July 26, 2012
Q. How excited are you and the coaching staff to start the season in an NFL stadium, Soldier Field, against NIU?
COACH FERENTZ: We were here several years ago and it worked out wonderfully. As you know, we have a lot of our students in our general student body are from Chicago, the Chicagoland area, and we have a lot of alums out in this area. So it makes perfect sense.
And the people from our state love coming up to this town, and we have a Cubs game the day before the whole thing. So it's a great experience.
I think players enjoy playing in a pro stadium, and it's something that's worked out well. The only bad news is we're playing an outstanding football team with Northern Illinois. We have a real challenge there, but we're looking forward to the opportunity.
Q. You enter the season as the longest tenured coach in the Big Ten. When you started out at Iowa and had a couple of tough seasons, did you ever envision yourself being in this position? And what's it like being in this position now?
COACH FERENTZ: You're being very kind saying tough seasons. We got off to a less than stellar start. But I never really thought much about it and I still don't. We kind of take one year at a time. And each and every season we go into, it's a fresh beginning, and really that began back in January for us after our last ballgame.
We take them one at a time and try to handle the challenges as they come.
Q. Kirk, you've had a lot of turnover in your staff. And just maybe if you could address that, what were maybe some of the reasons behind so much turnover?
COACH FERENTZ: It's been a historic season for us that way. I'm so fortunate to have the chance to our players have had the same leadership on campus now for 13 years. Norm Parker, just an outstanding defensive coordinator. And Ken O'Keefe did a tremendous job as our offensive coordinator. And Chris Doyle's our strength and conditioning coordinator. So that's been something that I've appreciated, really appreciative of all the contributions those guys have made, not only in terms of the coaching but everything they've done for our program.
But with it comes opportunity. And we elevated Phil Parker. He's had an ample opportunity to leave for other institutions as a coordinator. That wasn't the reason we elevated him. I thought he was the best choice of several good options.
And we've moved some guys around defensively. So we're excited about that. I think that's working well.
And then both he and Darrell Wilson have been under Norm's tutelage quite a bit. But they both have some unique ideas, too. So I think we'll look a little different, but some ways the same.
Offensively, we went a different route and hired Greg Davis. I thought we knew what we were getting. We hoped we knew what we were getting, but it's a little bit like marriage; until you get into the relationship, you're never sure what's going to happen. And Greg has just been a fantastic addition. A tremendous person, tremendous coach. Great expertise. Works extremely well with our staff members and players, and it's been a great fit in our community already.
So with that opportunity, you know, I think we've got two great coordinators. And we're also able to hire two of our former players, two former captains. LeVar Woods was captain in 2000, and Brian Ferentz in 2005. So it's not a requisite necessarily, but I think there's some real benefit there to having guys in the program.
Both of them have unique and I think very healthy histories since their last game at Iowa, and I think they bring some new perspective in as well. So it's been a lot of fun really.
Q. Bill O'Brien yesterday indicated you had reached out to him about some of his players. Some coaches today have said that they're not going after Penn State players. Some have said they are. Where do you stand on that issue?
COACH FERENTZ: The thing I would say about the whole situation, I think it's really complex right now and very confusing, quite frankly, just what the rules are.
So I think first and foremost, everybody needs to be compliant. I think after that, it's a matter of people doing what they feel is appropriate. And that's what we try to do as much as possible. We'll try to continue to do the same moving forward.
Q. Going into camp, going into the season, what are your expectations for freshmen running backs, Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill, in their first season, and what role do you expect them to take?
COACH FERENTZ: We have a lot of positions right now that are wide open, basically, and some of the first year players at least having an opportunity. I think our running back situation, it's very likely that maybe one of those two guys or maybe both of them will end up playing.
So if you look at us historically, you've had years like 2000, 2002, 2003, 2008. Fred Russell was our primary back in '02 and '03, and Shonn Greene obviously in '08. And then you'll get a year like '09 where we had basically a committee and a true freshman ended up being the MVP of the Orange Bowl that year.
So there's a lot of different ways to have success. We're open to any of them. That's true for all positions, but certainly running back is one of those positions for us.
Q. The Big Ten has had a lot of long tenured coaches, when you look at Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler and people of that regard. So what does it mean to you to kind of now be the longest tenured head coach in the Big Ten? And also how has the conference changed since you first became a head coach here?
COACH FERENTZ: You know, there have been a lot of changes. That would take a long time to go through that list, certainly. But at the end of the day, the thing that I I just feel very fortunate to be at the University of Iowa. I have a 22 year history with the school. Worked for a man who was there for 20 years, Dan Gable. Had a long career.
And I think one thing, draw a parallel between the University of Iowa and the Pittsburgh Steelers, they stay with their people. And so I'm very, very appreciative of that.
University of Iowa has been tremendous to me on a professional basis and equally as important, maybe more so important to me, is what they've done for our family.
So I feel fortunate we've had five kids graduate from one high school. That's hard to do in this profession. I've had a great experience on a personal level and then a great experience professionally. So I'm just honored to be the head coach there and very much looking forward to this year.
Q. You touched on the running back position. Just wanted to get your thoughts. It's been such a revolving door there the last five years with injuries and suspensions and transfers and different things have just hamstrung that position. What can you do to build some stability there to have guys that you can lean on from year to year?
COACH FERENTZ: There's really nothing we can do that we haven't done. Things happen in college football. Things happen in pro football. It's just life. Things happen that we had a two year run with Fred Russell where he was basically injury free. A lot of carries during that time. He's not a big guy. Then you have other years where it doesn't work that way.
So each year is a different year. We'll continue to recruit guys that we think are going to have a chance to have great careers at Iowa and get their degrees from Iowa.
It's really no different than any other position. So we're eager to work with the guys at that position. We start up here next Friday.