If you’ve been following along with me writing this weekly recap for the last few years (and obviously you have been, because, duh), you know that during a normal season, Kirk Ferentz takes a week off during the bye week from meeting with the media and lets his coordinators speak instead.
With the shortened season this year, we heard from offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, defensive coordinator Phil Parker and special teams coordinator LeVar Woods just days after Kirk did his normal meeting with the media ahead of the Penn State game.
We have a lot to get to, so let’s just get right to it. Check out all three transcripts here in full, otherwise, highlights below.
Let’s start with a big one:
Q. A couple games ago you had to make some changes along the offensive line due to injury, illness, and the offensive line has taken off a little bit. Are you tempted to if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and ride this for a while or will those guys get back in there?
BRIAN FERENTZ: Well, shoot, we’d like to have everybody available. If you look at us the first couple weeks we were rolling guys through anyway. The six guys that are playing now, they were playing early in the year. We were looking at more of an eight-man rotation. Certainly that rotation has been slowed down a little bit without Coy and without Kyler but we’re looking forward to getting those guys back, getting them healthy. Like we always do, we’re going to try to get the best guys on the field. That’s our goal, whether it’s match-up related, whether it’s health related, whatever it is. But very pleased with the guys that have been out there and really felt like we were making strides those first two weeks, too.
Ah, a classic non-answer. This man must have been trained from someone adept at the skill. I personally would keep the offensive line setup as-is, but that’s just me.
Another hot button topic:
Q. As you know, the backup quarterback is one play away from being called on. We haven’t seen a lot of Alex Padilla. Would there be a major dropoff if he had to come in, the state of his progress? And then as you might imagine, a lot of fans ask us about Deuce Hogan. We haven’t seen a look of him so maybe you can give us a progress report on what he’s doing behind the scenes.
BRIAN FERENTZ: I’d start with Spencer because I think Spencer, his progress is indicative of Alex’s progress is indicative of Deuce’s progress from this standpoint. It’s been a unique year, obviously, and it continues to get a little bit more unique by the week.
But I know we’ve talked about it in the past, when you look at the calendar year, right, so you lose all of spring ball, you lose 15 practices. You lose a lot of time in the weight room from the course of May to late July going into August. You lose all that time but also in that time you lose in the weight room, you lose a lot of time on the field doing skills and drills, working on routes on air, 7-on-7, all the things that go into the skill development that the quarterback, receiver, tight end, running back, anybody who’s touching the ball, those skill positions.
When you lose all that time, unfortunately you don’t get it back...
...But the reality is without being out on the field and throwing and catching that ball, you’re losing time in that skill development.
Now, the only thing you can do is try to make up for lost time once you get going again, which for us was briefly in August and then again really in late September and October...
...I think Spencer has done a tremendous job of growing and maturing and becoming a better player regardless of those circumstances, but you can’t ignore the detriment that the lack of time is going to have on your development, and then I would say the same for Alex. Been very pleased with his development and the things he’s done. But like a lot of guys, giving them these reps for the first time in the last couple months has been really good, but you’re starting behind the 8-ball a little bit, and same thing with Deuce. Unfortunately for Deuce, he wasn’t even here in the spring. He had no basis. His first opportunity to really go out and practice with our football program was briefly in August and then mostly in September.
Those are all the things you’re trying to deal with in this period, and all three of those guys have handled it well.
‘When you lose all that time, unfortunately you don’t get it back.’ Wow, really insightful verbiage from Brian there. But this answer is pretty much what we knew all along (or at least, what they will keep feeding us). Hopefully next season will be a different story for Spencer Petras when he really does get that entire offseason. Because if we’re still getting this answer because of that, well, oof.
Q. The first couple weeks of the season maybe you guys didn’t — I don’t want to say you guys played bad defensively, maybe not up to the level that you’re used to. The last couple weeks you hold Michigan State and Minnesota both to seven points in each of those games. What big improvements from the first two weeks to the last two weeks really helped sell the defense into really starting to lock down and force more turnovers?
PHIL PARKER: Well, I think it all starts with your preparation. Obviously we weren’t happy the last two weeks giving up that many points, either, with seven apiece. One was on the second teamers but we expect them to be at a high standard, too.
But I think when I noticed it was after the Northwestern game. You could tell the difference in the practice tempo and the energy that was coming out to practice. I think the last three weeks we’ve been practicing at a high level, and I feel very confident in that the guys are going to go out and play hard. Might not play as clean — we didn’t play as clean in the first two games, but I think these guys are all set on going out and giving their best effort, and you see it in practice. You see it in meetings ... And I think the guys have been doing it, and I think the team is actually getting closer and closer as we go.
I think this is obvious on the field. If the defense continues to improve week after week like they have been so far, I think it could be really, really good.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the impact Daviyon Nixon has had on the entire defense and especially the last couple weeks of Zach VanValkenburg?
PHIL PARKER: Well, Daviyon Nixon, he’s very athletic, very energetic. He’s a guy that has a big motor that likes to go, and when he’s going it’s hard to block him, and he has that little bit of excitement to the things he keeps things fresh. It’s kind of funny, we were going at it pretty good yesterday, and we hit the quarterback and put the quarterback out of — our scout team quarterback. We only had maybe one or two plays left. I think it was one.
So it’s funny, he jumped up as the quarterback and played the quarterback. For a 300-pound quarterback I thought it was pretty good that we let him do it because it was a pretty good throw downfield even though he threw an interception, but it was a nice spin on the ball and all that.
The energy that he brings I guess I’m saying, kind of bringing guys together, you’ve got to have fun, and I think they were having fun, but as a player he’s a very impacted player for us obviously, and then Zach, he’s done — last week was awesome for him. I’m happy for him. He’s a hard worker. He’s grinding all the time. You know, that’s a guy that’s experienced. He’s played the game for a lot of years in college and he’s done a good job for us and we’re happy that we have him.
Y’all wanna see Deuce Hogan? I WANT TO SEE DAVIYON NIXON UNDER CENTER. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
Q. Obviously one of the big stories so far has been the performance of Tory Taylor. From his coach’s standpoint, what have you seen and maybe are you a little surprised by Howie effect I have he’s been and made this seamless transition to football?
LEVAR WOODS: Yeah, he’s certainly been a great addition to the team, great addition to the specialist room. Definitely not surprised by him. He’s an incredibly talented kid, incredibly conscientious young man ... he’s been effective for us in helping change and flip field position and helping pin the opponents inside the 20-yard line, inside the 10 at times, and it’s been fun to watch him, watch his maturation. I think the sky’s the limit for him, and definitely glad he’s here.
The sky might truly be the limit for Tory Taylor. If anyone could punt into space, it might be him.
Q. Charlie Jones, did you see this kind of coming, or has it even surprised you what he’s been able to do?
LEVAR WOODS: I’m not sure anyone really saw this happening for Charlie. Charlie is again another guy off to a great start. A younger player as we look at it, sort of unheralded a little bit, for us kin of unknown, as well. I think one thing you can say about Charlie is since the day he got here a year ago, just kind of watching him and seeing how he works and goes about his business, the guy puts in a ton of work every day and it’s been fun seeing all that work and all that time and effort he’s put in starting to pay off.
I think, again, a guy that’s got a very bright future and a guy that has really helped this football team, not only on the football field but also just kind of his mindset and the way he approaches every day and the way he works. The guy is here all the time, all day. I’ll walk by, go down to someone’s office or something and look out on the football field through the in door and the guy is out there catching balls off the JUGS machine at like 3:00 in the afternoon, well after practice. He and Nico Ragaini have developed a great relationship in that regard, and I think it’s paying off for him. That is something, like I said, started a year ago for the guy. I think he has a clear vision of what he wants to be and what he wants to do while he’s here at Iowa, and the guy has put in the time and it’s fun seeing it pay off for him.
Another guy who I think the future is very bright for if he keeps working the way that he’s working and the contributions he’s making to this football team and just an early start I think are going to be fairly significant already and I think are going to be even more significant moving forward.
Charlie Jones and Taylor might be two of my favorite players on the team. They bring FUN to Iowa football, and we need more of that.