Iowa football fans everywhere collectively hit their heads against a wall this week when we learned that leading receiver, Matt VandeBerg, suffered a foot injury that will likely keep him out through the end of the year. In a move unprecedented at Black Heart Gold Pants, we managed to get one-on-one access to the head man himself for an in depth interview regarding Iowa’s options for replacing VandeBerg.*
Historically, BHGP has considered itself to be separate from the media and not inclined to go too close to the program. With the change in personnel here, so to has that position. We are now equipped with a press pass** and some inside connections** and look forward to bringing you more in-depth coverage than you may have grown accustomed to.
So, without further adieu, here’s the transcript from our interview with Kirk Ferentz.
The Pants: Mr. Ferentz, we’d like to start by just saying thank you for taking the time. I know in the past we’ve been a bit critical at times, but it truly is an honor to be sitting here with you today.
KF: You bet.
The Pants: So let’s dive right in, shall we? You got some pretty rough news this week in regards to the receiving group. You touched a little on it at the presser, but how are you handling it internally?
KF: You know, it’s unfortunate. Matt’s a tremendous player and an even better person. You just feel bad for him. He’s worked so hard to get to where he is today and it’s just really unfortunate. But you know, that’s football. Sometimes things go against you and someone goes down with an injury. When that happens it’s next man in.
The Pants: You say next man in and I think many Iowa fans have come to know that as a bit of a mantra for Iowa football, have you given any thought to who that next man might be?
KF: You know we haven’t thought about it too much. Obviously we talk about things and what could happen and so we have an idea of who might step up but it’s really going to depend on how this week of preparation goes.
The Pants: Ron Nash was listed behind VandeBerg on the most recent depth chart you released, does he simply slide into the starting role then?
KF: We’ll look into that. We will definitely explore all of our options. Ronald’s a guy that has really worked hard. He’s shown tremendous improvement in his down-field blocking, which is great to see. So he’s definitely someone who could be in the mix.
The Pants: Who else could see time in that spot?
KF: You know we’ll talk about it and see who’s available. I think certainly Jay Scheel is a guy who has shown the ability to step in and make a few plays. He knows a couple different spots out there so he’s somebody that might be able to step in and get some playing time.
The Pants: Is there anyone that might come as a surprise to outsiders who could see time at WR this weekend and going forward?
KF: We will definitely explore all our options. I think right now if you look at what we’ve been seeing in practice, there are a couple of guys who have stood out. Devonte Young is a young guy who has worked really hard and has moved up the depth chart. Adrian Falconer is another guy who has been working hard. It’s tough with a guy like that since his name is Falconer and we are Hawks, but when guys go down with injury, sometimes you have to think outside the box a little bit.
The Pants: Thinking outside the box is something I think most Hawk fans would welcome, could you talk a little more about some thing you might explore that are a little “outside the box?”
KF: Yeah, you know, I don’t think we get enough credit for some of the things we can do from a creative standpoint. With this situation with Matt going down, I think we will probably look at running the ball a little more. You know, we’ve got a great group of fullbacks so this really presents an opportunity to use them a little more both in the run game and in catching passes. We’ve always had solid tight ends and I think I could see us using more 2, 3 even 4 tight end sets.
The Pants: Four tight ends seems like a lot on the field at once?
KF: Like I said, we’re going to have to get creative with it. You know, blocking downfield has always been imperative for our receivers and I think when you lose a guy like Matt, who better to replace that blocking than a tight end? And as far as that goes, we may toy a little with some things. We’ll look at a guy like Steve Ferentz, who hasn’t gotten a lot of attention but certainly has worked hard and is a really solid blocker and that’s a guy I think you could see out there as a receiver providing some nice blocking.
The Pants: Wait, isn’t Steve an offensive lineman?
KF: Yeah, you know he’s a guy at center who has really shown a great ability to block between the tackles. He’s a guy I know pretty well and I think given his size and blocking ability he’s somebody that could be a nice change of pace blocking out wide where Matt really was a tremendous asset.
The Pants: Wow, that’s, uhhhh, that’s a really different idea. Are there any other ideas you might test out?
KF: We’ll be pretty open-minded with things throughout the week. I think we’ll really explore all of our options. As you might recall, we lost some depth earlier this fall with the departure of Emmanuel Ogwo to focus on track. He’s a guy I think that really understands the system and what we’re trying to do. So we’ll probably reach out to him and just gauge his interest in coming back for some time provided he’s shored up a few things from a blocking standpoint. We’ve also got a short list of guys around campus that we think could potentially fill a need. Guys like Ahmad Wagner in the basketball program who played some football in high school and certainly who has the frame we like out of a guy who can block on the edge. We’ll also take a look at a couple things in practice that I think could be pretty interesting.
The Pants: Oh jeez, so you’re talking about even going outside of the current roster to find someone?
KF: Yeah, like I said we want to really explore all our options. Aside from those types of guys, you know, we’ve got guys on the roster like a Jonathan Parker who hasn’t seen the field much but really have a different skill set so we’ll look at maybe putting something in for a guy like that where we can utilize those skills, be that with a hook and ladder type play where he’s not being asked to catch the ball outright or some sort of an option screen where we can use his ability to make a real quality pitch/lateral on the perimeter. We’ve kind of joked about maybe using CJ’s legs a little more with a type of play where maybe he throws one up deep and we try to set up some blocking for him to go down and make the catch as well. And you know as far as guys who have really looked great in practice, we’ve also looked a little at maybe getting a guy like Josey Jewell involved on the offensive side of the ball. He’s looked really great catching balls from the second string QB the last couple of weeks in practice and that could be valuable.
The Pants: I’ll be honest Kirk, I’m almost speechless. I really wasn’t expecting this sort of creativity, but some of these sound really off the wall.
KF: We’re really open-minded with a situation like this. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’re not going to do anything crazy. I mean, I know some people have talked about a guy like Desmond King maybe playing some offense. I think that’s something that’s probably off the table just from a risk standpoint. He’s a guy we really can’t afford to lose. And honestly I think it’s an unnecessary risk when we have so many options. Stuff like maybe some wildcat with Jay Scheel back there, who used to play some quarterback and could certainly throw it to a guy like CJ Beathard split out. I mean, really, we’re going to explore all our options within reason.
The Pants: [Inaudible noises coming from mouth]
KF: You know, I think a lot of people are really worried about the current situation at wide receiver and I think we’ll be OK. There’s always some things we can clean up, that’s just football, but we will be OK. Like I said, we’re exploring all our options and I think there are lots of thing we can do.
The Pants: OK, well thanks Kirk. Appreciate the time. Hey, do you have any bleach?
KF: You’d have to talk to our equipment guys on that. Thanks for the time guys.
So there you have it Hawk fans. Nothing to be worried about this weekend or the rest of the year. Sounds like our WR group is in a great spot.
* Note that this interview likely did not happen in this world, but in a dream world where anything is possible.
** This is completely false.