Ferentz from Chicago Part 1
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Q: There is a new Trophy game, I know you are not a big trophy guy, but you have a third of your games as trophy games now.
Kirk Ferentz: We do have a few of them. I made the comment yesterday a few times that I learned the significance of trophies in October of 1981 when Minnesota reclaimed Floyd, and I have had a new appreciation for them since then. It’s hard of the history of the Big Ten. I think what this one stands for and the thought process behind it is outstanding. I think it’s a win-win situation.
Q: How much play goes into the trophy talk during the week, is it more for fans?
Ferentz: It’s something we cover and talk about. We talk about the story behind them if there is one, but for the most part it’s about possession. That is what players understand. We want to win games and so do the opponents and at the end of the day to have it is the most important thing.
Q: What does James Vandenberg do differently than Ricky Stanzi and what do you think he has learned?
Ferentz: I think he has learned a lot from Ricky. James is a very good learner. The first thing that comes to mind on that front would be Ricky’s dedication and meticulous preparation and work ethic. They are different people yet they are similar in that they both have great leadership skills, they are both mentally tough. They are both highly respected by their teammates. that is a real credit to James because he has not played that many snaps yet. He is highly respected. If you would ask Mike, Tyler or Marvin they would tell you the same thing. When you talk to our players next Friday, they will echo that. We are excited to see him have his opportunity. He is excited and has worked hard to be ready.
Q: What was it like for him to get a taste as starter and then have to sit down last year?
Ferentz: It was an interesting three game scenario. He was not adequately prepared for the Northwestern entrance. It was one of those circumstances where were having a good season and he hadn’t played, and usually your backup would be in there in a good season but we had a lot of close games. That was tough, and then his first game as as a starter was a big game and he gave us every chance to win it. the next week was blitzkrieg, Minnesota threw every blitz in the world at him. It was a good three week education if you will. We have seen him over the past year, he prepares year round and has grown and handled himself well. We felt comfortable last year that if something happened to Ricky, James would have done very well. It’s one of those positions where it’s tough to rotate a guy in. We are excited to see him play and he is excited to get that chance.
Q: With a lot of time to reflect on James Vandenberg’s 2009 Ohio State performance, how surprised were you with the way he competed? He surprised a lot of people.
Ferentz: if you consider a few trips we had had over there…2005 was pretty bad, I don’t know that we had a first down. He came in and played well, as did our entire team. No one on the team went in there worried about Ricky not being there, they had the right attitude. James had the right attitude and he made some impressive throws in that game. Not only the throws, but his demeanor the entire game won everyone over. There is a lot of ball ahead of him, but we are all confident in him.
Q: One of the throws he struggled with that day that most quarterbacks struggle with is over the backers and in front of the safety. How does a quarterback get the chance to get better at that particular throw?
Ferentz: I can think of one throw that day that was intended for Tony and was going to open up..I have used this as a teaching clip. Our protection broke down a half count early, and if we had blocked a little better it would have been a wide open throw to Tony. Because of our protection, the result was a negative play, a turnover. And to me that was more on the front line. When you give up turnovers, a lot goes into it. I don’t think there is a throw he can’t make, but we all need to help him out.
Q: What did you see in James when you recruited him?
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Ferentz: We took our time. We were prudent with it. He had been up on our campus in a 7 on 7 tournament, or some passing deal. It has been a while since we have done one of those. That was our first exposure to him, and then we let the process run its course. As much as anything, what kind of leader he is, how does he lead his team, what kind of success did they have given the circumstances. We watched it closely. If you combine that with the kind of person we thought he was and the things we that we sensed in our visits with him, he sold us. I remember going down there after Thanksgiving and he was practicing basketball in one of those jersey’s and he looked 13 or 14, and I remember Bill Brashier saying that about Mark Stoops on a recruiting visit. My first thought is “Reese, he will get broken in half.” But he is 210 now. He is impressive and comes from an impressive family. He has all of those intangibles you are hoping for.
Q: AJ Derby shows up for the first time on the depth chart, talk about his development over the past year.
Ferentz: He is on the road. The biggest thing is with each phase he has gone through, he has improved. We think he has the potential to be a good quarterback and I know he thinks that. It’s like any other player, he is developing and it’s a hard position to master and learn but he is on the path. You always have areas every camp that you are focused and we feel James is further down the road. But figuring out who the #2 is between he and John is something we have to try to figure out. Someone has to go in the game after James comes out. We have to solve that and AJ is right there.
Q: Is there any special package for him and his skill set?
Ferentz: He and John are very different. Whichever way the road goes, there will be a separate approach for each guy to play to their strengths.
Q: Marcus Coker had a big bowl game and you had lost so many top running backs, is that a credit to RB depth, or the strength of the OL?
Ferentz: We were in a situation where what else were we going to do? The thing that has impressed me the most…well, two things stick out…Number one he finally got his pads down on one 3rd and short in the second half and ran a safety over and picked up another 10 yards. He is a big guy so learning how to run lower, you need to do that in college. If he plays beyond that will be important too. The thing that impressed me more than anything was that he got hurt in camp on the third or fourth day and when he got back on the field mid-season, he was a smarter player than when he got there, so it indicated to me that he paid attention. Bulaga did the same thing his freshman year, missing three or four weeks. When he came back in October, I vividly remember something he did that really impressed me. When a first year player does that it lets you know they are thinking right. you have seen Marcus on the field and he has done good things there, and now it’s about improvement. He seems to be focused on that which is good.
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Q: It seems like there is a gray area at backup there.
Ferentz: A lot. It’s real gray. We know what we have in Jason White. He is kind of the Paki O’Meara of this year’s team. He is a phenomenal guy, an engaging guy. He is going to play a big role for us on special teams and be a good backup. But the big question is what is after that. De’Andre Johnson looked terrible in the fall, but he was coming off an ACL. That is not uncommon. He thought he was rehabbed but he was just 70% last August. When we got into bowl prep you saw improvement and you saw a much better spring, but he has a lot of ground to gain. We are eager to get the freshmen on the field and they will get every opportunity. That is a position, like the perimeter positions, they are first year player friendly as far as having a chance to play. Lester has done a great job getting guys ready. Shonn Greene came out of the furniture store and was ready to go.
Q: Are you guys looking at Bullock as a running back?
Ferentz: yeah. We have three guys that will line up there. McCall, Canzeri and Bullock. They will get reps in August. We have three freshmen tight ends too and we will throw them in there.
Q: Canzeri seems like a different back.
Ferentz: Not to over simplify it. McCall is more like Coker and De’Andre and Canzeri are more alike. It’s good to have some change up guys. Hopefully they will compliment each other.
Q: Canzeri’s film was impressive. He seemed to be overlooked by a lot of people.
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Ferentz: So was Woodhead, and we blew that one.
Q: Does he have to look like superman on tape to get attention? He looked like Superman on tape.
Ferentz: I am not saying it’s a Mike Daniels story, but it’s kind of like that. We got back from the Outback Bowl and that is when I saw Mike’s tape. There was a lull after the year, a dead period. I threw the tape in and my question was ok, what is wrong with this guy? In fact, when I first talked to him he was driving back on a Sunday morning from a visit at Villanova. I asked him if he would be interested in coming out and we went out and met his family and granddad, which is a great story. This was a no brainer. Canzeri happened later in a year. We knew he wasn’t big, but wondered what others were missing? At least in our minds. He is not a 4.3 40 guy. He is small and he is not a burner along those lines, but he looked like a productive guy to me on tape. We try to recruit good football players and he looked like that. Danny Woodhead surfaced last fall in a prominent way. I was watching him on tape a few weeks ago with my son Brian. That guy is fearless. He does everything. I hope it turns out half as well. We had a need at that position. We were looking everywhere and watching that tape, we thought he was a good football player.
Q: Did you give Woodhead a look?
Ferentz: We had his tape. We knew about him.
Q: You can’t get them all…
Ferentz: Like a lot of people, we said no. Probably because he was small, but what a football player. Him and Welker, those are great stories to me. Two guys you would never pick in a pick up game. They are playing on a high level on a good team.
Q: How does that work? You pop the tape in, and do you call other coaches in to see if they see what you see?
Ferentz: Ken O’Keefe and Lester, Eric, we all looked at it. That was it. We all liked him. Then we start talking to the coaches out there and get information. Then the next question would be is he interested. Then it got interesting at the end because others jumped into the game (snort).
Q: Like the bat signal went up?
Ferentz: Yeah. Teams that were a lot closer, and distance is a big obstacle for us.