Improvement But Still Inconclusive

April 12, 2005

Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said again on Tuesday that his team is making progress after 12 spring practices, but he’s still happy his players won’t be facing an opponent this Saturday as they finish the spring season.

“We’d be in trouble,” he said at his press conference. “Unless we’re playing ourselves — we might beat ourselves.

“The attitude of our players has been good since we started back in January. I’ve been pleased, for the most part, with the attitude out on the field,” he added. “There are a lot of questions to be answered, and I would anticipate a lot of those would go right through August and possibly into September.

“Bottom line right now is that we have three days left to practice.”

Ferentz said that some of the largest question marks that the team now faces – including the defensive line, running backs, tight ends and backup linebackers – will probably remain unanswered until summer camp.

“The thing that always factors into it is injuries. Because of guys missing practice, we have a lot of questions about guys,” he said.

“(Defensive lineman) Chris Brevi is a good example. We don’t know a lot more about him than we did three months ago, unfortunately. But that’s the good thing about spring ball. I really like to have that window there for guys to get that exposure. And that’s the tough thing about the guys who are unable to practice, or can’t practice; you don’t know how they’ve improved or where they are.”

UI Athletic Department officials expect season tickets for the home games of the 2005 Iowa Hawkeyes will go on sale Friday. Ticket prices are expected to be approved at Thursday’s meeting of the Presidential Committee on Athletics.

A couple of positions, for Ferentz, were “no brainers” though.

Kenny Iwebema and Matt Kroul will be on the defensive line. Mike Jones (RT), Mike Elgin (RG), Brian Ferentz (C), Dave Walker (LG), and Ben Gates (LT) will be the front five on the offensive line.

Ferentz singled out Kroul, a 6-foot-3, 256-pound redshirt freshman, for his performance this spring.

“I’m just really pleased,” the coach said. “I thought he’s had an excellent spring. We’ve had him at that one spot. He’s hardly ready to play right now, but he just improves every day he’s out there and just works extremely hard.”

Kroul, a native of Mt. Vernon, IA, resembles offensive lineman Mike Elgin, according to Ferentz.

“I liked the intangibles and a big part of our philosophy is that if we get enough good players, they’ll find a home eventually,” he said. “His work ethic has been outstanding.

“He plays with good technique. He’s not as big right now as he will be by the time he’s a senior obviously. But he’s grown quite a bit from high school and has worked extremely hard at that. He just has the ability to take what (Assistant Coach) Ron (Aiken) teaches and put it to use out on the field,” Ferentz added.

“I’m just really pleased. I thought he’s had an excellent spring. We’ve had him at that one spot. He’s hardly ready to play right now, but he just improves every day he’s out there and just works extremely hard.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz on defensive lineman Matt Kroul

With players like Brevi being out, Ferentz’s analysis of the defensive line has been “inclusive.”

“You love to have the whole group out there practicing this week and getting a better grasp on things. But we haven’t been able to do that,” the coach said. “It’s been really fragmented, but it’s a group that’s been working hard. It won’t be until the middle of August, or more likely, the end of August before we know how that whole thing is going to shake out.”

On this year’s offense, Ferentz singled out lineman Mike Jones as a player who has made strides during the spring.

“Mike’s played for two years, but he’s really starting to act like an older guy right now,” he said. “He’s been extremely attentive and his concentration has been great. He’s visibly trying to improve. You can tell by the way he’s been practicing.”

After the team’s 15th and final practice on Saturday, Ferentz said the coaches’ plans are simple.

“We’re going to have soap operas and cards next week,” the coach joked. “We typically like to take a week and clean everything up from spring practice. All the coaches will interview their players and talk things out with them and then get organized to hit the road. Since signing day we’ve been recruiting the next year’s class. That’s basically it, and we’ll get hit the road the next few weeks.”

Before Ferentz can take off on the road, however, he’s going to see how many of this past year’s squad will make the NFL draft which takes place April 23-24.

Indeed, the defensive line is a question because of the graduations of Matt Roth, Derreck Robinson, Jonathan Babineaux, and Tyler Luebke, who are all likely to go on to the next level.

Ferentz said he expects eight to 10 players to move up to the NFL, but he doesn’t feel it’s the duty of a college coach to prepare players for the pros.

“I really don’t think that it’s a job of a high school coach to produce college players, and I don’t think that it’s the college coach’s job to produce professional players,” he said. “I think of it as a byproduct rather than an objective of doing things right. That said, we try to be a full-service outfit.”

Ferentz praised strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle for his work with those getting ready for the pros, saying it’s rare for so many players to stay home and prepare for the draft.

“A lot of places you read about guys going to Florida or Arizona to train, but our guys stay here,” Ferentz said. “They believe in Chris for obvious reasons. The NFL people have all been very good. If any of our players ask them what they should be doing, they all say they should stay with Doyle.”

Barry Pump,