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KIRK SPEAKS: just NORTHWESTERN

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Kirk Ferentz back!

NCAA Football: Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

After some face time with the coordinators, the head ball coach returned to meet with the press. With Fran McCaffery yesterday, this felt diving into a cold pool after hanging out in the hot tub. Still - there was some interesting tidbits. Here’s the link. But first, let me take a depth chart:

  • All the depth chart flotsam from last week is accounted for here: Tristan Wirfs as the RT, Michael Ojemudia ahead of Manny Rugamba at corner (he and Boone Myers are “back working” and “making progress), Ryan Gersonde as the punter.
  • Oh, and Amani Hooker took over as the starting strong safety. OR NOT. I’ll be honest, I hate being this person advocating for a college kid to lose their starting job but Miles Taylor has not been good enough this season. He’s a good kid and a renaissance man of sorts but there’s enough evidence, in my opinion, for Iowa not to “play it right through the week...and all season long until [it] settles out.” It seems settled. Or maybe it’s just a motivational thing.

Kirk’s Krushes

It was pretty hilarious to read what Ferentz said about Clayton Thorson and Justin Jackson:

Yeah, it wasn't like we discovered anything there. [Thorson] was a really good football player in high school, and it was very obvious, very apparent. So he really stood out in our minds as a top prospect, tremendous young man, tremendous family. So check all the boxes there, just an outstanding young man, and unfortunately we came up short.

[...]

We're a fan of his other than this Saturday or last year we played them, that kind of thing. We're trying to put him on the ground or block his passes, all that stuff. But he's a tremendous kid. There are a lot of guys like that in the league, just a lot of good people, and the running back, the same thing. He's a really good player, too, and tremendous young man.

[...]

Yeah, we tried [recruiting Justin Jackson]. That's another swing and a miss. That's two strikes right there. We'll leave it right there. He's a tremendous young man. Again, that was no big secret. He was a really good player and just kept on going.

I know I harp on it a lot in these press conferences and maybe it’s just because I read too much into it, but Ferentz bringing Jackson up unprovoked seems like a shot to Akrum Wadley. Maybe if Iowa beats Ohio State or Wisconsin on the back of a big Wadley game, Ferentz will give Akrum a hug again.

Akrum’s Breakout

Two years ago was Wadley’s most prolific day as a Hawkeye as he went for 204 yards and 4 touchdowns against the Wildcats. What did Kirk have to say about that?

Q. Akrum said today he felt like maybe that was his last chance, that if things didn't go well --
KIRK FERENTZ: I mean, that's a pretty extreme -- we weren't going to make him walk home or anything like that, but at some point, it's like everybody, at some point teams have to do this and players have to do this, you have to show that, hey, I'm starting to get this a little bit, and you can count on me, one of those kinds of things. That's part of a player's job, quite frankly, is to show to their teammates and to show the coaching staff that, hey, I can do this, you can count on me, and I'm not talking about getting beat. Guys get beat all the time because we play good players and good teams. But as far as the things like reliability, being on time, all those little things that a lot of people to develop trust, those are the things that players have to do, and they've got to demonstrate that. When they do that, they start becoming a good teammate, everybody feels like, hey, we can count on him to go in. We know he's going to give his best, he's really going to be focused on and give his best, and that's all you can ask.

WE GET IT AKRUM HAS GROWN UP

Improvements

5 yards per carry was a big topic during Brian Ferentz’s time with the press and it was brought up again this week in terms of where Iowa can improve.

Q. You mentioned at the outset that the yards per carry you're giving up is a lot higher than you're used to?
KIRK FERENTZ: It is, and quite frankly right now what we'd like to do is reverse them. Where we're at offensively and where we're at defensively, if we could flip-flop them.* That may be tough to do over the next six weeks, but hopefully for the next six weeks if we look at those numbers just in a six-week basis, maybe we can get to flip those around. Exactly right, the yards per carry part is something that we're very cognizant of.

Iowa’s currently giving up 4.5 yards per carry while producing about 3.7 yards themselves. I went into detail in the comments last week why 5.0 is a fool’s errand, for Iowa, but this number is much more manageable, at least in terms of the remaining games. Ultimately, it’d put Iowa at 4.1 YPC and ahead of the chains with the average run.

Like StoopsMyAss said in the comments, Iowa isn’t running the ball to gash opponents, though it’s nice when those plays happen. They’re running to achieve balance and open up the playbook. In his words, they’re an “entirely new offense.” If Iowa’s able to get the season YPC number above 4.0, against the remaining schedule, it will have been a good second half of the season.

Kirk also harped on turnovers, which have really put the Hawkeyes in the bind, especially since they aren’t converting red zone opportunities at the same clip as last year:

Q. What does the offense need to do to get off to a quicker start?
KIRK FERENTZ: Well, it's funny how some of those things are all related, tied together. You think about two of our turnovers in the red zone, if you want to look at our red zone production, we've had three turnovers, I believe, and two of them came in opening drives. So right there in itself, issues are interconnected sometimes. So not turning the ball over.

Hopefully they’re able to clean those up. It’d be nice to be positive in that metric.

Finally, someone mentioned Northwestern has a grass field and Kirk doesn’t expect anything weird to happen since it’s well-kept and the forecast is clear. Hopefully they pack the correct cleats, anyways.