Another week, another trip to the podium for Kirk Ferentz and the assembled press. It's a short week, so let's not waste too much time.
As always, transcript courtesy of Hawkeye Sports.
Austin Schulte (DL) and Jack Campbell (MLB) are back, at least in theory. Kirk put caveats on availability -- doesn't sound like either will start -- but they'll both be on the sideline. "Jack Campbell just got cleared Sunday, so he’s hardly in condition to go out and play 60 snaps, 70 snaps. He might be able to do it Friday and then we may lose him for the rest of the year, so it doesn’t make sense."
Here's a weird one: Kirk decided to go to Australia for a punter because of a bowl broadcast:
[W]e played on the 27th last year so we got to watch a lot of bowl games. I’m pretty sure it was Dusty Dvoracek was doing the call at the Outback Bowl, don’t quote me, but I remember him throwing out a stat that, like, I thought 40-plus percent of the punters in Division I football are from Australia. So that really impacted me, like, just where this was all going...
So we started getting involved with the pipelines over there a little bit and it’s very well organized. LeVar’s kind of jumped into it and started doing the recruiting. And for me, the party was pretty much over by the time LeVar went over. It was more to just consummate the marriage. But Tory had decided he was going to come here and was excited about that opportunity. And then LeVar just kind of went over and met his family, that type of deal. But that was a journey.
I'm going to set aside the fact that Aussie punters have been blowing up college football since Brad Wing surfaced at LSU a decade ago, and just be happy that Kirk got there eventually. Better late than never.
Seems that the transfer of Daraun McKinney is mostly a depth chart issue:
I think Daraun was hoping to get more playing time and he feels like he’s a really good returner and he’s got the potential to be one. We’re just a little bit full right now with Smith-Marsette and Charlie back there. I think that we just felt like those are our two best guys. And Daraun’s a good defensive back too. He had a good future there, but we have a few other guys that are ahead of him right now.
Of course, there's the 500-pound gorilla in the corner of the room: Iowa announced 30 new positive Covid tests athletics-wide earlier this week, though apparently only one was from football:
I think a big part of it, especially for college students, is they really have to kind of live like hermits, they’re on line with their classes. And I don’t know how they feel, but I know how I feel, the safest part of my day is being in this building because we’re testing daily, so at least, if something is an issue, then we get it detected and at least you feel like you’re in a place where it’s pretty safe. So I guess they’re probably living like a lot of us. We come from home to here and then go home. And that’s kind of what we do. And I think that’s my sense of our players right now too.
I will share this with you, when the season got dropped on August 11, our guard was dropped, I can tell you that, and our numbers did go up. We added to the statistics. So there’s a direct correlation, in my opinion, I’m not a scientist, but there’s a direct correlation to just how careful you are and just how mindful you are.
And basically for our guys my message is, we all said we wanted to play and we do want to play, so what are we doing to help it? And let’s understand there’s nothing guaranteed, but at least let’s try to do our part so we can all continue forward together as a team.
"Floyd was in the weight room so I think that was a good reminder just that this is a rivalry game." It's worth reminding everyone here that Kirk is a perfect 15-0 against Minnesota, Iowa State and Nebraska since the "rededication" speech at the end of the 2014 season, and I don't think he's eager to end that record.
Kirk heaped praise on Minnesota's offense in his opening statement, which isn't necessarily unusual. But then, when asked about the Gophers' underachievement early this season, he shot it down pretty quick: "Those would be somebody else’s words, not mine. I don’t know what my expectations were for Minnesota, other than seeing a tough competitive football team, and that’s what we see on film."
It's been a longstanding belief from this humble voice that P.J. Fleck is, in many ways, an evolutionary Kirk. He's certainly over-the-top with the positivity and messaging (though Row The Boat has certain echoes of Break The Rock), but the schemes are meat-and-potatoes football, built on fundamentals more than flash. They run the ball. They hit like trucks in the secondary. There was always a rumor that Fleck was holding out for the Iowa job when he was at Western Michigan, and it makes sense when you watch them divorced of Fleck's millennial silliness.
Looks like Kirk sees it, too: "And then secondly, they know who they are. They have got an identity in all three phases; a very clear identity, in my opinion, and I really respect that. And then most importantly their players buy into that identity and they play hard and they play hard within the system. So they’re sure a lot like us." I've read a lot of these over the last decade. You don't see "they're sure a lot like us" too often from Ferentz. High praise, indeed.
Scott Dochterman at The Athletic posted an excellent breakdown of Iowa's revamped and rejuvenated running game on Wednesday morning, so I'm going to assume he's the one asking the scheme questions, but FINALLY KIRK YES THANK YOU FOR READING THIS COLUMN: "I think over the years we have probably thrown more from the shotgun, so you want to try to keep balance as much as possible, not only run/pass but run pass out of formations or out of alignments and, because defensive people, at least typically, they’re chartaholics. They chart everything. So it just kind of makes sense." And, with that, Kirk Ferentz has finally figured out what was wrong with the Greg Davis Offense.
And then, of course, the story of last week: Special teams. Iowa made LeVar Woods a full-time special teams coordinator when staffs expanded in 2018, and it's paid immediate dividends. "[T]here’s probably a reason in pro football why they do it the way they do it, and that’s what it seemed like to me. So with the expansion of the staff that, first of all, seemed like a good fit." There's no doubt LeVar has been excellent in that role, but don't discount the addition of Kevin Spencer, who came to Iowa in 2017 for a brief stint as a "consultant" and get LeVar up and running:
LeVar was excited about it when he started and he’s done a wonderful job and we were really lucky to have Kevin Spencer join us as a consultant. Kevin was a guy I worked with a hundred years ago and, I don’t know how old Kevin is, early 60’s, but anyway he’s the youngest 62 year-old-guy I’ve ever been around. He was a great mentor to LeVar; was able to help him with organizational things. Here’s what you need to be doing, and then was a great resource for him and continues to be, more by phone now obviously. Kevin’s out in San Diego. But to have those kind of resources, somebody to give you a little bit of guidance and, Hey, have you ever thought about this, thought about that? So just it fell into place for us, and three games into it, at least, it’s paying off for us.
SOMETHING TO MAKE ME SMILE
Kirk's response, to this question on how the staff handles Friday night games and monitoring high school recruits during a hectic season: "I do remember seeing Pat Angerer, like the last 10 minutes of his championship game, from the hotel. It was on TV. I remember watching him make every tackle, it seemed like. And I felt like this guy might be a good player."