October 24, 2012
After a press conference dominated by quarterback discussions, the focus in the post press conference visit with Kirk Ferentz turned to the offensive line, which was hit by two key injuries. This week in Extra Kirk, the Hawkeye head coach talks about the offensive line and the feelings and emotions that injured player go though while they are sidelined.
Q: How does it work when you are looking for a left tackle because that is such a huge position.
FERENTZ: Well, we have hopefully prepared for this. Part of the equation is we lost two tackles. Donnal's main position was tackle. You can never have enough tackles in the tackle pool and we just lost two. That leaves three.
Q: If Donnal hadn't gotten hurt, would he have moved out to left tackle?
FERENTZ: If he were healthy, that would have been one of our considerations for sure.
Q: Is that something you thought about immediately after Scherff got hurt or were you comfortable putting MacMillan out there?
FERENTZ: At that point, no, I think we would have stayed with what we were doing. Big picture wise, it would have been a consideration.
Q: When you say three, Van Sloten, MacMillan and?
FERENTZ: Tobin has played tackle a lot since he has been here. At least the last two years.
Q: Your offensive line had a pretty good rhythm going the last month or so. You lose two guys and Blythe comes back in.
FERENTZ: Blythe came out and Donnal had to jump in there. Like I said, we compare Blythe to Bullock, like he is veteran player. The guy has played three games. Blythe has played three, so that makes him a veteran. At least there is some comfort for him and he's been on the field. Not that he is playing his best football. I think that's ahead of him, so we plug that up. At least you have a guy in there that's played and we will figure out the left tackle position. Nolan did a lot good things out there the other night.
Q: How hard is it to get that rhythm back?
FERENTZ: We have five days. It is a challenge anytime a player gets eliminated because of injury. It makes it different. It's a challenge and that's part of football.
Q: What does James Vandenberg have to do to counteract the newness along the offensive line?
FERENTZ: He just has to play. He can't worry about who is playing left tackle. I'm sure he will be aware because he's watching, like we all are. When the game gets going, every player has to play their position the best they can and worry about their own responsibilities. He has plenty on his plate right now, so he doesn't have to worry about whose playing left tackle or left guard. Part of football is you have to have faith in your teammates.
Q: Are there quicker drops or anything like that?
FERENTZ: No. It's like anything, if the pocket breaks down, you have to do something. You have to improvise and get the ball out. We had plenty of breakdowns in our first game with our starting line. We had plenty of breakdowns the other night before guys got injured.
Q: You expect your quarterback to improve and get better every week. Is there a maximization in a 5th year senior that you know exactly what he can and cannot do?
FERENTZ: Tom Brady is still getting better. There was a great article a few weeks ago on Peyton Manning. It never ends. That's the great thing about life and certainly in sports, it never ends. There is always an opportunity to improve and do more. James is built that way and that's how he thinks.
Q: When guys like Donnal and Scherff get hurt, how do you keep them feeling like they are part of the team?
FERENTZ: It is really hard. Once they get through their medical part of things, they are around our team and they are in meetings. If you talk to any player that is hurt or has been hurt, which is about every player, no matter how close they stay there is a feeling of disconnect. There are two phases of being injured. One is a physical thing that you have to work through. That is not a lot of fun and there are a lot of quiet hours there. That's rehabbing or certainly doing the work to get back. That's hard and sometimes painful. That is where the medical staff are kind of unsung heroes. People don't realize some of the things they do behind the scenes. The other part is the mental part. Besides going though the pain and the realization that you are going to be out for a while, you can't help but feel disconnected. That is the worst part about it. You could be standing there with everyone else, but you just don't feel part of it. I can't articulate why that is, but it is almost unanimous from everyone I have talked with.
Q: What do you do to try and ease that?
FERENTZ: You try to address it, but I don't think it erases the feeling. It is like losing or winning. Those are feeling you can't duplicate either. You have to experience it. It's hard deal. Besides missing time, it's the mental stuff you go through.
Q: Do you have any experience with a diva type quarterback?
FERENTZ: Sure, I've seen them. I've been around them.
Q: You don't strike me as an ego management type guy. Not saying James is because he isn't. Do you have that arrow in your quiver?
FERENTZ: Not sure I am following.
Q: Can you deal with a diva type quarterback, who needs his ego stroked?
FERENTZ: Do I stoke people? (laugh) I'm not sure I am following. A part of coaching, not just the head coach, is trying to communicate with players on whatever the topic might be. The more you do, the better. Every player is certainly different.
Q: Talking about Nolan MacMillan, a few years ago he was on track to be the next big thing on the offensive line and then he goes through a string of injuries. What was his response through all of that and having to sit out?
FERENTZ: Like we talked about, it is really hard to do. It is hard on a player when they miss time and there are two facets to it, mental and physical. It is a little bit like Scherff and Donnal, as hard as it is on those guys to watch, the silver lining is that they have the opportunity to come back. I always think the worst thing is when a senior gets hurt and he is done for the year. That is a hard one to spin. In Nolan's case, it wasn't like they were debilitating type injuries. You have to stay with. The Pat Angerer story is well documented. He went through a lot of challenges and hardships and was on the verge of quitting. He stuck with it and it turned out to be a good story for him. Anytime you pack it is, it assures you nothing is going to rectify itself or get worked out. If you stick with it, there are no guarantees it will, but you give yourself a chance.
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