Kirk Ferentz Post Spring Practice Transcript

KIRK FERENTZ: First of all, thank you for being here and covering this. A little bit brisk out there today. Kind of ironic that I would classify this as one of our better weather springs. I think we had five straight days we were out. Pretty tolerable, pretty nice. Not today, not so much. Appreciate the fans that came to be out there, too.

I see two of your associates out there right now on the field wearing sport coats. I think they stayed that way the whole practice. They deserve a medal or maybe they need to get their brains checked. (smiling).

Spring football is a really important phase for our team. Everything we do has purpose. Spring football is an important phase, an enjoyable phase from the coaching standpoint to see guys get a little bit of measurement in terms of what kind of improvement they’ve had, what kind of growth they’re showing.

We finished up the season last year, you come back in in January, a big training period. It’s fun to be able to get on the field, see how guys are growing, improving. It’s always kind of fun. It gives us a chance to evaluate not only how their football skills are going, what their attitude is, their work ethic, those type of things, ability to concentrate.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about spring practice is it’s pure football. We’re not game planning, not in a rush to get to Saturday. That part is really nice. It’s really deliberate. You’re teaching football. There’s a lot of good meeting time in between workouts, more so than even August. Probably the purest opportunity to get guys to learn. It’s fun to see how they respond, improve.

We’re hardly a finished product right now, but I believe we have improved. I think the last couple weeks we’re seeing things, sometimes just little things, on film, but things that maybe give you some indication that the players are catching on from something maybe they weren’t doing well two weeks before or even one week before that. Seen plenty of those things.

It’s probably more about the individual growth of a guy, not so much a cohesive thing. You always have a fair amount of guys that are not practicing in the spring because of injuries, surgeries they may have had in January, that type of thing. Seems to be par for the course. You got that going on.

Even the guys that weren’t practicing, there’s still an opportunity to get better and improve. I always go back to the Bryan Bulaga illustration. His first year, we didn’t play him in our first game, in Soldier Field, going to start him the next game. Shoulder injury. Next week, shoulder. Three or four weeks. I remember distinctly he came back on a Tuesday, made a blitz pickup. Impressive for a kid who is a true freshman. Just told me that he’s really paying attention. I always use that illustration to our players: they can be getting better and improve if they are paying attention and taking the coaching that other guys are getting.

Those are the things going on right now. We are a new team, no question about that. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of big leadership void to fill, then obviously we lost some really good players. We’re going to see that coming up with the draft this week. Certainly, we wish all the guys the best. Riley Moss, out there talking to him about it. That’s a reminder of the leadership we graduated, the quality of players we’re graduating. That’s the thing we’re trying to work on right now, just the chemistry.

Spring ball is a big part of that. It’s been fun to watch the newcomers, the 11 guys that joined us, two guys out of high school, then everybody else obviously a little bit older. Interesting to see how they filled in some of the new guys coming up that are going to be filling the voids, see how they progress.

The areas where we were young last year, some of the guys, I think about a guy like Logan Jones, Nick DeJong, they’re relatively young as players, the kind of improvement and confidence they have now compared to a year ago. A lot of moving parts. It’s been good.

One real positive, I thought about this this morning, last year at this time I don’t know if we’ve seen a worse place kicking exhibition over the course of the spring. This spring has been a flip, both those guys have done a great job. Drew played really well for us, Aaron had a good spring, as well. Last year we weren’t sure we had anybody. Now we have two guys performing nicely.

I’ll field questions about the team but briefly, the next two weeks our guys will finish up the class work and finals come after that. A big point of emphasis for us. They’ll be training, but it won’t be real intensive. The big thing we want them to finish up academically. They’ll get a good break and come back in June. We’ll get that next phase started when they get back here early June.

Last couple things just touch on real quickly. Sorry to learn about Don Lund’s passing. Our thoughts to the family, certainly.

Also, I want to recognize Steve. I think you guys are all aware he’s heading down the homestretch. I want to say how appreciative I am, 33 years that he’s been at the university. Done a first-class job. It’s been great to work with him the last 25 years. Wish all the best, Steve, congratulations on it. Always good to get out alive (smiling). Congratulations.

I’ll throw it out for questions.

Q. When you look at the offensive line, how much were you able to work? Was it more individual-based work this spring or do you feel there was a cohesion? Was it as much as you wanted?

KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, it’s probably a mix. You think about a guy like Mason, probably our most experienced guy, being out. Connor was back briefly. Had another mishap. He’ll be back. That’s good news.

Myslinski was out. We had several guys. Daijon Parker, unfortunately, had one practice, then had an injury to deal with. He’ll be back in June, good news there. Kind of a mix of probably four or five guys that would be potentially in the two-deep that weren’t able to work.

But the guys that were out there, I thought, did a good job, I thought they made strides. Probably our biggest concern going into spring ball. I think our first practice we had eight healthy linemen, then seven after day one. We’ve gained some ground coming back. I think we’re seeing good, incremental progress.

Beau Stephens and Gennings Dunker, guys we think are good prospects, but they’ve missed so much time. Fortunately, I think Beau was out there every day. When Gennings got back, he was able to sustain whatever, the last three weeks now. You see the guys growing.

That’s what they need, to be on the field practicing, learning how to play. Nick played a lot last year, but finally he’s getting confidence. I thought he practiced really consistently for 15 days and showed good growth.

We haven’t seen the whole group together yet, but I’m certainly encouraged with what I’ve seen. There’s still potential for a lot of growth up there, too. I think we’re closer to being where we’d like to be. We’re not there yet, but we’re closer.

Q. Seems like despite not doing 11-on-11, Cade is firmly at the top of the quarterback room. Seems to be a presence. How did you evaluate him this spring?

KIRK FERENTZ: I’ll go back to December when the whole thing got started. Quarterback is interesting anyway. We’ve had three guys I can think of real quickly that have left here that were very successful at the schools they went to. There’s only one that gets to play. However it shook out where he was at, he became available.

I think personally we were all excited just ’cause we had firsthand experience playing against him. When you’re on the field with players, it’s kind of like NFL prospects, sometimes you get a really strong feeling about a guy. We had great respect for Cade, the way he played going into the game. We played him in December. Certainly had even more after that.

Now we get to work with him, get him in your building, get to be around him firsthand, on a personal level. To me, he has a lot of the characteristics and qualities you’re looking for in a quarterback. You can see why he was successful where he was before.

The fact that he’s been on the field and done it, doing it… There’s something to be said for doing it. He’s got that on his résumé. So he’s got a confidence that I think is earned. He’s helped bring that to our football team. He has a little edge to him, which is good. Good at every position.

So far so good. He’s been a really great addition to our team. I won’t speak for everybody on our team, but I think they’ve all really embraced him, are really glad he’s here.

He clearly is our starter right now. It is not a debate. Real happy about him being there.

Q. The tight end room, just watching today, you have so much depth at that position.

KIRK FERENTZ: I think we all got to see Luke really start to ascend last year. I’m not saying Sam’s injury had anything to do with that, but sometimes law of compensation, whatever. When Sam came back, we had two really good tight ends. But Luke clearly did that.

We thought when we recruited him, he had a chance to be a really good player. He looked like he was 15 when we recruited him. He looks like he’s at least 18 now. He’s matured physically. I think he’s got a confidence that he didn’t have before. Talking about Nick DeJong the same way. Saw that last year, just finished.

Erick in that room with the two of them, they’ve really hit it off well. Seems like they really get along well together. I’m hopeful. Last year we ended up with two really good tight ends. I think you got a chance now to start a season with two guys like that.

Luke is really just climbing the ladder each and every step. It’s fun to watch him.

Q. On the defensive line, what have you seen from Pittman and Graves?

KIRK FERENTZ: A little bit like last year where the linebackers were. Some guys out with injury. Both Logan (Lee) and Noah (Shannon) coming off surgeries right now. Aaron is a guy who played well last year. Now year two he’s really moving forward. He just goes so hard. It’s unusual for a guy that young to have that kind of tempo. That’s just how he’s wired. It’s every day. Like, he has one speed, which is fun.

Then, yeah, Pitt is one of our more improved guys on our football team right now. Great young guy, all that. He was a ways away a year ago at this time, even the fall. But he’s taken some good steps. We have good confidence in him now. He’s in the mix, so that’s good to see.

Q. How did Hayden Large…

KIRK FERENTZ: That’s a great question. It’s really random. You think about Dordt College. He’s from Grand Rapids. With his name, first question for his dad, Is there some Iowa connection? When I met him, I guess in January. Maybe it was December, I can’t remember. Anyway, none at all. Just kind of random that that’s his name. Usually if a guy is Hayden or Kinnick, there’s got to be some Iowa connection.

We were happy to have him join us. I really wasn’t quite sure where it was going to go. Unfortunately we’ve had one injury this spring that Eli Miller is probably not going to be able to play in the fall, out of surgery. He was really doing well. All of a sudden we’ve got a void there. Hayden was doing okay at tight end. Give that a shot. Seems like he has a feel for it.

Right now I think he can really factor into this whole thing. Funny how you stumble into things sometimes. Great young man. Very enthused about being here. Great attitude. Really glad he’s here. It’s kind of random that it all happened.

Q. When people look at football teams, the quarterback is looked at as the leader. With Cade being here, how have you seen him earn the title without pressuring the issue as a transfer?

KIRK FERENTZ: My only encouragement to him when he got here was just to be himself. In short time it will work itself out.

I think we got really good guys on our team. I think they recognize if you’re good, you don’t have to advertise it typically. Cade has a résumé. He’s an assertive guy just by nature I think. My encouragement was just to be who you are, let the process take over.

He was elected as the captain in the Hawkeye Championship competition. We usually don’t do that until early February, give the guys a chance to be working, be in the building, everybody get a feel for each other. He did that in pretty short time. I think it’s all been pretty organic.

It’s just the way he is. I think the guys all respect him. He’s totally committed. Works really hard. He’s not full speed health-wise, but he’s really made a lot of progress. Again, I think the way he does things, the way he is as a football player, really embraced that.

Q. When you look at the secondary right now, year after year they seem to be able to replace the guys ahead of them, one of the best units in the country. What do you see out of these guys now? Jermari is back. How does he fit in?

KIRK FERENTZ: Start with Jermari. He got back. His biggest challenge early was trying to do too much. He was just trying to do way too much. He missed a lot of time. That’s the thing we had to remind him of. You miss a whole season, that’s a long time no matter who you are. He was away from the game. It almost felt sometimes like he was trying to make a play on every play. Sometimes you just got to play, then plays come to you.

I thought this past week especially he really was kind of looking more like he did when he left, that type of thing. We liked him in recruiting. Took a while to get him to the field. Young guy that was kind of developing. Played well when he was in there. He got better a year ago.

Unfortunately he couldn’t be with us last season due to injury. Comes at a good time getting him back. Riley is not coming back. He’ll be going somewhere next week. That’s good. Now we just got to figure out the depth part of it, kind of like last year.

Q. Hill getting the first snaps, is that indicative he’s at the lead for the No. 2 spot?

KIRK FERENTZ: It’s still wide open. As of today, it would be him. That could go back and forth. It’s like a lot of stuff right now: nobody’s got any jobs locked up right now. Everybody’s going to keep working here, keep competing. We’ll see who improves and what things look like in August.

He’s made a good showing for himself. A big, big part of his struggle, he can throw a ball obviously, but the language, the nomenclature, being able to call plays. At least he was in a system, but he wasn’t really working with the ones or twos. I would say he’s been in a system where you go in the huddle and call plays instead of holding signs up and everything.

As simple as that sounds, it’s different.

Q. A lot of walk-ons in that wide receiver group. Are you comfortable are you with getting them on the field?

KIRK FERENTZ: Seen some improvement. Jack made a good play today. Osgood was out, did some good things. Hopefully we’ll have a good story emerge from that.

I think Nico is out right now with an issue, a sprain. I think that room’s going to be okay. Those guys have worked hard, made strides, improved. Hopefully we’ll keep pushing that forward as we get through August.

Q. Spencer Petras was with offensive line today; he helping those guys this spring?

KIRK FERENTZ: He’s kind of helping everybody. It’s like a whole brave new world for him. He’s been over there watching those guys a little bit. He’s also been helping, just talking about the quarterbacks, getting the nomenclature down, getting the calls in the huddle. He’s been helpful with that, too.

We’ll see where he’s at. He still has a health issue. Good to have him out there, he’s a football guy.

Q. Ever-evolving roster, portal is open. Are you looking to add?

KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, absolutely. We’re always going to be doing that. We’re always going to be looking.

It’s interesting. I had a really interesting conversation with a young guy last night actually. So, yeah, we’re always going to be looking to help our football team. I don’t think we have a lot of areas right now we’re focused on where we would be interested, I’ll put it that way.

The biggest takeaway I’d give you is the world does change. It continues to evolve. We’re definitely more interested now than we would have been, say, a couple years ago, whenever it became the portal. I think there’s some benefit, there’s some opportunity there.

My biggest takeaway still is I think what you really have to do is try to be cautious about the players that you do bring. If you can get guys to help you, I think a lot of guys that have entered our room, our team, are going to help us. Eager to see Seth Anderson practice. Eager to see Daijon. Only got one day in.

The thing I can say about both those guys already is they’ve been really good additions to our team, just the kind of people they are, the way they go about their business.

We’re going to keep looking, but we’ll be protective of making sure we bring guys that aren’t going to set us back, just take away from the group, that type of thing. You want to get a good player, but you want to get somebody that is going to add to your team.

The 11 guys that joined us, one thing I can say about all 11, two high school guys, everybody in between, they’ve been good additions to our team. Just good guys that are going to add to it.

Q. (Question regarding the portal becoming too much pay-for-play.)

KIRK FERENTZ: Oh, yeah. It’s a mess. The NIL, it’s a mess. It’s great in concept. When you think about someone like Caitlin Clark, that’s the original intent in this whole thing. There’s some good things about it.

But my biggest fear on this, there’s no structure at all that I’m aware of at least. Maybe you guys know more than I do. There’s no structure, there’s no cap on how much money can be spent, things like that.

Again, you just equate it to the NFL world where there’s a salary cap, clear rules of demarcation when a player can go into a portal or free agency. All those things are spelled out. All 32 teams operate by the same rules. There’s enforcement that’s consistent. That’s what you would call like a normal world to operate in.

If you do a good job, you have a chance to benefit from it. If you don’t, there’s just no… The fact we don’t have any structure, good luck making that make sense. That’s the world we’re living in right now. We’re going to do the best to operate in the world that fits with what we think is best for our program. So far so good.

There’s a lot of guys that have joined the team that don’t have any NIL tags with it. They’re coming for opportunity. That’s okay, too.

Q. What was the thought process of the position move for Kyson?

KIRK FERENTZ: He’s a prospect. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense. He’s really young, kind of a young football player, too. If you met him, you might want to check to see if he has a driver’s license. Look at his size. That’s probably going to be his best long-term. The other fact is we had eight or seven linemen at one point. That helped out, too.

Long-term if he’s going to play, that’s his best shot.

Q. Justice Sullivan out there, COVID issues, is he still on the team, medical now?

KIRK FERENTZ: They just approved his medical. He has long COVID. As I understand, a couple athletes have had that on our campus. One of those rare things.

Great young guy, just unfortunate. Great story. Very young guy.

Q. Are there any other medicals?

KIRK FERENTZ: Not that jumps out at me right now. I mentioned Eli. Eli is probably not going to be here in the fall. He’ll be with us, but not able to play.

Q. Is it safe to say receiver is a target area in the portal? Brody Brecht, how did that come about? I assume you’re supportive.

KIRK FERENTZ: What he was trying to do, I’m sure we’ve had other athletes, like Danan (Hughes), who has mastered both of them obviously. I coincidentally saw him in the regionals up in Connecticut. I know Georgia was in that regional. I was at Maine. It was Georgia, Maine, Iowa. Danan was playing. Maybe pitchers it’s a tougher thing. It’s tough to do two sports in college. Track might work with football.

Anyway, he’s doing really well. I think it was getting to be too much to balance. Personally unhappy for him because he’s trying to please everybody, and that’s a lot to do. Really good football prospect, a really good baseball prospect. I think it’s better for him to have clarity so he can go full speed.

It gives us clarity, too. Last year really until we started the season, he wasn’t healthy. I think it was a by-product of trying to do too much. We wish him the best. Definitely an area that we’ll look at if we can help ourselves on the perimeter. We’re not deep at corner, either. Probably the two areas we’re kind of looking at.

Q. Going into the spring, if anything, there seems to be a big leadership void because of your exits. Has that gap closed this spring?

KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, I think so. I mentioned a year ago, typically at this time of year you don’t have a lot of personality on the team. Last year we had a bunch of guys. Those are the guys that are going to be getting called off Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Really good group that way.

These guys have been really aggressive. This team has been really aggressive off the field with their ownership, I think. Cade is part of that. Talking about guys like Jay Higgins, a bunch of guys. I could name all of ’em.

We’re not there by any stretch. It’s a big challenge to try to be where last year’s was. That’s how you dig out of it, three and four situation. It was an ugly three and four at that point. That’s player driven. We had the right guys.

I think these guys are emulating, trying to emulate, what we had last year. We’re not there yet. But, yeah, they’re working at it. I feel good about that.

Q. How would you size up your running back room?

KIRK FERENTZ: We’re never out of the woods, but I feel good about it. You like to think Kaleb is going to be a better runner this year. He did a nice job last year. He did it kind of by plan. He didn’t understand what he was doing half the time. He’s got a lot more to really benefit from. A good skill set, learn how to use that, block a little bit better.

Leshon was a good player a year ago. I think with each step he just keeps getting better. Thought he had a really good spring.

Jaz has really done a nice job, too. He impressed us last year. That run he made in the bowl game I thought was really good. We’re seeing more of that, too.

Then Terrell has been a good addition, too. It’s been good to watch him work out there.

I think it’s a healthy room right now. Hopefully there’s room to keep getting better. I think they’re all pretty young players. It’s exciting actually.

Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Q. How would you describe Jack Campbell’s importance over the last few years to this defense?

KIRK FERENTZ: An exceptional player, exceptional team member on top of it. To me that’s where the double value is. That’s what good players do. Like, they not only play well, but they also make the guys around them play better. He’s definitely done that.

Whether it’s on the field, off the field, away from the building, it’s not hard to like everything he does. A top-notch guy. Great to see him. He’s a finalist in the Butkus Award. That’s really neat and great. I’m sure the other four guys are outstanding, too.

He’s a special player. He just kept getting better. Like his high school basketball career, I always joke about that, where it took him four minutes to get five fouls as a sophomore. Then he became a pretty good high school basketball player on a really good team.

He’s done the same thing in football. He’s just improves with every opportunity. He’s just a leader because of who he is. I think everybody just respects so much who he is and how he does things.

Q. You’ve sent several linebackers to the NFL. How does Jack compare to guys on that board?

KIRK FERENTZ: Without knowing every guy up on that board, Tippett was a rare NFL Hall of Fame player, and he was a rare guy back in 1981. But outside of that, Chad Greenway was a pretty good player, Josey. Had a lot of good guys. Jack fits in with pretty much any group you can find.

The difference, Andre Tippett weighed about 260. Really good player, but a huge man, too, though. Different class. Different era.

Anybody up there is pretty good. Jack is not up there yet, right? I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s got a chance.

Q. Any favorite moments or memories of Jack?

KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, this is going to strike you odd, but the first thing I think about is going to watch him practice basketball his senior year. One of the best practices I’ve ever attended in any sport. It was impressive. The whole group was just wired in. Greenway is the same thing, ironically. That included eighth graders. Just the team chemistry, the way they operated efficiently. It was just a impressive practice. Not that I know anything about basketball.

Again, you could see the same dynamic with him, younger players, there’s so much to the way he operates. He’s had a lot of good ones here.

I don’t know about a favorite one. That pick the other day might be right at the top of the list. He kind of got, I don’t want to say cheated, but he had an opportunity for a touchdown that didn’t materialize. That’s too bad.

Q. There weren’t any penalties called. Going back over the tape I am sure you saw a few that should have been called.

KIRK FERENTZ: Boy, my wife reminded me when I got home, as late as it was. She was a little bit amazed by the lack of holding calls. I don’t want go there. That was her saying it, not me (laughter).

Q. In a bad weather game, do officials ever kind of come to you and say, We’re not going to…

KIRK FERENTZ: No. I was not aware of that statistic. I knew there wasn’t much going on, but no penalties. You guys told me it was ’86 when the last time that happened. So it’s rare.

The game was going pretty well from my vantage point outside of a couple things. There’s always a couple things. I thought the crew did a good job. I don’t know if the weather factored in there or not.

Q. With the amount of replays, do you think there needs to be an emphasis on don’t blow the whistle?

KIRK FERENTZ: Yes (smiling).

They pretty much do that on ball carriers typically to make sure. So, yeah. I’ve changed my opinions on replays. I was in favor of them at one point. Now I think they’re hurting our game almost in some ways.

I don’t know. It’s a whole different deal.

Q. How would you evaluate offensive coordinator the last four weeks? Seems like there’s a lot less complaining out there. Making the most of what you’ve got. What positive are you taking?

KIRK FERENTZ: With all that stuff, maybe when the season is over…

I think the big thing is we’ve gotten better as a team each week. We’ve talked a lot about the line. The line had a setback two weeks ago, but they bounced back and competed hard and pretty well.

I kind of look at the whole picture. Coordinators are important on minimizing them in any of the three phases. Still gets down to players doing things they’re able to do. You have to be realistic about who you have, what their experience levels are, things like that. Those are things I’m always thinking about before I formulate an opinion about something.

Ultimately it’s about finding a way to win. We’ve been able to do that the last four weeks. Hopefully we can do it for five.

Q. On the O-line, do you expect the same five starters even because of Beau Stephens?

KIRK FERENTZ: I think it will be the same. It will be good to get him back for depth purposes. If he was a fifth-year guy, maybe he’d be right back in there. He’s so young, still learning so much on the job.

The good news is we were really thin last Saturday. At least we get somebody back who we can put in the game. Keep pushing forward. Hopefully we keep getting better.

Q. What have been your impressions of Ostrenga and his development since he got here?

KIRK FERENTZ: He’s one of those guys, you’re never quite sure what’s in the box when you open it up.

Everything about him has been very impressive. I mean, everything. What he does on the field is one thing, but how they handle the training, how they handle their academics, feedback you get from academic folks, anybody with the players is important to us. Everything is just so positive.

Maybe most impressive, this is really true for younger guys, some guys don’t seem to be overwhelmed. Maybe they should be, but they don’t act that way. He’s kind of done that in practice. He’s taken shots from guys like Campbell and some of those other guys. He just gets up and keeps going. That’s an impressive thing.

He’s kind of handled everything the more you play him, the more things are apt to pop up, whatever. He seems to have the mental toughness where he can handle some disappointment, come back and go back to work.

Q. Seems like Brody is kind of stepping into his own. What have you seen, what has impressed you?

KIRK FERENTZ: It’s amazing when you practice, like actually practice, do it on a routine bases, like improvement follows it. That was part of our challenge. We never got to see him up until September of this year. I have to go back and count how many practices it would have been, bowl preparation. That’s basically been our window because he had the hand injury a year ago. We didn’t have him at all in the spring. He didn’t train, didn’t do anything June, July, August with us due to injury.

I think it was our first game week was his first week on the field. To think you’re going to play major college football at a real high level just walking n it doesn’t work that way.

I agree wholeheartedly each week he looks more comfortable. He made a really tough catch the other night, which was a really big play. Big 20-yard gain or something like that, but it was a huge play a conversion. It took real focus and concentration. He beat his guy on a tough, tight play. 10 weeks ago he couldn’t have done that in my mind. Now he’s getting it going.

We’ve always been high about him. Great young guy with an awesome attitude. If you’re injured, you can’t do anything. It’s just hard to get better if you’re not working.

It’s rare a guy can just walk in and be a really good player. It just doesn’t work that way. Kaleb has been the same thing. He is a freshman, but with each week we see him getting better.

Q. How would you assess Sebastian Castro?

KIRK FERENTZ: Different story because it has been a couple years in the making. Tough, competitive guy. We thought he had a chance to be a good defensive back. This wasn’t actually planned, his immersion into the lineup. With our depth situation, he was next guy up.

He has embraced it and done a nice job. I am happy for him. That’s what the whole thing is about, keep working, when your called upon, like Jermari Harris a year ago, jump in and do something. Two guys from the South Chicago area that have done a good job. They’re both good guys. That’s really helpful.

Q. Merriwether, basically being one of the biggest vocal leaders on the team in 2020, from your point of view how valuable is his leadership over the past three seasons? How would you describe what he means in the locker room but also the community?

KIRK FERENTZ: Absolutely. Outside of Brody, the guys we’re talking about weren’t recruited heavily enough. Kaevon fits that bill, too.

To your last point, I would circle back. That’s one of the things that attracted us to him. Good basketball player, good athlete. I really think a lot of things are transferrable if a guy has the toughness, mental toughness, doesn’t mind getting smacked around, trying to smack other guys. It’s a little different than basketball that way.

His personality… His mom, they’re great folks. That jumped out at us immediately. Recruiting people, not just players or positions typically. I don’t think it’s a huge surprise, but the credit goes to him, just like all the other guys we’re talking about. It goes back to doing that work. He has done that. He has also embraced being a leader. I always appreciate that.

You talk about Jack Campbell, Kaevon, I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve been good at defense. We have guys at every position, not that they’re all the same, Kaevon is definitely a veteran, him and Riley are the two veterans in that group. Up front you have Noah, John Waggoner, Joe Evans, and linebackers we have a couple guys. They’ll be talking on Saturday.

You have that type of leadership in every group, they impact that room individually, but they impact that room when they’re all together, the whole team. That’s how you build a winning team. You have to have the right guys, though. We really appreciate that.

Q. Among your seniors, I’m sure you have some you are contemplating bringing them back, they’re contemplating coming back. Do you encourage everybody to walk, then worry about it?

KIRK FERENTZ: We haven’t had those conversations yet. As far as I know, there’s no NCAA rule yet about if you walk, you’re ineligible from there on. As long as we don’t give them a thousand bucks on the way out…

Yeah, we encourage them to do that. They can always change their mind. If they have second thoughts, it would definitely be worth a consideration.

We’ll have a couple of those down the road, but right now go and be honored. Who knows, next year we might have a pandemic again. I shouldn’t joke about that at all, it’s not funny.

Q. Big Ten media days, the videos all the coaches do, you mentioned offensive yardage being the most overrated statistic. Now you won back-to-back games not having the advantage in that stat. What is your rationale for why that is overrated?

KIRK FERENTZ: I’m not against it, first of all, just for the record (smiling).

Bill Russell said the most important stat is winning and losing. That’s the most important one. The next most important one in my opinion is turnovers and takeaways, if you’re looking over the long haul. That’s where it all starts.

Then probably somewhere, it’s scored points against, which ties into the goal number one or most important stat. You try to navigate the terrain based on where you’re at, where your team is at, all that kind of stuff. Not against getting yards, certainly not against getting points.

Sometimes there’s things that come with that. Everybody lives in a different world. I’d even venture this, when you get to January, whatever it is this year, when the last two teams are playing, that turnover takeaway is probably going to be more important than the yardage thing unless you can out-distance your opponent by a couple hundred yards on the board, you got a good chance to win.

At the end of the day it’s about figuring out a way to win the game. I think we showed up the other night somehow, some way, forced a couple turnovers. That was the difference in the game really. We did a good job of protecting the ball, being smart when we had to be, coming up with what we had to come up with.

My thoughts haven’t changed a lot in 23 years. It started well before that. You’re thinking about what is it that’s important. We’re all shaped by something, right? We’re all shaped by our past, the people I’ve been around, have had the good fortune to work with have impacted me a lot in terms of the way I look at the game.

Q. (Question about celebrating Thanksgiving.)

KIRK FERENTZ: Tomorrow night we will do a really nice dinner right here. Players’ families won’t be here, but our families are going to be here. It’s a real nice opportunity to have fellowship with each other.

I will highlight tomorrow’s meeting, just some quotes kind of ring true about what the holiday is all about, giving thanks for everything, being grateful for the things we have.

Worst-case scenario, we all have a pretty good deal going compared to a lot of other folks. Just echo that a little bit.

Thursday well, it will be like just a Friday for us. Friday will be a Saturday. One nice thing about playing on Friday, it gives us Saturday off to be with our families. Our players might have that same opportunity. It’s a great deal. Best holiday going. You eat good food and have to bring guests.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
127400-2-1077 2022-11-22 21:59:00 GMT

ASAP sports