July 31, 2007
University of Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz touched on a variety of topics, most concerning the 2007 Hawkeye football season, at the 36th annual Big Ten Conference Football Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon in Chicago.
Ferentz, along with Hawkeyes seniors Bryan Mattison, Mike Klinkenborg and Albert Young, represented the Iowa football program, along with the head coaches and three players from each of the other conference schools.
Players and coaches met with the media throughout the day Tuesday. Another session with the media will be held Wednesday morning before the annual luncheon that will feature a capacity crowd of over 1,700 Big Ten Conference football fans.
As part of the festivities, Michigan was selected as the preseason favorite to claim the 2007 conference title. Wisconsin was chosen second and defending champion Ohio State was third, as only the top three teams in the preseason poll are announced. Michigan running back Mike Hart was selected as the preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis was selected for the preseason honor on defense.
Ferentz covered several topics during Tuesday’s media sessions, including a rule change that has kickoffs taking place from the 30-yardline. “I like it, I think it’s a good change,” said Ferentz. “It certainly will put more emphasis on that area of special teams play. It’s going to be a challenge for us to do a better job executing the return phase. I think we have a lot more candidates this year as far as kickoff and punt returns; I think we have some guys who have potential there. We’ll keep an open mind for young players who can contribute on special teams and kick return ability would be a part of that equation.”
Ferentz said his staff and players will rely on lessons learned a year ago as practice begins August 6. “We need to be a more focused football team and a more focused staff,” said Ferentz, set to begin his ninth season as the UI’s head coach. “Hopefully, we showed signs of that in December. I think this year has gone well thus far, but we’re hardly out of the woods there yet. We need to pay attention to detail and do a good job as we get started in our preparation.”
The Hawkeye head coach said he expects a healthy squad to report when camp begins this coming weekend. “Rob Bruggeman had a significant injury in the spring and I can’t see him being ready at the start,” noted Ferentz. “Having Rob ready by Big Ten play would be optimistic. Jeff Tarpinian had surgery as well. It’s going to be touch-and-go at the start for him. We think maybe he can be fulltime by the middle of September. Other than Rob and Jeff, we just have a few with minor bumps and bruises as we get started.”
While injuries take their toll during the course of most seasons, Ferentz said it can be the non-scholarship athletes who can fill the voids that teams may encounter. “Guys such as Brett Greenwood and Travis Meade can step in,” added Ferentz. “You need to have some of guys step up. In the past we’ve had guys like Sean Considine, Tyler Luebke and Pete McMahon, to name a few, who have joined the program and made a difference. It’s real important that we have some success stories who come in as walk-ons and help the program.”
Iowa opens the 2007 season in Chicago, meeting Northern Illinois in Soldier Field. That game is sold out and will be televised on ESPNU, with a 2:30 p.m. CT start. The Hawkeyes, who play three of their first four games on the road, open the home season September 8 with a 7 p.m. contest against Syracuse as Iowa makes its initial appearance on the Big Ten Network. That home contest is followed by road games at Iowa State and Wisconsin.
“Starting the season on the road is a different kind of test,” said Ferentz, of the early season travels. “You count on the older players to lead the younger guys and help them through it.”
The 112th season of Big Ten football kicks off Saturday, Sept. 1 with all 11 teams in televised action, including six schools making their debut on the Big Ten Network.
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