and kind of representative of our development of a football team, how some of these younger players come on. Offensively, our focus right now would be to develop a starting offensive line and develop depth at that position. We
need to develop depth at the cornerback position, receiver position as well.
Defensively, the two defensive tackles, replacing those guys, developing depth there. The linebacker spot, we lost Quinton Alston, our middle linebacker. We feel pretty good about the group we have. And a safety spot at the back end. So those areas are things we've been addressing.
And then on the special teams front, feel very excited to have Marshall Koehn come back as a senior. I think he's really competed well and is a very confident player right now.
The punting job is up for competition at this point. And that's certainly going to be very, very important, too, in terms of the progress of our team. So overall, I think we have healthy competition. Looking forward to watching that progress as we get into the month of August.
And needless to say, just eager to get on the field and continue the work that we're doing in the spring. Very, very excited about the work that we have to develop the team for the 2015 season.
Jake Rudock transferring to Michigan, was that something that had your blessing?
Did that upset you?
Somewhere in between? Just your thoughts on Jake Rudock transferring to another Big Ten school.
FERENTZ: It's like any player in our program. I think any coach wants what's best for the individual. That was Jake's decision all the way. And, certainly, we did all we could to cooperate and help him with whatever path he chose to take.
QUESTION: What went into the decision to name CJ the starter during the offseason, right after the season ended?
FERENTZ: I think the whole story is about CJ's development, quite frankly, and it's probably over the last 16 to 18 months that we've been able to watch him. When he came in as a freshman, it was really obvious at a very early point that he had a very live arm, active feet. He's a good football player, good tools. And to me it's been the growth and development that we've seen and, most importantly, throughout the year. It was close competition back a couple years ago that continued certainly through last fall and preseason right on through the fall.
And then we opened it up in the month of December. And at the end of the bowl season, we got back together as a staff, spent a couple days talking. And it was a decision that we thought was important to make for the well-being of our football team. We wanted to get that clearly defined and give everybody an opportunity to move forward.
And so I'm not going to say it was an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination, but it was one that we made. And we've moved on since that time. Again, very, very happy with the development that CJ has demonstrated.
QUESTION: Coach Ferentz, you moved Bo Bower from the outside to the inside. What made you want to move him inside? And what kind of development has he had in the spring and your summer workouts?
FERENTZ: I'll go back to the meetings we had right after the bowl game. We go through our entire roster and talk about each player and their strengths, weaknesses, those types of things. And a big part of that discussion is trying to figure out what the best spot for a player is.
And in Bo's case, we felt like he played well last year. Thought he had a chance to take another step and be even more productive at the will position for us, the inside weakside position. And part of that decision, too, was based on what we saw from Ben Niemann, a young player that we chose to play as a true freshman last year. But those two things coupled together seemed like the best way to start out with spring practice.
But, that being said, we have five linebackers right now that I thought really competed well. It's kind of the opposite of last year. We're a little bit more experienced than we were a year ago at that position.
And I think we have a couple different combinations that may end up actually being on the field during the course of the fall. So we think it's a pretty healthy position. We'll let those guys continue to compete throughout the month of August.
QUESTION: I know you touched on it a little bit with Jake. What is your thought on that rule, the graduate transfer rule? Do you think it's going to subsist after this?
FERENTZ: I think in certain instances it's a great thing. And for Jake, I'm glad it worked out. A year ago we had Cody Sokol who was another tremendous young guy, played very well for Louisiana Tech last year. I'll go back to my first point on that entire topic. I think everybody in sports, it's what's best for the players. But it's not as cut and dry with that rule. It's a little bit of a gray-area rule, if you will.
QUESTION: Coach, being that you're the longest tenured coach in the Big Ten and seven years more than any other coach in the conference, how do you see the league transforming from the first time you coached for the Hawkeyes?
FERENTZ: My first year, actually, in the league was 1981. I was very fortunate to go to Iowa as an assistant coach. So I've got a 25-year affiliation with the Big Ten right now.
And times change a little bit, but I think the common denominator is that this has always been a tremendous conference.
You've had, first and foremost, great student-athletes participating. I think the coaching has been outstanding, at least my 25-year experience and five years in the NFL watching the league.
Traditions, all the things that are good about the Big Ten, the academic prowess, the academic accomplishment of our players. To me, it's just a great league to be associated with. And 25 years' experience I feel very, very fortunate to have been associated with this conference.
QUESTION: Coach, any update on Jake Duzey and how his progress is coming?
FERENTZ: Jake, unfortunately, was injured in the spring. And the only good thing that came out of that was it's not going to be a season-ending injury. So his rehab has gone very well. He's making good strides.
I think where we're at right now, the next four weeks will be really critical how the four weeks go for him. And we're optimistic. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it, but we're optimistic he'll be able to return sometime in September.
There are a lot of hurdles to recovery. But so far so good.
QUESTION: Coach, there's been kind of a perception this might not be a very exciting year for the Hawkeyes. But in the past few weeks, you've had several of your players named to a lot of the nationwide watch lists. Do you feel like you have got a team this year that can surprise some people?
FERENTZ: Really, since our first two years, 2000 and '99, we're a little bumpy for sure. But ever since then, for the most part, not every year, but for the most part, we felt like we had a chance to compete for Big Ten titles. That's been our goal since we started 16-plus years ago.
So, as we move forward right now, it's all about the continued development that we show and how we do our jobs as a staff. So I think the great thing, all you can ask for in life is opportunity. We've got that in front of us. And it really comes down to what we do.
We're getting great leadership right now from our older players. The guys who have been on the field, I think they're all determined to really make this a season of opportunity. And the most important thing now is that we take each step along the way. And there are a lot of them in front of us between now and January. But we're very excited about what's in front
QUESTION: Hey, coach, would you mind just discussing what Drew Ott has brought to the program since he's been there?
FERENTZ: First word that comes to mind for me is character. That's a couple different levels. Drew is a man of tremendous character, but he is a character. I got to tell you. He's just a lot of fun to work with. He's a great story. And, like a lot of our guys, three guys that we brought here all have good stories. Drew is a little bit of an undersized guy when he came to Iowa. We were not real experienced or talented up front on the defensive front in 2012, his first year.
About midway through the season, we approached him about playing. We did the same thing with Tevaun Smith at the receiver position. And he very unselfishly agreed to get involved. So he ended up playing the second half of the season in a reserve role. And we thought that would better expedite his path to the field.
And, since he's become a starter in 2013, last year, he's played extremely well. It's well-documented he went through a moped accident last year. Got knocked off his moped by a truck and ended up playing that following Saturday. He's just a really tough, hard-minded guy. He's really developed into an outstanding leader for us, outstanding student. Just really a delight to be able to work with.