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Ferentz met with the assembled media in the lead up to Iowa’s conference opener

NCAA Football: North Texas at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Kirk’s weekly gathering with the press was full of effusive praise for Penn State, expectation setting for Iowa fans, and a shot at Akrum Wadley and Bo Bower. Fun times! Here’s the full text.

Depth Chart Updates

The main things here:

  • James Butler out, Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin in. Of note here, Kirk said, “Butler will be out at least through the bye week, so he won't be here with us at least the next couple weeks.” which is a slight amendment from Sunday when he communicated he would be ready after the bye week. Hopefully his rehab progresses well enough so he can contribute sooner than later.
  • Amani Hooker usurped Jake Gervase as starting free safety and we can expect a rotation there: “Yeah, we're open to it. I think ultimately all three guys are going to have to play a lot of football for us, and Geno [Stone] might work his way into the equation at some point, too. I don't see it happening this week, but all three guys have to be ready to go and help us out.”
  • Brady Ross seems to have shed his club hand and is the starting fullback after Drake Kulick started throughout the non-conference slate.

Penn State is “really loaded” and “has good players”

Q. When you look at McSorley, he's kind of like Dan Persa but with a better surrounding cast. What is it about his decision making that's made him take a step forward to be one of the premier quarterbacks in the country?

KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, I don't pretend to be an expert, but it seems like he came out of nowhere last year. I don't know, there wasn't much buzz about him in Chicago as I recall two years ago, but probably should have been. He's probably representative of their football team because as he got better, they got better. It was a little bit of a bumpy road for them early last year, but when they got into October, they started really clicking and never looked back. I mean, they just had a tremendous season.

And I think his development and his growth and comfort out there is a really big part of that.

I wanted to address the question first because it seems very off-base to compare Trace McSorely to former Iowa killer/Harry Potter look-a-like Dan Persa, but I forgot Persa was first team All-Big Ten in 2010 with roughly half the passing TDs of McSorely. Kirk expounded on the need to be smart in the secondary, citing mistakes Brandon Snyder made early last year:

We talked about Brandon a little while ago; I remember him taking the bait a couple times last year early in the season, and those are painful lessons, but sometimes you've got to do it, and that's part of the growth process. ... Hopefully you can avoid too many of those coaching things on Saturday.

He also touched on the overall “straw that stirs the drink” nature of McSorely:

It's going to be critical, but it's harder to do than talk about because they've got a very well-conceived offensive scheme, and again, he's really good at -- he's kind of the guy that makes it all go. He really does a good job with operation. He's patient, all those kinds of things. They just put pressure on you at every position. It makes it really difficult.

Saquon Barkley was also mentioned... a lot.

He's an outstanding runner, strong runner, a very fast runner, powerful. 230 pounds they list him at, and also very dangerous in the passing game. They use him in a multitude of ways. He's very, very tough to contain, run or pass. We're going to have to really work at it, and it's going to take a great team effort to get that done.

And then all that being said, when you play a guy like a guy that's the running back from Penn State, he's going to make some plays on his own because he's not your average back. I mean, he's just a different guy.

So if that happens, it happens. You've got to keep playing, get up and keep playing. But what we can't do is just give him stuff that's uncontested. If we do that, I can already tell you what the result is going to be. It's easy to predict.

[Imitating Barkley] would be a tough one here. That would be like somebody here imitating Lebron, right? If I was Fran, that would be tough.

He also took a not-so-veiled shot at Akrum Wadley! (it’s not really a shot, he was just answering a question)

Q. Barkley on one side and Akrum on the other, in your time here do you remember a match-up like that where two guys so similar, so high profile going head to head?

KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, I mean this with all due respect to Akrum, but we're talking about Barkley being one of the guys that's going to be I would imagine a top-5 pick. I don't know all the seniors in the country, but my guess is he would have been pretty high last year. Akrum is a really good football player, too.

Iowa’s Defensive Scheme

There was a really interesting question which touched on Norm’s playbook and how much of it is still around:

The foundation was set 18 and a half years ago, and that was Norm's deal. You know, the thing about it all, and obviously Phil is in the family tree, Seth is in the family tree, Reese went to the dark side a couple years ago, jumped over on defense. So there's a lot of DNA there through Norm. But football keeps changing, and it all cycles around at some point, but it's funny, the sideline guy last week was a Georgia Tech player, and we were just talking about it, and I remember Norm distinctly holding that folder up from 1974, I forget who they played, he was at Minnesota at the time, I think, and that's when he had his Kodak moment on Georgia Tech with the option.

So this stuff just keeps going around, and the principles there, you're always tweaking it and looking for better ways because offensive coaches have become like defensive coaches. They think of devious things to keep defensive guys up at night. It used to be the other way around. It's kind of a cat-and-mouse thing, so there's always evolution, always growth and tweaking.

You know, if Kirk Ferentz sticks around, he might last long enough for it to cycle back to the ball he loves.

Expectation Setting

Many of these press conferences are really just something Ferentz has to do to cash his checks, but this is one where it didn’t seem like he was mincing many words in terms of what to expect from his team. Now, part of this might be to throw people off the scent but he regularly brought up how good PSU is and how well Iowa would have to play to be in this game:

  • “I know there's been a lot of talk a little bit about avenging last year's game or revenge factors, that type of thing. The reality is we have a lot of players that weren't -- that are playing for us now that weren't on the field. Many of them weren't even on the trip last year. That really is not a topic of conversation. Our focus right now, our motivation is basically to play our best for 60 minutes, and that's what it's going to take to be victorious.”
  • “You're always on edge, period, because basically any one of those guys can make a play that can hurt you, so you just have to be at your absolute best every snap of the ballgame.”
  • “I think anybody that's human, their juices will be going a little bit on Saturday just because of the environment. There seems to be a little bit of extra electricity. Then it's our job to keep generating it.”

Odds and Ends!

Ferentz addressed Wadley’s penalty:

But it is in the rule book that that could be called, so we witnessed that. We all learned a lesson, all of us did, and then I think the other thing I learned is it's probably not going to be enforced real consistently, but why leave the door open for something to be called against you. We all have to be a little bit smarter in that regard.

Cautious Kirk strikes again. Maybe if it were a blocking rule, he’d go after the NCAA instead.

Chad Greenway was named the honorary captain this week (ABOUT TIME IF YOU ASK ME) and the camaraderie between him and Abdul Hodge - who will also be in attendance - was compared to Josey Jewell and Bo Bower. Well, Kirk just couldn’t help himself:

Yeah, Bo looks older than Josey. He looks a little bit older than most of us, actually. I was teasing him about that. I think he might have an illegal road game contract. We're investigating that. Somebody probably will, now that I mentioned it.

“Illegal road game contract?”