Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz on expectations, quarterbacks, suspensions and freshmen

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has learned not to get caught up in preseason predictions, in the notion that his team performs its best when outside expectations are low.

“People love talking about that,” Ferentz said Wednesday on the HawkCentral radio show on KxNO. “There’s a lot of talk about what we don’t have, but there’s a lot of things that we do have right now. The guys that are experienced, the guys that are part of what I would consider our strengths right now, they’ve got to do their best and let the other guys get caught up.”

Ferentz, entering his 19th season at the Hawkeye helm, said that, ever since his team reached a bowl game for the first time after the 2001 season, he’s gone into the fall believing that a good season was within reach. That’s just as true this year, when Iowa received no votes in the recent Associated Press preseason poll and is picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten West division.

“I like our football team,” Ferentz said. “It’s just a matter of how we can develop, how we can mature.”

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Ferentz addressed other topics Wednesday, including:

  • Quarterbacks. He reiterated that he’s not yet ready to name a starter between junior Tyler Wiegers and sophomore Nathan Stanley. He said he isn’t even leaning toward one player or another right now, but expects to name a starter Monday, with the opening game against Wyoming looming Sept. 2.

Quote: “We’re really not being coy. It’s been back and forth with both guys. … We’re all real confident that either one will do a good job leading our football team. I expect both guys to do a great job all season long. … There’s probably not a right answer here, but we just kind of have to go with a gut feeling, and it will play itself out on the field. I think that’s really what it’s going to get down to.”

  • Manny Rugamba. Ferentz announced Tuesday that the sophomore cornerback is suspended for the Wyoming game because of an unspecified violation of team policy that happened in the offseason. Ferentz spoke about how he handles disciplinary issues such as that.

Quote: “Ultimately, it’s my decision to make. I’ll lean on the staff at times. I’ll lean on our leadership group, get a vibe from the team leaders what they think is fair. … One thing I have learned is you never make a decision when it comes to discipline immediately, because usually you’re a little emotional about things and that’s not good. … A lot of things factor into it — the age of a player, the experience of a player. (You’re) a little more lenient with guys that are younger. Ultimately, you have to do what’s best for the individuals and what’s best for the entire team, and usually those two things work in harmony.”

  • Freshmen. Ferentz was read a list of first-year players who would possibly see action in the season opener — wide receivers Brandon Smith and Ihmir-Smith Marsette, running back Ivory Kelly-Martin, offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs, defensive end A.J. Epenesa, defensive backs Matt Hankins, Geno Stone and Josh Turner — and asked if that was accurate. “I would just say most of those guys are in the ballpark, not all,” he replied. He did say he’s more likely to play true freshmen now than a decade ago.

Quote: “Our attitude is right now is, yeah, players are coming to us a little bit better prepared maybe than they were. And if a guy can jump in there and help out, typically it’s on the perimeter. It has to match up with your needs, which this year we definitely have needs on the perimeter. … A.J. is not your average freshman. (Former Iowa offensive tackle) Bryan Bulaga comes to mind. Bryan walked in here and had a real physical maturity and mental maturity that was uncommon for a guy that just got out of high school. … (The fact that players arrive on campus for summer school in June) speeds the curve up a little bit too. They started class on Monday, and I don’t think anybody’s stressed out, whereas in the old days it was the first day on campus and guys would lose five pounds just worrying about things, just knowing where to go. So these guys are a lot more advanced than first-year guys were 10 years ago.”