Folks, I've been reading these Kirk Ferentz press conferences for over a decade, and so I feel like I have enough expertise to say that there is no Kirk Ferentz presser less interesting than the two-game winning streak Kirk Ferentz presser. Things are going well, so the fangs are completely out of the questioners; nobody is looking to write something critical during a winning streak, after all. That generally means even more "Talk about..." and "How did it feel when..." questions than usual.
Kirk opened Tuesday's press conference for Penn State Week sounding like Vintage Tim Brewster: He used the words "good," "great" and "tremendous" ten times in the first minute. TEN TIMES. He should have opened up a deranged Twitter account and said something untoward about Bret Bielema, just to complete the look.
Anyway, here's the takeaway (as always, transcript courtesy of Hawkeye Sports).
- Covid protocols mean that Iowa can have only one player at midfield for the coin flip. Kirk has taken advantage of that situation by slowly adding captains. This week, it's Matt Hankins added to the crew. That makes six captains on the team: Hankins, Chauncey Golston and Nick Niemann for the defense, Mekhi Sargent and Tyler Linderbaum for the offense, and Duncan Go-Nuts for the special teams.
- If there's one thing that's always been true, it's that Kirk loves him a good obscure major. In recognizing Zach (not Kevin) Van Valkenburg as Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, Ferentz couldn't even get through the first sentence without dropping a "Russian studies" in there. God bless this man.
- Same sort of rotation at linebacker this week, it appears: "Jack [Campbell]’s only a week plus into it now so it’s not like his conditioning base is all that good. We would like to have him for the rest of the season so we are going to try to be careful there plus he and Seth [Benson] are playing really well. I would anticipate both them playing."
- John Waggoner is still out this week.
- "Coy [Cronk] did start working yesterday morning. I don’t want to judge him yet. We’ve had two days on the field. Hopefully he’ll be able to help us a little but we’ll see what it looks like tomorrow and see what it looks like on Friday."
- On Jack Helfin's arm injury: "He’s been practicing and he’s fine. I’m smiling here. He’s like a 45-year-old guy. Jack is another guy coming from the outside. He should be in one of those football movies — I’m not very good on movies — he would be a perfect character. He’s like a 45-year-old guy that lives next to you, the kind of neighbor you want to visit with. He’s awesome. He’s brought good life to our team and he’s a pretty tough, hard-minded guy." Pretty sure Kirk thinks Helfin is Wilson from Home Improvement.
MAYBE THE BEST QUESTION EVER ASKED IN ONE OF THESE (AND DEFINITELY THE MOST FERENTZIAN ANSWER)
Just going to leave this one in verbatim:
Q. I was wondering what it takes to be a good center in your program?
That’s a good question. It’s an interesting position, at least the way we do things. We prefer to get a center that can think a little bit, communicate, hopefully has a little bit of leadership qualities, those are good things, certainly, because he is kind of the hub of what goes on up front. He’s got to have a connection with the quarterback and understand his language a little bit and they have got to be thinking the same way. That’s kind of where it all starts.
Those are some tangible and intangible items and then there’s certain blocks the center has, he’s got a tough job because he’s got to get the ball to the quarterback whether it’s under center or snap, shotgun. Then also block. I’ve always thought he had the toughest job out there on the field, and there are certain blocks in our offense that aren’t easy to execute.
So if you get a guy that has got that ability, it’s a really good thing at the end of the day, centers are the MVPs. Quarterbacks think they are big shots, but if they don’t get the ball, they are going nowhere. You can’t play a game without a center, so it’s just a really important position.
That whole "big shot quarterbacks couldn't do anything if the center didn't snap it" thing is *chef's kiss* the very essence of Kirk Ferentz, distilled into one paragraph.
KIRK FERENTZ: SCORNED LOVER
Penn State quarterback Will Levis had been an Iowa target for a while: "We might have been the first Power Five offer that he had, I’m pretty sure I’m correct in saying that. He was interested and enamored until Penn State offered him. That was the end of that relationship."
Kirk said he's a good kid, in the way you do when you've moved on but not really moved on, you know?
- I turned 40 a couple of weeks ago, and found myself celebrating by scrolling through old Facebook posts. Kirk does this every year, too, only instead of his birthday, he does it during Penn State Week: "They have recruited well for 70 years and been coached well, and that’s been the same since I was in high school. They have Lydell Mitchell and Franco Harris in the backfield, two No. 1 picks. Kind of tells you a little bit about how they have been and how they continue to be. They have got a really good program." Lydell Mitchell and Franco Harris were drafted 48 years ago (which is how you can forgive him calling them "No. 1 picks" when Harris went No. 13 and Mitchell in the second round). Next week, Kirk's going to be out here saying Nebraska's a great program because of Johnny Bleeping Rodgers.
- He wasn't done: "I go back to 1980, that was my first trip there as a coach. I was a grad assistant. I can’t remember ever being on the field where their guys don’t look good and play well and play hard and they are good at every position."
- And then this, in response to a question from Doc about sophomore starting quarterbacks (Tate, Stanzi, Rudock and Stanley all played as sophomores): "You think about a guy, Brad Banks, first guy that pops in my mind." Banks wasn't even on the team as a sophomore, so I'm not sure how he's the first guy that pops in your mind, but OK.
And then there was this, from outside the press conference proper:
After more than 30 years of working with Muscatine's TanTara Transportation, Iowa football now will use North Liberty's Heartland Express to haul equipment to its final two road games.— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) November 17, 2020
In response to a follow-up tweet, Doc said there were "philosophical differences" between Iowa and TanTara, which led to this:
Bruh they left the team high and dry midweek because they couldn't stand to see people express themselves by kneeling. Good riddance! https://t.co/orw0f1qkq5— Rafael Eubanks (@thenativeone52) November 17, 2020
If true, that's obviously not good. Social media sleuths pretty quickly turned up some seriously questionable posts from those guys that would...let's just say, not be consistent with approving of players kneeling. Iowa can't really be affiliated with that at a time where it's being sued by a half-dozen Black former players over claims of racial discrimination in the program.
On top of all that, TanTara was doing this as a program booster, rather than as a contractor. Putting one of the program's most important tasks in the hands of volunteers without a formal contract seems like a really bad setup.
Two-game winning streak: Might as well talk about trucks.