Expectations? What Expectations?

Aug. 9, 2005

Fall camp could very well be the happiest time of the year for Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. A “hall pass” from his wife and isolation from the pressures and expectations from the outside world for a full two weeks were among the benefits of the preseason Ferentz talked up Monday at his program’s annual media day.

“It’s an important time and a fun time for the coaches, maybe not as fun for the players,” Ferentz said. “It’s a lot of hard work. But it’s really an important time for our football team to get some questions answered, and after 20 or so workouts we’re going to learn a lot about our football team.”

Despite lingering questions over the incoming defensive line, punting, and whether the Hawkeyes can rebuild a running game that ranked among the least productive in Division I last season, Iowa is ranked as high as third in the nation in some preseason polls. And last week, the team was picked to finish third in the Big Ten Conference by the league’s media. But Ferentz said Monday that he’s not concerned about outside expectations.

“We don’t worry about it. We really don’t worry about it,” he said. “It’s based on past performance if you think about it. It’s based on past performance which isn’t going to help us.

“I’m still trying to figure out what the expectations are really,” Ferentz added. “The thing I’ve talked to our guys about is pretty elementary. A couple of years ago we had no expectations from the outside, and it didn’t keep us from having success in 2002. Those things didn’t deter us. We have to point out that there’s a lot more positive talk, and just like that didn’t deter us in 2002, the positive talk isn’t going to help us.

“I know Iowa State, I know OSU and Purdue aren’t really that impressed or could care about what’s been said about the Hawkeyes. So it still gets down to what we’re going to do and how we’re going to perform.”

Much like he did in Chicago last week, though, Ferentz also said he feels his team should be in contention to have back-to-back Big Ten championships.

“You could argue that last year may not have been that realistic, but we found a way to get there,” the coach said. “I’d like to think that it’s been realistic, but that being said, it’s realistic for a lot of teams in our conference and that’s why it’s a good conference.”

Ferentz also said that his coaching philosophy hasn’t changed since he started.

“It’s been pretty simple,” he said. “Our focus from day one as a coaching staff has been on let’s be as good as we can be today, this week, this year. We’re a little more talented and a little more experienced than we were that first year, so it’s realistic now to think that we’ll be standing in November in the thick of the race, and that’s really about as far as we’ll look.

“That’s when it’s really fun to play. If you look much further, then we’ll be in trouble in September. All that being said, we’re back to work and we’re worried about our opener and the entire season overall.”

Behind the modesty and perspective of decades of coaching, Ferentz said the positive energy and high expectations among the media and the fans are better than the alternative.

“It beats the heck out of walking into the barber shop and hearing, `Boy, you guys stink.’ It beats the heck out of that,” Ferentz said. “The other good thing about it is that people are enthused. You know they’re going to show up in Kinnick, and that’s great for us. It’s nice when tickets are a little tougher to get and the crowds are enthused because our players play better when the crowd is in tune. It’s a great home-field advantage.”

“It’s only two weeks out of the season, but basically the only distractions now are PlayStations and things like that. That gives everyone a hall pass. We all have a valid reason for withdrawing from society for two weeks, doing something we like with people we like. It’s a fun time from that standpoint.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz

For the players, too, the camp is enjoyable.

“Everybody’s excited about this time of year,” quarterback Drew Tate said, “and it’s just a time where we start out and from there pretty much.”

And Tate wasn’t being short either. Ferentz said it really is that simple for the players.

“Their time is spent on football, sleeping or eating,” he said. “It’s only two weeks out of the season, but basically the only distractions now are PlayStations and things like that. That gives everyone a hall pass. We all have a valid reason for withdrawing from society for two weeks, doing something we like with people we like. It’s a fun time from that standpoint.”

Going into the season Ferentz says that his feelings more closely resemble those he had prior to the 2002 season in which Iowa played in the Orange Bowl than any initial reactions he’s had in the last two seasons.

“I don’t think we can rank it up there yet. I don’t think we can until the season’s over,” Ferentz said. “But at least our apparent areas of concern and lack of experience aren’t as great as the last two years.

“Right now, we’re all talking and as everybody knows a lot of things can happen, as we saw last year, that can alter the way the season is going to look. That’s why you play the season.”

When the players and coaches emerge from the lock and key of the preseason camp, the team will be that much closer to turning expectations into realizations.

Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com