Aug. 6, 2012
Kirk Ferentz and the University of Iowa football team. Now the task is fitting the moving parts into place.
"It's like doing a puzzle every year," said Ferentz on Monday at the team's annual media day press conference in the Feller Club Room in the Dale and Marilyn Howard Family Pavilion inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "We have a lot of things we're going to have to get better at. But looking at what I know, there's every reason to think that we have a good football team."
With a roster featuring 28 underclassmen on the preseason depth chart, Ferentz cautioned that the final product could be much different come the season opener on Sept. 1.
"It is really something you'll probably be able to throw out the window in a week or two," said Ferentz. "This is the kind of football team that's going to look different in the weeks ahead, and certainly may go through September and October.
"We have a long road ahead of us right now, but we have a great opportunity to have a good season. As we move forward the keys are going to be improvement and developing consistency. Those things are a lot easier to talk about than do."
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
"This is our youngest team. That's documented if you look at the number of seniors and projected senior starters, which is still up in the air. But, hey, that's college football. We've got a lot of guys that have been in the program, and when they get the opportunity, they'll do a fine job."
Senior James Vandenberg is a proven commodity as the team's starting quarterback, having thrown for 3,022 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior in 2011, but who will be his top running mate in the back field is unclear. Sophomore Damon Bullock is the team's top returning rusher with 20 yards, leaving the door open for anyone and all.
"Basically anybody that's in the backfield position, maybe outside of Jonathan Gimm right now, is going to get a look at carrying the football to see if they can help us out in some way," said Ferentz. "We have guys out there that are capable. We have enough talent out there, and hopefully we can bridge the experience gap as well."
Freshmen Greg Garmon, Barkley Hill and Michael Malloy are all in the mix at running back after entering training camps following strong prep careers. Who will line up behind Vandenberg in Soldier Field will play out over the next month in practice.
"Everybody looks pretty good right now, but you'd expect that," said Ferentz. "Over the course of time usually the picture becomes a little clearer. The first hurdle is going to be what do we get done in camp, and who looks the best. We'll try to get that lined up correctly and see who they respond once we go to Chicago, and that'll be the next phase."
Ferentz has liked what he has seen from the 34 freshmen newcomers early in camp.
"So far, so good," said Ferentz, who played 10 true freshmen in 2011. "You're always a little cautious to say too much about anybody on the first blush, but they run around and look like they all belong on the field in their given spots for the most part.
"Everybody on the team has an opportunity; whether they show us they can contribute on special teams, be a backup or earn starting jobs too... we're open to anything."
Putting the pieces in place involves a lot of hard work and Ferentz knows it is not a process that is done overnight, it's done over time.
"We have a long road ahead of us right now, but we have a great opportunity to have a good season," he said. "As we move forward the keys are going to be improvement and developing consistency. Those things are a lot easier to talk about than do."
Iowa opens the 2012 season Sept. 1 against Northern Illinois at Soldier Field. The game will begin at 2:30 p.m. (CT) and be televised on ESPNU.