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December 29, 2011

Ferentz ready for challenge

With only one day remaining before the 2011 Insight Bowl, the head coaches from both teams met with the media to talk about the upcoming game. See what Kirk Ferentz had to say about who will play at running back, how the Hawkeyes have tried to simulate Oklahoma's offense in practice this week, and much more.

Watch our videos and read the full transcript below.










COACH FERENTZ: It's been a fantastic week. We have had the great pleasure and honor of being here last year. It was our first experience for a Bowl game in the desert and just had a fantastic experience, and we are extremely excited because of that to come back here, and this has been even better than a year ago.

The hospitality has been absolutely fantastic. We are very appreciative of that and very appreciative of being selected to play in this game.

We have had a lot work to do and have a lot of work to do because we are playing an outstanding opponent in Oklahoma. We are eager to get to the game tomorrow night and play an outstanding team. It will be a challenge for us, but we are looking forward to it.

Q. Coach, could you talk about your outstanding receiver and how many different ways you use him and how great of a player he has been for you?

COACH FERENTZ: Marvin is really a great story, great young man. Came to us as a quarterback back in the fall of '08 when Ricky Stanzi ‑ I guess somewhere in September, end of September, it looked like Ricky was emerging. He was our number one guy, and Marvin came to us and expressed an interest in moving.

He wanted to get on the field for obvious reasons. That year was kind of a wash, if you will. He was out there playing but just kind of running around, didn't really know what to do. His biggest challenge was running more than four straight plays. Quarterbacks don't do much, and he wasn't in that conditioning mode.

But with each step along the way, he has done a great job. Erik Campbell has worked with him. Our receivers coach has done a great job. But most importantly Marvin has put the work in. Made a lot of big plays for us and this year set several records.

I think it's probably most significant about it, you look at two of the guys that he's passed, Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes, both had excellent NFL careers.

So it is a real tribute to Marvin to make a position switch and pass two guys who were career receivers at Iowa. It really speaks to the work he has done. I'm really happy to see him have that kind of success.

Q. You addressed this a little bit in your introduction. But because you were here last year and sort of the subsequent scrutiny of the host committee here at the Fiesta Bowl and bowl discussions in general, were you curious coming in if it was going to feel different and how has it felt?

COACH FERENTZ: Well, not necessarily. My thoughts probably aren't that global.

But coming down, we knew what a tremendous experience it was a year ago. And whatever issues may have come up in the past year, I think they have been addressed and real systematic in a logical way.

People here associated with this game are absolutely fantastic. Been fortunate we've been involved in a lot of bowls, and if you go back through my time as assistant at Iowa in the '80s, a lot of different Bowls and venues. I don't think anybody does it better.

The thing that's so impressive I think from my vantage point is the depth of involvement, just how many volunteers are working to make this such a great experience. You can't turn around without someone from the committee or someone involved in the bowl being there to help you.

It has just been absolutely great. It is a great venue for a bowl game, and then I think the hospitality to this extent is certainly second to none, so we are certainly appreciative of that.

Q. In practice, how have you simulated the jumbo package, the bell dozer thing?

COACH FERENTZ: That's a tough one. There are a lot of tough things that are tough to simulate. That's something very unique to Oklahoma and it has been very successful for them. We are going to do our best there. We certainly don't have a quarterback that looks like that. We don't have many tight ends or linebackers that look like that either. And then the other thing obviously at Oklahoma besides having good players, they are very well coached and the pace they play offensively. That's a tough thing to simulate and a tough thing to defend once you get out on the field.

Q. Who has been your bell?

COACH FERENTZ: We have a series of guys. Nothing like the real thing, as they say.

Q. Dealing with a quarterback like Landry Jones, will you plan on just blitzing them to provide pressure or try to suppress the wide receivers through tight man coverage?

COACH FERENTZ: We are not a huge man team. You can start with that. We will do what we do defensively, we are primarily a zone team and try to get pressure with our front run. Like any game, you will try to mix some things in there. The bottom line is we will have to play good team defense, because they have outstanding players out, but they have a lot of outstanding players still on their team that are going to be out there playing.

And we look at them offensively, the pace of their offense is very unique and then Landry Jones, it is amazing the parallels between last year's game when we played Gabbert from Missouri who is 10th pick in the draft and tremendous throw. Really had great respect for him coming in, and more so even now. And now we face another quarterback that can just really throw the football very well. So it is going to be a real challenge for us defensively.

Q. Kirk, yesterday the Big Ten and Pac‑12 announced the new scheduling alliance. Have you had any chance to think about if that will change your scheduling philosophy?

COACH FERENTZ: Not a great deal. I imagine it is national. I know in our conference that has been an issue, just scheduling challenges, at one point we were going to push to nine league games. I don't know if this will affect that or not. I didn't read their fine print.

For some reason, they didn't include us in those discussions. That's way over our heads. But I think the intention certainly is to kind of form a merger without merging conferences, if you will, with the tradition of the Rose Bowl it makes perfect sense. I think it will ease some of the pressures in terms of scheduling. And I think in our case, instead of playing a team like Syracuse or Pittsburgh, we've gone east a little bit. My guess is now that will shift towards the Pac‑10 conference and take teams from other conferences that we have been playing out of the mix.

Q. Oklahoma started the preseason No. 1. Obviously they're not going to finish up that high. Last year you guys were a top‑ten team. Didn't end up there. Looking back on it, is it a lot tougher when you have those preseason expectations as a highly ranked team to finish that strong? Or is it something in particular that leads to not being able to finish that high?

COACH FERENTZ: I would suggest there are challenges no matter what. We've had it both ways. And the bottom line is it is what you do each and every week.

There are so many variables that go into it. We live in a society that wants to predict everything, who will win the Heisman. We all want to know that in July. That's one of the great things about college sports. There is surprises and there are going to be twists and turns.

I go back to our '02 team. Nobody in the world knew who Brad Banks was, at least nobody outside of the state of Iowa, I don't think. Certainly went to the BigTen meetings that summer and Brad Banks ended up being league MVP and runner‑up for the Heisman against Carson Palmer. That's what makes college football so unique and so special.

At the end of the day, you just can't predict. Everybody wants to and you try to and you have the evidence. But it really gets down to all the twists and turns that take place in the 12‑game schedule or 11‑game schedule in those years. So many things that will happen: injuries, breaks. Disappointing things that happen. That's what makes sports, I think, so much fun to follow.

Q. Coach, your contact and impressions of Bob Stoops as a player at Iowa? Of course, he served as a graduate assistant and something called a volunteer coach there with the Hawkeyes.

COACH FERENTZ: Bob was a skinny free safety when I got there in '81. And it is interesting, because I came from the University of Pittsburgh. It was my first exposure to college football. We had an excellent team in 1980. I think we had 11 seniors drafted. Three of them were first‑round players. Russ Grimm was a local name here for everybody that wasn't a first rounder and obviously should have been. Hall of Fame player. We had a great, great football team and very talented football team.

I went to Iowa and it looked a little different than what we had in Pittsburgh. That was only my second year in major college football. What I learned, we had Andre Tippet. He was probably the most notable player on that team. Ron Hallstrom. Those two guys went on to have great years in the NFL. There weren't many of them beyond that.

The thing I noticed was the team was tired of losing. They had a great attitude. Bob was a big part of that. He was a junior that year but truly one of the leaders on the defense. You can tell he was a coach's kid. He was really smart, very tough, tenacious player.

That was kind of symbolic of the way that defense played that year. They weren't the fastest group, but they were tough to move the ball against. They led us to the Rose Bowl that year and the first winning season in 19 years there.

That was my introduction to Bob. Obviously we got to know each other through the years, especially when he transitioned from being a player to coach.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for he as family. Comes from a great mom and dad, family back in Youngstown. They are a great coaching family. Obviously history has proven that way to be.

For my money, Bob does as good a job as anybody in college football. I say that with all due respect to a lot of great coaches at this level. There are not many better than Bob, and one of the best people around too.

Q. With Coker not playing this game, does that affect your game plan for how you attack OU offensively? And through practice, how has the backup stepped up?

COACH FERENTZ: If you look at our statistics, Marcus had 281 carries this year. Next guy has 18. Psychologically, we got an advantage. Oklahoma is trying to figure out who our guys are and where are they, where do they get their carries or 12 carries, whatever they may be.

But it is no different than when a player gets injured. If you can't go, you can't go and somebody else has to jump in there. The other part of that equation, everybody else has to carry a little bit more responsibility. That has been our attitude.

And go back to our first Bowl, Ladell Betts, who had a nice NFL career, wasn't able to go against Texas Tech, Aaron Greving jumped in, got 115 yards, 120 yards, whatever it may have been, was the MVP. That's football. You just got to play on. We will try to be smart about how we approach things and handle things. We will show up and play the game.

Q. Markus Zusevics wasn't here yesterday for interviews. What's his status and overall health‑wise of your team?

COACH FERENTZ: He's fine. He had a little vomiting and sickness going through. I think that shifted to another guy today. So the good news is it is a 24‑hour type. He is up and running this morning, eating again, and he will be with us at practice today.

Overall, we're fairly healthy. The position of note would probably be the tight end position. Doesn't look like Brad Herman will be able to make it. He had a bad foot sprain that didn't require surgery but hasn't responded. He won't play.

Ray Hamilton has a little bit of a knee issue that hasn't responded. So I don't think he will play. And Quinton Alston will be held out medically too. I think those three guys are the only three that are out of the game at this stage.

Q. That hurts you more special teams‑wise?

COACH FERENTZ: It does. It chips away at your depth a little bit. We're kind of like a pro team. We will be out there with 45 guys and see what happens. We will have more than that dressed. It is only a 60‑minute game. We will get through it.

Q. Bob has talked a lot about last month Hayden Fry and his influence on him. I know you were heavily influenced. What I want to know is why neither one of you guys turned out as flamboyant as Hayden Fry.

COACH FERENTZ: We are smart enough to know not to try to copy that guy. Coach Fry is one of a kind. I have always said, I don't think there is another person. The guy sitting behind you has a better vantage point, but I'm not sure there is another person in the country that could have done at that time what Coach Fry did with the Iowa program.

I had the unique perspective of coming in year three. Bob was there when Coach Fry arrived. I got there in year three, and that was the year things all took place. That's when the turn took. But that turn was in action or in movement for a couple years prior.

I just remember going out to high school games. You did that on Friday nights and everybody wears black and gold and Iowa, the Tiger hawk was very, very prominent.

That really struck me because I came from a pro environment being in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a Steeler town. And I quickly learned the Hawkeyes were very prominent throughout the state. And Coach Fry is really the guy, I think, that got that going.

My guess is he has had that personality his whole life, just like I have had my bad one my whole life too (smiling). That's just the way it goes.

Q. Is there flu running through?

COACH FERENTZ: I hope not. Zus had it yesterday and then we had one player develop it last night. But I hope not. We try to move the roommates out as soon as it happens.

And we deal with this during the year too. We had more of it probably in the mid‑year. College campuses, it is all over the place. I don't think we're too concerned about it right now.

Q. Do you use the large underdog factor at all to motivate your team against an Oklahoma team that was obviously consensus No. 1 before the season started?

COACH FERENTZ: I don't know if it is a huge motivating factor, but it is reality. There is a reason we are the underdogs. And the team we are playing is really talented. On top of it, they are really well coached. It is a tough challenge.

But that being said, we've been in that situation prior and this season and seasons past. When you are playing a Bowl game, you usually play really good teams, at least that's been my experience. We have played defending national champions, teams that won it the next year, USC, LSU, Florida. We've played some pretty good teams. It seems like that's what you do in a bowl game. Last year Missouri was an excellent football team.

It is really more about what we do and how we approach the game and, most importantly, how we play tomorrow night. But it's certainly good that our players understand we're hardly a favorite and shouldn't be. We will have to play our absolute best to make this a really good game.

Q. You have played in a number of Bowl games multiple times, the Orange Bowl, the Insight, Outback, Capital One Bowl, now the Insight Bowl. Does coming back make it easier, preparation, comfort‑wise, when you know the lay of the land already?

COACH FERENTZ: It is exciting when you go to a new venue. Every one we have been to has been great. And then returning, it is easier in some regards but you know your way around a little bit.

Although, this is a totally different feeling than what we had last year. And that was great. This has been great. One of my goals when I go to the bowl games ‑ I'm doing well this week - is never to have to drive a car. Which I haven't done this week, which is great. So things are within walking distance, that type of thing, keeps things simple.

It is fantastic. We feel a little bit like we know the place, and then the other part of it is knowing the people on the committee. And they just have been, as I said earlier, absolutely fantastic. So we've - to quote Bill Brashier, there is no such thing as a bad bowl game. Some are better than others. And this is going to be tough to beat. It has really been a great, great experience for us.

Bill Brashier used to coach at Iowa, for those of you that aren't from Iowa. Name dropping here.

Q. For the last time, when are we going to find out who the starting running back is?

COACH FERENTZ: The whole world is waiting on that one, I know that (laughter).

I say jokingly anybody can play. That's probably what it will be. It will be a committee effort. And we'll a role for Brad Rogers, we'll have a role for Canzeri, for Bullock and Jason White. I think I envision all four of those guys playing. We will go with all four of those guys.

They will do a good job. They will do a good job. As long as we get the young guys out of the locker room - they may be nervous, we get them out of the locker room and get them started, they will be fine.

Q. Coach Stoops has talked several times about Bill Brashier and the influence he had on him. Could you just talk a little bit about what kind of a coach he was and the effect he had on his players?

COACH FERENTZ: I have been really lucky coaching at Iowa. I have been there 22 years now. My first nine years Bill was the defensive coordinator. The last 13 Norm Parker has been our coordinator. So if you think about it, 22 years spent, two defensive coordinators, and they are both very much alike and that they are just really stable people, outstanding defensive coaches.

But beyond that, I think the impact they have had on their players and the other staff members, support staff members, that's what really what I think of when I think about both those guys.

When you think about this game, the impact Norm has had on our program and transitioning back to Bill, obviously Coach Bob Stoops, but also Jay Norvell is one of the great stories in Iowa football history. Mentioned Brad Banks a moment ago. Jay started out in the defensive back field, moved to linebacker, tight end, back to safety. Nobody really wanted him. He was a walk‑on player at Iowa. In his fifth year as a senior, All‑Big Ten player on a Rose Bowl team. I think he would also tell you that Bill had a big impact.

And Bill is just - so much has been written about the coaches that went on from Iowa to go on to become coaches. I don't think I have worked with a better coach than Bill Brashier. And I would say the same about Norm Parker. Bill is a top‑shelf human being. He retired in Iowa City. And great members of our community.

I think if you talk to anybody that passed through Iowa when Bill was there, they would all tell you the same thing. Just a tremendous human being.



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