Nov. 28, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The tough questions will be asked, no stone will go unturned and the difficult conversations will be had. Moving forward, University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz doesn't see a reason why the Hawkeyes can't be successful in 2013 and beyond.
"I am optimistic, and I always have been," Ferentz said Wednesday at his end-of-the-season news conference inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. "I saw no reason 14 years ago why we wouldn't be successful. I see no reason today why we can't be successful moving forward. It's about as simple as that."
Ferentz didn't attempt to put a positive spin on Iowa's 2012 season when the team finished 4-8 overall and 2-6 in Big Ten Conference play.
"This was a disappointing season in terms of record, and the fact that we're not playing in a bowl game," he said. "There really isn't a way to put a positive spin on that. It is kind of what it is. Certainly we're not pleased about being home, but that's how it shook out."
Ferentz referenced the 2006 and 2007 seasons and what followed as a reason for optimism. In 2006, the Hawkeyes dropped their final six league games and finished 6-7 following an Alamo Bowl defeat to Texas. The following season, the team didn't go to a bowl, finishing 6-6 overall.
The two ensuing seasons -- in 2008 and 2009 -- were "two of our best seasons" and "the most enjoyable." The Hawkeyes won nine games and the Outback Bowl in 2008 before going 11-2 and winning the Orange Bowl a season later.
"I am optimistic, and I always have been. I saw no reason 14 years ago why we wouldn't be successful. I see no reason today why we can't be successful moving forward. It's about as simple as that."
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
"I don't want to look at this as an impossible task by any stretch," he said. "Right now our focus is on improving and finding solutions to what might have taken place. If there is a blessing in all of this, we get a little more time than we would in a normal situation.
"It's an opportunity for us to work a little more thoroughly and do a better job of moving forward."
Ferentz says the key will be returning to the basics and executing.
"Usually the answers aren't calculus equations," he said. "It's a matter of doing things better on a more frequent basis, and that's the challenge ahead for us."
One positive to the season was the emergence of two quality backs in 2012. Sophomores Damon Bullock and Mark Weisman combined for 1,328 yards with 11 touchdowns. The challenge in 2013 will be getting them healthy and on the field... at the same time.
"I was asked eight or nine weeks ago, would you consider Bullock and Weisman on the field at the same time?" said Ferentz. "Absolutely... we've just never had that opportunity. Any time you have guys that are capable of helping the football team, we've got to find a way to get them on the field.
"The trick is to get them both on the field healthy at the same time. We can never get them dressed in the same week."
With the graduation of James Vandenberg as the starting quarterback, the battle under center turns into a three-horse race between sophomores Jake Rudock and Cody Sokol, and redshirt freshman C.J. Bethard.
"We'll make it a fair competition," said Ferentz. "We'll evaluate them like we would anybody. The good news is we've, for a long time, felt good about all three guys here on campus. We've had a good vibe about all three of them. It's going to be a good, healthy competition, and I am anxious to see those guys compete."
Ferentz says he won't be quick to make a judgment, and recalled the 1987 season when Chuck Hartleib, Dan McGwire and Tom Poholsky were competing for the starting job.
"The only thing I was sure of at the end of spring practice that year was Hartlieb was not our starter," recalled Ferentz. "I was sure it was McGwire or Poholsky.
"We had seen Poholsky as the player of the game in 1986 against Michigan State. McGwire was the top guy out of California, and an eventual first-round draft pick. Lo and behold, Chuck Hartleib, the guy nobody knew or cared about, ended up being our leader of the team and is still in the record books.
"That is the neat thing about all of this stuff. It is pretty interesting to see how it goes."
Without bowl preparation, Ferentz says the coaching staff is focusing on recruiting and developing the current roster. The staff is open to looking anywhere to help the team.
"We're going to try to improve the team -- junior college, high school -- we'll look at anybody, anything right now if we think they can help us," said Ferentz. "We're looking at some defensive needs. We have three senior linebackers, so that is certainly a concern. Then on the offensive side, guys that could score touchdowns would be a good thing. We've got a couple, so if we could get some more, that would be great."