COACH FERENTZ: Certainly good to be back. And it’s good for us as coaches to be able to focus on the 2022 team now. So it’s good to be back in the office and into it. As I said when we get together and get started in January it’s a new team, certainly a new season and a new opportunity on top of that. It’s always good.
As you approach spring football there’s always promise and hope with the new season, a lot of excitement about that. I think that’s something that players and coaches both share. So it’s one of the great things about spring ball, I think.
Just touch on a couple things today and talk a little bit about the winter program. Certainly players and staff updates. And then just some initial thoughts as we head into spring practice.
I think the winter program went well. Our calendar is kind of broken up in quarters, if you will. First phase out of the box, eight weeks of the winter program. And it’s really, I think, a really important part of our calendar. Certainly always have believed in that. I think you guys that have been around our program enough understand that we really think there’s value in what those guys do off the field and how that can translate into on the field success. Doesn’t guarantee anything. But it really gives our players a chance to move forward and improve a little bit.
Couldn’t be more pleased with the attitude, the commitment, the effort the guys have shown, displayed out there. And that’s our older guys doing a good job not only with their training but also providing leadership. And then beyond that I think it’s an opportunity for the younger guys to show a lot of significant growth.
If you look at the charts from the testing we do, right before spring break, there’s an awful lot of red ink on there which means PRs, that’s what you’re hoping to see certainly with younger guys. But I think that’s something we did witness and right along with that I think team’s building chemistry all the time, you’re building it or taking away from it. I think we’ve witnessed that as well. So that part’s good.
And I think just to add to that, it is a little bit significant, I think, and interesting if you still look at this thing in a little broader perspective, this is our second year, knock on wood, second year in a row where we’re going in a routine. No disruption, no virus to contend with, all those kinds of things.
Last year we had out of season even though the schedule was a bit different they took spring break out because of the late start. And we still got a good training period last winter, one this winter. That’s two stacked up. And may not influence fourth- or fifth-year guys quite to the extent maybe second- and third-year guys, if you can appreciate that. It’s part of a player’s development. I think that’s worth noting.
And just on the downside, reality of football is injuries. Typically the worst thing you deal with, starting with the individual players, the disappointment, not to mention that injuries tend to be painful and there’s a lot of rehab and time they spend alone. It’s part of the reality in what we do. The game is kind of built that way from an orthopedic standpoint.
And like every year, we came out of the season with guys needing some surgeries to repair things that they experienced during the course of the year. And obviously we’ve had a couple of guys develop some issues over the course of the last eight weeks. And that’s part of what happens when guys train or practice. So that’s the one downside.
But I guess the positive news is there’s nobody really that’s looking at, at least from what I know at this point, will be pretty much ready to go in June when we get to the next phase. Hopefully we stay on course there.
Just a couple of updates. Monday we had 10 of our players from a year ago out there for the NFL day, pro day. And one returning player came back also and got a chance to work out, trying to get a little more exposure. Bottom line, it’s a really good opportunity for our guys to go out there and test in front of the NFL people. All but one team was represented. So there’s always good representation. Our strength and conditioning coaches do a great job. During a player’s career, they really focus on doing the drills that the NFL guys want to see. And that’s part of it.
So they have a good base going into it, certainly. And a chance to perform well. But all in all, it still gets down to what players do. I think the most important thing they do is build a resumé through their game film. That’s still a big deal. The other point of that is testing day is testing day but scouts are through here all season long looking at guys.
Typically they all get through early in the fall, come back once or twice more. And other people from the organization typically come through, too. So guys get plenty of exposure. And it’s part of managing anybody that deserves a chance is going to get a chance.
I told all of our guys really what matters is what they do when they get there. That’s when the real work begins and there’s ton of opportunity for them as well.
A couple of roster updates. We had two players decide they’re not going to finish their careers. Most recently Elijah Yelverton came in before spring break and said he’s going to put football on the shelf, finish out this semester and go back home, finish up his degree down in Texas. And Cody Ince has been through a lot of things medically as has Eli. He’s decided he’s not going to take his next year this year. And so he’ll graduate here in May. I think he’s got about eight, nine hours to go. He’ll get his degree and move on from there.
Whether it’s these two guys or anybody that leaves our program, we certainly wish them the best moving forward. And they’re taking advantage of a new start as well. Wish them the best.
For spring, spring ball, shifting into that. It is the next phase on our calendar. And really gets down to 15 opportunities of work with helmets on. We don’t get many opportunities during the course of the season, or the course of the calendar year. So opportunity to go out there and do that.
And probably the biggest, toughest part about it is being out there, not seeing some similar faces, some of the guys that were working on Monday aren’t out there now. It’s college football, that’s high school football. And it’s part of I think what keeps us interesting, just a chance to see who is going to step up and fill those roles.
Guys up front with leadership role and what have you. And then obviously there’s plenty of opportunity for everybody on the team. Our older guys need to keep improving. They need to be playing their best next year if we’re going to have a decent team. And we have a lot of guys that haven’t played much or at all that have great opportunity in front of them. So this is a real opportunity for those guys to start showcasing what they can do. And as I told them we’re not making any decisions this week, certainly not today or this week.
And really it’s an ongoing process. I told our players it doesn’t really mean anything, doesn’t really mean anything until September. It will be a fluid process. We’ll be interested in seeing who does what and what they do with the opportunities in front of them.
As far as position changes, I think this is already out, but Logan Jones has moved over to the offensive side. Primarily center/guard position. And then Mike Timm is going to move over to the fullback spot.
Logan’s a young guy, had some injuries, redshirted, had some injuries, had a really good winter. And Mike has done a great job on special teams. We’re a little bit deep at the middle linebacker position, and that’s what he plays. So I felt like he might have a better avenue for playing time at the fullback spot. But we count on him to be a real good special teams guy, continue to be a great special teams leader.
Staff-wise, two things to note. Obviously great to get Abdul back in the program. I think most of you know, the guys who have been around here know, just a tremendous player, tremendous person, first-class all the way from start to finish. And has done a great job in his adult life. It’s scary how many years have passed by.
But he is a young adult now. Has done a great job in his personal life and professional life. And really waited until his daughter went off to college, she’s a softball player, wanted to get her established in a college before he ventured into college coaching. Has been up in South Dakota for several years and has done a great job up there. Outstanding to get him back.
He knows the program obviously and nobody knows better than Abdul or appreciates the role a coach has in terms of developing a real meaningful relationship with the players. He had that with the coaches here. And conversely I know he’ll have it with the players that he coaches as well as other players in the program, too. So really great to have him back.
And then Brian’s going to switch over to the quarterback position, Brian Ferentz will. And it just made perfect sense. I thought he was in the best position to handle that role at this point. And I think the bigger hope is that he’ll help us add to our efficiency and proficiency offensively. And that’s the thinking behind that. And he’s embraced that and done a good job as well.
Feel really good about where our staff is at now and eager to get started in the football perspective.
Wrapping it up, it’s a new team. We’re three months into this season basically as far as getting it started. Again, just really happy with what I’ve seen thus far. Feels like we have a little more personality than typically this time of year, which is good. I think that’s a real credit to our older guys. They’ve done a good job of really lending themselves to the younger guys. So appreciate that certainly.
And again just a real opportunity for the guys we don’t know as much about. We got a peek at them in December to see them continue to ascend and build resumés. Excited about that. Bottom line is everybody’s competing right now at every position. And the whole idea is just to improve. That’s incumbent upon everybody on our football team, whether it’s our most experienced guy, whoever that may be, or one of our least experienced guys, but that’s really what it’s about if we’re going to have a good football team in the fall.
It’s another step in the process. We’ve got 15 opportunities. So hopefully we’ll maximize each and every one of them.
Q. When Ken decided to step down, was it the plan to bring Abdul in and move Brian over? Or did you explore any other options for that position?
COACH FERENTZ: Yes and no. Yes to Abdul in that he’s been on my list for a while. He’s a guy obviously I’ve been following and watching. About the same as Derrick Foster, we knew about Derrick before we hired him and liked the position he was in terms of his professional maturity and expertise.
So Abdul’s a guy that’s been on my mind, quite frankly, initially that wasn’t my first thought because he’s been coaching defense and played defense. And maybe the most pleasing thing throughout the process was when I had a conversation with him was just his not only willingness to consider coaching offense, but really his eagerness. And he was excited about it and gave me the right answer. I don’t know if it was an answer just to give but I think he was being genuine. He sees it as a chance to grow and improve his vision of the game, which I think is smart. It’s good to have experience on both sides of the football.
So he couldn’t have written a better answer. In retrospect, why would I be surprised? He typically has the right answers, at least has historically. So that was kind of that.
When Ken made that decision, then my thoughts were to shift Brian over. I think it makes sense. And really all that, outside of 1999 and the last couple of years, that’s been the way we’ve been operated. The guy calling the plays is coaching the quarterback directly. Personally, I think if he can get that situation it’s better. And Brian is more than capable of doing that job. And he knows our offense better than anybody, quite frankly. I think it’s going to be a good, positive move for us, and just really excited to have Abdul join our staff.
Q. How much has Brian benefited from being around Ken for the last five years?
COACH FERENTZ: Immensely. That was a big part of — after the ’16 season I was hoping when Greg (Davis) talked about getting out and retiring, I was hoping Ken would be interested — A, available, and B, interested, because he’s got so much history with the program. And certainly knows our program. Certainly has expertise in that area.
So for a brand new coordinator to have a guy who not only is a coordinator by trade but also a guy who coordinated in this system, I thought that was a real plus, certainly. And I never put numbers on things or targets. But I guess in my mind, I felt like if we could get three good years out of Ken, we’d be doing really well and that would get us up and running. And fortunately we got more than three.
Q. I think it was a podcast he was on, Brian said I don’t really know much about coaching quarterbacks. I need to learn. Learn from other coaches. So given the quarterback struggles you had last year, is that a concern to you in terms of —
COACH FERENTZ: Not really. Not to reference myself, but I will. It’s an easy one. I was 25 when I got hired here. And it defied logic. It defied analytics or whatever. Probably wasn’t a very smart move by Coach Fry, but I think sometimes there’s certain things that get overrated, and I think we as coaches tend to make this game harder than it needs to be.
In this day and age there’s so much information. I was laughing with a couple of the guys from the NFL the other day — I mean, there’s a record number of experts out there right now critiquing what we do. And the game is not that complex. It really isn’t. Fundamentals of throwing a football, a lot of fundamentals carry over. But there are things — I’m not pretending — that there are things that are specific to that position.
But it’s also learnable. I certainly didn’t play the offensive line. I’m not saying I wasn’t a great line coach but I got by for a while. You learn things. You study things. You visit with people who really are experts. And that’s how you learn. That’s how you grow.
And he’ll make mistakes just like I’ll make mistakes every day, he’ll make them, too, but I’m pretty sure he’ll try to fix them, and that’s the biggest thing that we’ll have.
Q. What do you see Abdul adding to the staff?
COACH FERENTZ: It’s everything he had as a player, in my mind. Not that it always transfers over. But that’s kind of — not to minimize Ladell, but it was the same when Ladell walked in. I didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t seen Ladell in 20 years. It was very apparent by 5:00 that afternoon that this is not a hard decision at all because you hope people grow in 20 years time. And he certainly had done that.
Certainly he didn’t have a big family when he left here. So a lot of things change in life. But his approach to the game was always serious and he was always very focused and team oriented. And he has been that way as a staff member too.
Look at Abdul, his career was prolific as a player in terms of production, but the guys that I consider to be really great players, they do more than make plays, they do more than tackle guys or make yards. They just make your team better. And Abdul was always just such a strong, dominant — in a very quiet way — but a very strong, dominant personality, if that makes sense. It’s a contradiction in terms, but there was never any doubt about what he was thinking about out there on the field, his intensity, his focus, his concentration. He just had that when he walked in here. We didn’t give it to him.
And I’ve kind of witnessed that over the years talking to him. And, to me, the ultimate, when he moved his wife — talk about being a recruiter and a salesman, he got his wife to move from Fort Lauderdale to move to South Dakota — with all due respect — or Iowa. He got them and his son A.J. to go up there. It’s a pretty good sale. She’s part of the community. She’s teaching at the college up there. And they jumped in and were part of the community, not just there for a transactional stay. So everything about him just speaks, he’s a solid, standup productive guy. He’s got a great personality.
Q. There’s one number that jumps out about the passing game, you want to be high completion percentage and it has beeb less than 60, now for several years. How do you teach that or make that improve without just the player completing more passes?
COACH FERENTZ: There’s no one answer to that. It’s a real team effort. I always give you the same answer typically. You guys hate it. But it’s execution. It really gets down to execution. We’ve gone through the phase of going back and looking at tape and studying tape. And I swear over 23 years it doesn’t change an awful lot.
The execution, certainly play calling has something to do with it. Certainly how you match a play against not so much the play you run but how you match it against what they do. Somebody’s gotta get open. That’s another factor, et cetera. You’ve got to have a lot of protection. A lot of things go into it. Quarterback has to keep his feet set hopefully, and although some of those plays we saw in the playoffs, just unbelievable. But you’re not going to make a living, at least we’re not going to make a living doing that.
So it gets down to better execution. But to your point, that’s a valid point, to think that we’re going to live in the world of success if we’re completing 52 percent of our pass is probably not realistic. It’s cutting it close. We definitely would like to be up over the 60s.
Q. Can you talk about the center position? Is Myslinski out for the spring? Did he get hurt?
COACH FERENTZ: He got injured, unfortunately, down in Florida. So he was doing really well. Really excited about what we see there. And we were hopeful when we recruited him — you’re always hopeful with every guy you recruit but you don’t know. I think we’ve seen enough of him to know he’s a football player, and a good football player, potentially would be a good one. But he won’t be able to work this spring.
We’ll get him back in June, that’s the good news, and he’s wired in and all that, but it’s not the same as practicing. We’ve got to make sure — and we don’t have five established starters at this point anyway. So it’s a matter of letting everybody compete.
And Tyler did a really good job. We worked him there in the latter part of the year. I think that’s the best he’s looked, quite frankly, since he’s been here and he’s had a great offseason. Logan’s had a good offseason. It helps us, first of all, have enough depth to practice but it also increases the competition. Matt Fagan has done a nice job in there, too. Gives us at least three guys. And J. Britt could jump in there if he had to.
Q. Did you give thought to kicking Colby outside to tackle?
COACH FERENTZ: Yes. And he still could. When I look at film I see things we need to get better but I also I see growth and I think I indicated that last year. I thought the line particularly the last four weeks of the regular season and December took steps. And I think we saw them play at a better — they looked more like a winning Big Ten line to me in the bowl game. Not that we won that game. It’s unfortunate. But we looked like closer than what we had hoped to look like.
I think we’re moving in the right direction. And I’m confident that Connor can jump out there. I’m not so sure that some other guys could move in. That will be spring ball. We’ll fool around and play and whenever we do our public workout who knows who will be playing where at that point. But hopefully they’re all out there and improving.
Q. How much did the depth at the D line influence the decision for Logan to move?
COACH FERENTZ: It’s a big part of it. I hate to even go back to the last trade because throw a tag on a guy. But Logan was doing perfectly fine at that spot. And KB is, I think he’s finally over it, a couple weeks later. But he may still be mad at me. And that’s okay.
It’s about doing what’s best for the team. And part of the reason is that we were afforded that opportunity because we have some guys right now — I think we’ve got eight, nine, 10 guys in the mix for playing on the defensive line. We were really young a year ago. But everybody’s back.
That gave us a little bit of flexibility. KB would not agree, if he was standing here he would not agree and might hit me. But it was just one of those things. And could have been worse I could have picked someone else and he would be really mad.
Q. What do you (indiscernible)?
COACH FERENTZ: Just talking about Abdul, everything he’s done since he’s been high quality. He’s a really focused, mature guy. Had an outstanding out of season. And we only practiced once now. So first time to really see him. But I was impressed this morning with just his ability to make a little correction. Like I saw him, we did something that could be improved a little bit. And coach said something to him. Next play, he understood what the coach had told him.
That’s impressive and that sounds simple but it’s not always what you see in reality. And we have a lot of road ahead of us. It will be interesting to watch him. I know we could always put him on defense and he would be just fine with the amount of practice. That’s what spring is for, trying to get everybody in the right seats a little bit.
Q. When you look at the offensive line, is it kind of this mix of fear and excitement for you? Because it’s still a pretty inexperienced, but yet you have the makings of some really good young talent.
COACH FERENTZ: I’d say more fair a year ago. Again, we felt really good about the guy in the middle. Tyler, one of the best guys we’ve had. And felt pretty good about Cody and — well, Cody and Shooter. Thought we had three solid guys there. So we knew we had some work to do at the tackle spot. That blew up with Shooter and Cody. So that was a tough, challenging year. I was really impressed with the way George handled things.
He didn’t go crazy or anything. He kept coaching. And again, I think I’m excited about the growth we saw, especially the last two months, November, December.
So to me, I’m encouraged. I think the potential is there. The potential is potential. Really doesn’t help you. But I think the guys have worked hard. They’ve got the right attitude. I’m anxious to see everybody this spring. It’s fun to watch guys and see how they practice, how they improve and compete.
And it will be different on Saturday. We’ll put pads on. We’ll be playing real football instead of just shells out there. But at least, I think we’ve got, counting on everybody using the experience they’ve got and improvement, and that’s everybody on the team, their job, including us as coaches.
Q. At the cash position, what was the decision-making process and maybe looking closer at that position? And what do you expect from Jestin in the second year where he has some experience playing?
COACH FERENTZ: He’ll do both. And everybody’s going to be doing both. It’s like the offensive line. Right now we have some moving pieces back there. And so it’s going to be interesting to see how that all shakes out. Looks like Terry is back. Roberts is back practicing. He was able to go today. I don’t know if he’s full speed right now. But he’s pretty close. But we’re going to see what all these guys do. Hopefully the experience will go. But the cash position, going back to that, the original question, I don’t know who is going to end up playing there. We’ll see where it all goes.
Q. Spring ball last year was about how young the defensive line was. Zach VanValkenburg reminds me of Tyler Linderbaum, how much he provides stable leadership. How do you replace a guy on the defensive line? I know you’ve replaced starters over the past few years. I think a lot of guys have a good shot at playing time this year.
COACH FERENTZ: My first answer would be, we have strength in numbers there. But to your point, it’s a really good point, Valk did a great job. He was not only a good player, but he was a tempo-setter. He just goes so hard. And again, good illustration, I’ve said it before, 19, he was okay, he was a guy that gave A.J. rest, getting in there for eight, 10 plays a game and letting him catch his breath. And then he became a guy who we were happy to keep him on the field as much as we could. But you look at John Waggoner, who is now a different player than he was a year ago.
So that’s kind of how it works. That shifts around a little bit. And John and Noah are our two most veteran guys up front. I know they’ll do a good job helping pick things up and setting tempo for the younger guys.
I think our older guys, the guys that have played like guys like Waggoner and Shannon, they’re doing a good job at any position, Kaevon is another guy on the back end, the linebackers. We’ll see how it all goes. Circling back, Jacobs is probably going to mis some time, too. I don’t know how much he’ll be able to go. He’ll be in that equation. And ultimately it will get down to, are we better off with him in there or this guy, or DB. So we’ll see where it all goes.
Q. Sure you’re probably expecting a lot of quarterback questions this spring.
COACH FERENTZ: Don’t have any answers regarding that.
Q. In your vision, in a perfect world, where would you like to see things at the end of April 23rd, with these three guys?
COACH FERENTZ: Obviously two guys have a real distinct advantage knowing what to do. So just getting up to the line and getting the ball snapped and having us in the right place. That’s a heck of a start. And it sounds pretty routine and easy. But for Joe, right now, there’s a process to that.
Usually if a guy redshirts, that’s part of the thing right now, is him processing and reading things and all the ABC stuff. So he’s in a little different category as far as the learning process. It will be really quick or interesting for us to watch how much he can pick up and how fast in 15 days; whereas, both Alex and Spencer have a little bit, obviously an edge there. They’ve played. They’ve been out there when games end.
I think the good news is that we feel they’re both capable of playing really good football for us. And our goal is to try to get them to play a little bit better and everybody around them helping a little bit more. I think really that’s the story of our offense right now. We lost a pretty good running back in Tyler Goodson.
But I think we’ve got two guys capable of playing. They gave us a sneak preview, if you will, in the bowl game. But can you do it over 12 weeks now? And same thing with the line. Can we tighten things up and be not only holding our own, but getting an edge on the opponent. Those types of things, there’s what we’ll have to do if we want a good offensive football team.
Q. Would it be accurate to say it is Spencer’s job to lose?
COACH FERENTZ: Everybody’s competing right now. And on one hand, he’s got an edge or things he does better than Alex. But I can flip it around saying there’s things that Alex can do a bit better too. We’ll ride it out, see where it all goes. But we’ll get it figured out. And the good news is both guys are totally capable.
Q. Looking at past years where maybe you’ve had a couple quarterbacks that would take significant leads where those two or three guys maybe made it, still a tough decision but they’re a lot better than they were a year ago?
COACH FERENTZ: I know it wasn’t Spencer’s second year. This is his third year coming up, but it wasn’t his best year. I think he’s got room. I think he feels that. There’s some things we probably can do from our standpoint as coaches to give him a little — set him up for more success, if you will, play to his strengths when he’s in there, and Alex whatever his strength are, if they differ, left or right, depending on who is in there.
But both guys have an opportunity to be better players this year. And we won with both of them. That’s kind of exciting. But I also know this, we have to help them more.
I’d like to gain an edge up front, not just try to break even, but gain an edge. Obviously we’ll be more veteran at receiver than we were last year unless a typhoon comes through here, we’ll be more veteran there. So I just hope it’s a collective effort.
Q. A lot of schools have the NIL collectives —
COACH FERENTZ: That’s probably the next train coming down the track. And I have actually taken some time. I can’t tell you that I can follow it all or understand. There’s been a lot of morphing in this whole thing. And keeping the next great company and straight with this company and all that, I mean, there’s a lot of names being thrown around and a lot of brands.
But looks like this collective thing is going to gain traction and already has. So it’s interesting. It’s a fluid process. And you don’t know what’s ahead too — one of the scariest things I read, and it’s totally correct, I think — but one of the athletic directors who I have a lot of respect for said we need the federal government’s involvement. It’s a scary thought to think about that, but I think in this case it’s probably true.
But it’s interesting. My fear going back two months ago is just I think we’d all agree, 20 years ago college football was probably better than 20 years before that because there’s a little bit more parity and even field competition.
I could see this potentially just driving things back to the old days. I remember when I was in 11th or 12th grade, Nebraska beat West Point, beat Army like 77-7. First of all, that’s not patriotic; and secondly, nobody benefits from a game like that.
But that was one of my first thoughts was, like you could get back to those days where it’s just teams get stacked up a little bit. And I’m not sure that’s good for the game. We have a lot of things that are going on in our game right now that need to be addressed and I’m not sure who is going to address them or how they’re going to be addressed because there’s a lot of legal stuff involved, too. And that’s way over my level of thinking. But it’s complex and very interesting right now.
Q. Are you worried about the Big Ten going back to what it was before Hayden got here?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, potentially. I’m not saying it’s going to happen. But unofficially, in my mind, maybe I’m underestimating it — but there’s probably 10-12 teams, when you were a kid, that you identify that probably could ante up year, after year, after year and not think twice about it. And so if you wanted to get to that. And I can go back a long time ago where schools would recruit a guy just so your team couldn’t recruit them.
They’d have him on a 15-year place. Those days are gone. I think there’s potential for that. I don’t think it’s healthy for anybody. But other than those 12 teams. We already know they’ve got the biggest war chest. It’s not a big mystery. These are interesting times.
Q. Going back to quarterbacks, it’s unusual here as most of the time the quarterback who starts finishes, maybe Jake was a different animal there. But what did you kind of just come to the decision as far as maybe the bowl prep or post bowl prep, because in today’s world where you have immediate eligibility places, somebody like Alex may decide to shop around. How were you able to convince him? Was it, maybe did you say it’s going to be an open competition?
COACH FERENTZ: I didn’t have a conversation with him on that specific line, but I think most of our guys understand, like, it’s open competition at all positions. Obviously quarterback is the most prominent, visible position. But I think he feels confidence in himself and he wants to compete.
And I think he’s willing to see where it happens. That doesn’t mean that he won’t transfer at some point in his career. I hope he doesn’t. I go back historically, we’ve had a couple of guys leave here that had great success.
If that happens, it happens. I hope it doesn’t because he’s a great guy to have on our football team. I don’t know that he won’t be our starter. We’ll let it all play out and let them compete.
You’d be crazy not to understand that in this day and age anybody could leave your team at any time for any reason. It might be an NIL deal at that point. You might think a guy’s happy then all of a sudden somebody offers him a better deal.
I’m not sure where all that stuff is going. They’re great friends and great teammates with each other.
Q. What have you seen from the freshmen that enrolled at semester?
COACH FERENTZ: So far, so good. They’ve gone through the winter program. They start out in the shallow end of even the kiddie pool. They’re kind of learning the fundamentals. But they don’t seem overwhelmed. Part of that is the academic report, too. I’m always curious about that because all of us went to college. That first semester in college can be tricky and interesting. But they’ve handled it adeptly and seem to be comfortable and seem to be on a good track right now.
It’s one more reason it’s good to get on the field to see how they start to fit in with everything and how they compete. And even Drew Stevens, who is not offense or defense but got an open spot there. He’ll be allowed to compete. We’ll see what he can do as well. But really happy about all those guys.
Q. Looking at Logan and his transition to offensive line, what transitive properties are you looking for from defensive line to interior offensive line? And Linderbaum is maybe a good example. What other defense-to-offense success stories can you think of?
COACH FERENTZ: It’s kind of funny. A picture that comes in my mind when we do our high school camps out there, they have shoulder pads and helmets on. We do a lot of run blocking and pass blocking. Typically the offensive guy has to run block the guy across from him, and the defensive guys always end up run blocking better than the offensive guys. I can’t explain why. But they come flying out of the stances and drill the offensive guy and they run him back usually.
It’s as simple as, you tell a guy, listen, when you’re playing defense you’re a people mover in the run game. If they’re trying to run the ball, you’re trying to be a people mover. You’re trying to engage that offensive guy and knock them back.
It’s the same thing when you’re pass rushing you’re trying to run through a guy and get into his body and go. So you flip it over. In the running game you want to separate on defense and get to the football. That’s what passing is, is separating from the defensive guy, keeping him out. There’s a lot of transferrable skills. It’s like you’re flipping the switch on what to do.
Still gets time to have him leverage and understanding how to body position. And you’ve got to learn the offense too. That’s another separate degree. But look, one practice, I think I saw the ball on the ground once with him, which is, I’m not saying it’s a record, but that’s pretty impressive. Usually it’s going to be on the ground five times, especially when you have a new quarterback, like with him and Joe. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. I didn’t see that today. We’ll probably have 15 of them tomorrow.
I’m talking about when there’s somebody, you have to block snap and then block, it’s a different equation. So that’s a positive start. But I don’t think it’s as big a deal as everybody makes it. Although I’ll say this, there’s some guys that just struggle with it.
If they do, you’re wasting your time. And I’ve witnessed that before. Go right back to defense. Or offensive guys — they don’t go from offense to defense, that just doesn’t happen.
Q. What was the thought process of moving Timm over to fullback?
COACH FERENTZ: It gives him an opportunity to play a little bit more. I think we’re pretty well set with Jack and Jay. Although, they have to play and improve. I’ll go back to the first point.
But you’re stacked up in there a little bit. And Turner had a lot of injury issues last year. Those fullbacks, they get beat up a little bit. So it’s good to roll guys through — he was excited about — Mike’s a high energy guy.
Q. Couple housekeeping items here. Griffin Liddle, offense or defense?
COACH FERENTZ: Offense. Last year’s first-year class, we had a lot of guys come in with medical issues that kept them away. Griffin had a great career in high school. And he’s working back from surgeries he’s had. Trying to encourage him to think big picture now because he won’t get much work this spring.
Q. Is Endres in good standing?
COACH FERENTZ: Yes. I think he’s on the Dean’s List, actually.
Q. The tight end from your old conference, are you allowed to say anything yet?
COACH FERENTZ: We’re excited about the player that’s committed to us. I don’t think he signed anything. We probably can’t say anything. But I think you guys know more than I know. But we think it’s going to be a really good fit.
Q. Do you ever anticipate Iowa having a collective?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, I think it’s realistic, I think there’s people interested in it. I don’t know all the moving parts and mechanics of things. I imagine pretty much everybody will have some form of one at some point. I’m hardly the expert. But I think it’s coming.
Q. Is Cooper an option to get some reps at Cash?
COACH FERENTZ: Yes, I don’t know what he’s going to be doing. We thought he was safety. We had depth problems last year due to injury at corner. And he jumped in there and he’s actually the guy that made the big tackle in the bowl game fourth quarter, across the field.
And I could show you the same thing, Bob Sanders is doing that, chasing them down, Jason Vaughn, Michigan in ’03. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out the same way. We forced the field goal in that game, the biggest play of the game in my opinion. It tell you a little bit about how the kid operates. This guy’s a football player, and I’m not sure where he’ll settle. But he’s competitive. He should be an outstanding special teams guy.
Q. Jaxon Rexroth ends up on the list after an amazing squat. Is he going to be a safety, or are you going to move him inside at some point?
COACH FERENTZ: We’ll see. He’s playing safety right now. And we don’t have a lot of depth back there. He’ll get good work. Pleased with him. He works hard. Great attitude. He could put 10 pounds on in a week if we let him or told him you’re going to move to linebacker.
I think he’s watching his weight pretty carefully to keep in the range he’s keeping. And he’s got good growth potential. We’ll see.
I think Kyle might start on the back end, and he came in as a safety. He’s doing a really good job. We’ll see. I’m not sure where it’s going to go or where he’ll end up, but I think he’s off to a good start in his career here. We certainly know who he is.