The Big Ten Conference held its annual media days press conferences with all 12 head football coaches today in Chicago, Illinois.
And Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz did not divulge any new information to the public. Shocker. The veteran Hawkeye head man likes to keep things close to the vest when it comes to the media. But Ferentz is excited for a new season and for the potential of a new rivalry with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who joined the league this past offseason.
“First and foremost, it is a fantastic thing for the conference,” Ferentz said about the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten Conference. “What a great program they have. In our case, we have a border that we share. It is certainly I think something that is going to be something very much of interest to the fans. I think it’s a great thing for people in our state.”
The fans and media should not expect much than that from Ferentz. He won’t give any crazy predictions. He won’t truly say how he feels about his team. But what he will say?
“We are eager to get back on the field with our players and get started with our preparation for the season,” Ferentz said Thursday. “Like most teams, we have some good veteran players back, but also like other teams, we have a lot of young guys that we are eager to see how they come along. I think that is going to be key for this football team, how come along from this point. I think we have an opportunity right now to really grow.”
Ferentz gives you the story without giving you the story essentially. He always has and he always will. That is why it is not a huge deal to rush to the computer to type up the big news from media day. Because often times there just isn’t any news to report.
He did talk about last season and how the overall record came down to the final four minutes of most games.
“Really in a nutshell, last year came down to how we handled close games,” said Ferentz, whose team never lost any game last season by more than seven points.”We dropped three games in November by a total of 10 points. If you look at the year before when we went to the Orange Bowl, we won a lot of close games. The teams that do better in the close games are going to be the ones playing at the end of the year.”
Ferentz even took the question about close games a step further. He said he cannot pinpoint why teams win or lose close games. It could be focus, but it also could be because of what happened or didn’t happen in the first half.
“The easy thing to do is always focus on the last two or four minutes of the game,” Ferentz said. “Sometimes that’s where you need to focus. But I can also think of a lot of examples through the years where really it gets started in the first half. You squander opportunities in the first half that may not be there in the second half. So it really is kind of complicated. A lot of things go into winning and losing.”
Here is a rundown of what else was discussed by Ferentz and what was asked by members of the media in attendance:
— On Marcus Coker bursting onto the scene late last season …
“We just want him to continue to improve like every player on our roster,” Ferentz said. “The one thing that did stand out to me from last year was the fact that he fractured his collarbone in the third or fourth practice. And for a true freshman to miss as miuch time as he missed, and then when he did return in the middle of the season, to be on task mentally, was a good key.”
— On trying to finally breakthrough and beat Ohio State this season …
Well, wait a minute, the Hawks do not play the Buckeyes in the regular season this year, but the question was still asked.
“We’d love to have that opportunity,” Ferentz said. “We would be in the championship game then. They are not on our schedule for the next couple of years. If we had the opportunity to face them again, that would be a very positive development. Hopefully, we’ll do a little bit better next time.”
— On losing three defensive linemen that were drafted into the NFL this past April …
“It is unusual for us, but I expect all three of them to have nice careers in the National Football League,” said Ferentz, who served as an assistant coach for a few years in Cleveland before coming to Iowa. “The good news is we have two players coming back. Mike Daniels and Broderick Binns are both tremendous young guys. The reality is that in two years, we are going to take a pretty big hit at that position.
“Last year, we played four or five guys during the span of a game. This year, it is probably realistic that we play six, seven or maybe even eight guys in a game. It might be a little bit more by committee than it has been in the last two seasons. We’ll find a way. I think the guys have worked hard. We have some guys that are eager to have their opportunity and get out there on the field.”
— On new quarterback James Vandenberg …
“Sometimes good players get stuck behind good players. I think he has grown, and he really took advantage of his opportunities last year. James has had a nice window of opportunity, and he has worked hard to prepare for this moment.”
Other Hawkeye notes
Three former Iowa football players signed contracts in the National Football League recently.
Adrian Clayborn became the first first-round draft pick to sign a contract on Tuesday, agreeing to a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay picked him with the 20th pick in the first round, and Clayborn gets $8.2 million in guaranteed money.
Also signing contracts this week were former offensive linemen Robert Gallery and Julian Vandevelde.
Gallery inked a three-year deal to play for Pete Carroll in Seattle. Gallery is a former No. 2 overall draft pick but got stuck playing in Oakland where he went through several coaching changes, schematic changes and a position change. He has seem to have found a home at left guard though.
Vandevelde was the only senior starter on the offensive line last season for the Hawkeyes, and he was taken in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Eagles. He signed his contract Tuesday.