Wednesday, October 5, 2022

KIRK SPEAKS: Illinois – Black Heart Gold Pants

Well folks, last week was not fun! And it’s quite possible that this weekend might not be fun either as the Iowa Hawkeyes travel to Illinois for a matchup against the coach killing Fighting Illini.

But is Kirk Ferentz worried? Let’s see what he had to say in his weekly chat with the media. Check out the full transcript here and my highlights below.

Let’s get into what you really want to hear about:

Q. In relation to Paul Chryst, the success that he’s had, 67-26, even their down period has been 60 percent winning percentage, did that catch you off guard knowing the way Wisconsin usually operates?

KIRK FERENTZ: It’s not surprising but it’s surprising. You think about the success they’ve had, but again, I’m not privy to all the details. I’m not there, so I can’t comment on any one specific.

…But you never know what’s going on behind the scenes, so I don’t want to give commentary on one specific situation.

Broad-based, though, it’s kind of like us picking up two schools from the West Coast into the Big Ten. We’re living in different times now, operating in a different world, and we live in a very reactionary world, too, right now. That’s obvious.

…We basically are in the entertainment industry, and some things come with that, and that’s kind of what we’re seeing. In some ways we’re becoming a little bit more like the NFL. I wish we had the structure of the NFL. That’s one wish I would make, and maybe in the future we will.

Some interesting insights here. “We basically are in the entertainment industry” I’d argue the entire reason that NIL exists is because you’ve been in the entertainment industry your entire coaching career, but I digress. The ‘we live in a reactionary world’ comment also speaks volumes about the long leash that everybody he trusts has in his program, and maybe a little about Chris Doyle, too?

Q. Do you think the television revenue is encouraging schools to act quickly like this, knowing that there’s so much money coming in?

KIRK FERENTZ: I don’t know all those details, but that’s the world we’re living in right now. It’s a results-driven business, and it always has been. That’s not new.

Results driven unless you’re hired by Gary Barta, that is.

Q. Would you ever anticipate changing up your staff in the middle of a season?

KIRK FERENTZ: For what purpose?

Q. Any purpose.

KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, if you thought it was going to serve an end, yeah, absolutely. But I’ve never been in that situation as an assistant or a head coach.

“An end” to Kirk in this scenario is a Doyle situation, nothing else, as you can tell by the lack of any sort of change for the second worst offense in college football after five weeks.

Q. You mentioned [Illinois’] aggressiveness on defense. Wisconsin only got two yards rushing. That catches your eye right away. What do they do defensively against the run that presents such a problem?

KIRK FERENTZ: Well, when you watch them, there’s a lot of guys up there. You’ll see that right off the bat. It just makes it a little tougher to create run lanes. Their linebackers fill pretty well. They know where to get and where to fit, and I think the biggest thing is they’re very well-coached team-wise, and that’s true no matter what your defensive style may be or whatever your scheme may be, but you’re going to see more guys up on the line than you would typically.

…That’s the challenge. You’re just trying to — I only bring them up because of the statistics, where they rank statistically. The challenge is to try to find a way to block them basically is what it gets down to, and that’s easier said than done. Nobody has done it very well.

Well, the good thing here is that in my opinion, the offensive line has looked best in run protection, but still. If this line isn’t gelling like we’ve seen it struggle to all season, this could be a problem. Maybe Kaleb Johnson is explosive enough to make some plays happen, but if this team can’t get the run game going, it will get nothing going on offense.

Q. The offense looked a lot better late in the third quarter that one drive. Looking at the film, can you — is it encouraging to see the improvements even though it happened maybe a little later in the game? Is all improvement created equal?

KIRK FERENTZ: That’s what I was trying to articulate on Saturday. I felt like from the sideline, I felt like we were growing and making progress. That’s a feel thing. That’s not the best seat in the house over there on the sideline. But the film confirmed that …

It’s encouraging. That’s why I referenced those two drives in the first half. Like those are makeable plays, we just didn’t make them, and we need to make those if we’re going to expect to drive the ball, especially against a tough opponent, which we faced last week. We’ve got another one this week.

That’s conference play. You’ve got to make the plays that are out there. You have to make those … It was encouraging to see our guys fight through that and play through that and not give up because it’s third and forever or second and forever. They kept playing, and we’ve just got to play better. We’ve just got to keep — we’ve got to grow faster.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Michigan is an extremely talented team overall and especially on defense. I too saw improvement from the offense. But what irked me the most was that there seemed to be no desire to actually try shit out that ended up being successful until it was too late in the game for it to matter. A bit more urgency in the play calling this week will be badly needed.

Q. How do you get a team to grow faster?

KIRK FERENTZ: I wish I knew. We run that race each and every year.

…Every year is a new year. You’ve got new chemistry, younger players, new younger players playing in the NFL, and that’s always been that way in college football, although I would suggest or argue that in the last couple years we’re kind of leaning even more to younger guys with more — you’ve got more guys coming out early and you’ve got more players coming in early, so everything is kind of moved over a little bit. So I think you see more younger players on the field, and it’s just how well can they utilize the practice snaps they get, how smart and how attentive can they be in meetings because that’s another way to grow and learn. So it’s a race you run every year. It’s not like anybody has got a great head start on it.

So, essentially, the more practice and more meetings, the better the team grows. Make sense I suppose…but then why has there been hardly any actual offensive growth? Sure, the offense might look better to us and to the coaching staff, but the numbers aren’t lying here. It’s not getting better.

Q. Looking at Arland, I’m sure you expected him to have a big role coming into this year, but by way of injury, he’s kind of been thrust into that wide receiver role. How have you seen him handle that in all aspects? And then the second part of the question is as you’re getting more receivers back, how big of a piece is he going to be in the offense to get the team to where they’re wanting to go?

KIRK FERENTZ: …He’s done a really good job this year, and I was worried about him just getting worn out because of our lack of depth and how much work he’s been doing. So I think it is all great.

Now Nico is starting to be more involved. We’ve got Brody out there practicing and playing now.

We’re starting to get a little bit more of a — we can spread the role a little bit, and hopefully he can get caught up here a little bit because I was worried about him just getting worn out and tired. He’s doing good, and he’s done a really nice job as a punt returner, too, and doesn’t take that for granted, but I’m not surprised, if that makes any sense, because he just seems to do whatever he does well.

I’m really enjoying Arland Bruce as a punt returner as well. But I find his lack of targets extremely frustrating and I don’t know if that’s a Brian thing or Petras being in love with Sam LaPorta more than Kirk is in love with Petras. Either way, we need to hear Bruce’s name called way, way more if this offense is actually going to improve.

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