It's a Kirk Ferentz Tuesday, and it could be worse: We could be reading the unhinged ramblings of local madman Pat Fitzgerald.
Here's what we learned from the Ol' Ball Coach (as always, transcript and video at Hawkeye Nation):
Obviously, the big news was the Brandon Smith injury update detailed here yesterday. Smith won't play this week, and may not be back in time for Wisconsin on November 9. Ferentz said they "got a test back" that is going to hold him out, so there's likely something structural at issue.
Ferentz also said that linebacker Kristian Welch isn't currently practicing, and that he's "not overly optimistic" about his return Saturday. Dillon Doyle and Jack Campbell will rotate at middle linebacker.
Kinda hard to know what's going on at cornerback right now. Early in the season, Matt Hankins was the starter. He then was injured, and D.J. Johnson stepped into that spot. Last week, Hankins was back but struggled, and Iowa went to Riley Moss, who had also missed time due to injury earlier.
So is Hankins still the starter?
We’ll let him practice this week, make a decision. We weren’t necessarily planning on putting Riley in the other day. He did a good job. No sense taking him out. Kind of that way with every position.
So what happened to Johnson?
He’s healthy, fine. Nobody is mad at him. He’s doing a great job.
It’s just every game is a little bit different. He’s certainly in the mix. He’s doing really well. No story there as far as I know.
So that means Moss is the starter, then?
Getting him back is certainly a bonus. I think D.J. stepped in and did a good job. So both those guys are better players than they were a year ago. That gives us a little confidence moving forward.
I don't think he knows yet what they're going to do, which is fair. It's only Tuesday, and they suddenly have an abundance of pretty good cornerbacks at their disposal.
Also, Dane Belton isn't going to redshirt:
If a player can help us win, that’s been our attitude for quite a while now. Whether a freshman or a senior. If they can demonstrate they can find a role, help us win football games, we’re certainly going to play them.
I think he made a good showing on Saturday. He’ll be able to help us on special teams, too. As long as he doesn’t hit a wall here, we’ll just keep pushing him forward.
On the offensive line, he's not completely jettisoning Levi Paulsen yet, but it sounds like Levi's days as a starter might be done:
He’s still in the picture. You like to have the tackle situation stable. To have three guys that can play and have game experience, that’s a good thing. He’s still in the equation at right guard, too. We’re getting a little thin inside with Cole being out, Shooter being out.
He’s still in the mix. Every guy right now, I say every guy, probably got about seven guys that might be in the game offensively with the line. They’re working hard. They have to be prepared to get in there. You just never know.
When you're a redshirt senior, and the question on whether you'll play gets the "we like our current tackles and maybe he can play guard you just never know" response, things are not looking up.
This should come as no surprise, but Ferentz really, really, really likes Pat Fitzgerald.
The bigger part really is we have the utmost respect for Northwestern, the program that they have, I think for good reason. Since Pat took over in 2006, he and his staff have really done a great job....
You look since Pat has taken over, they’ve done a really, really nice job. The bottom line is they’ve got an identity. I think that’s a byproduct of their stability in the program, not only as Coach Fitzgerald has been there, but a lot of stability in their staff. They currently know who they are, what they are, what they’re trying to be.
As you look at them over the years, jerseys change, names change, but any time you play them, you’re going to play a tough, well-coached team that’s going to play hard, really sound, really competitive. We certainly have seen that every time we’ve played them.
When asked if Iowa and Northwestern are most similar, Ferentz waxed philosophic:
It’s kind of funny in some ways. At least offensively, we both look different even. If you don’t look at football, it looks different than what the two teams line up typically.
But, yeah, I think there are a lot of parallels. I hope that’s a compliment towards us in that to me I look across, I watch them, they don’t beat themselves. That’s the first thing you have to do in football. They rarely mess it up. They play hard. They show up every week. You have to beat them if you’re going to beat ’em. Nothing easy about it.
This is the least surprising thing in the world. Fitzgerald has turned the old spread-em-out-and-race-to-50 Northwestern into the sort of defense-first coin-flip football that Ferentz loves. They went 8-1 in the Big Ten last year and never won a game by more than ten points. They scored 30 points in regulation in three of nine conference games. They lost to Akron and won the Big Ten West. That's the sort of Kirk Ferentz dream season that he'd be gushing about at a press conference in 2042. Throw in the whole "same offensive and defensive coordinator for twelve years" thing and you've got a late-aughts Iowa right there on the shores of Lake Michigan.
I snorted at this.
Q. You asked your defense for a couple turnovers last week and they came through, how much can you teach the art of the turnover?
KIRK FERENTZ: Should have asked earlier.
Useless Sound Montage
- "Biggest part of it, I think our guys really battled, fought out there and played hard. Both teams did."
- "I think we saw some of our phases grow a little bit."
- "He’s a more mature player than he was."
- "I don’t have a memory like an elephant."
- "You just make adjustments and keep playing. That’s the way it goes."
- "Obviously we’ll juggle a little bit."
- This one isn't Kirk: "Do you look at their game last week versus Ohio State?" (I'm sorry, what?)
- "Happy to get field goals...It’s certainly better if you can get touchdowns."
- "He’s certainly been in the mix, is in the mix."
- "He’s working right now, certainly in the mix for competition this week."
- "He’s still in the mix."
- "He’s certainly in the mix." (A lot of mixing goin' on this week.)
- "As long as he doesn’t hit a wall here, we’ll just keep pushing him forward."
- "Expect them to keep pushing forward."
- "If you have a bad day or a bad series, you push through it, move on to the next one, try to correct things."
- "We’re going to kind of absorb it, keep pushing forward." (He also got into a loop about pushing, for whatever reason.)
- "I look across, I watch them, they don’t beat themselves."