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KIRK SPEAKS, WEEK 1: INDIANA HOOSIERS

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Football is back, baby, and that means so are Kirk Ferentz’s weekly press conferences! And this week, special guest stars, too!

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Folks, football season is back, which means so am I with my weekly recap (and snark) of Kirk Ferentz weekly press conferences. Did ya miss me?

This year, we’re going to try to focus a bit more on player interview tweets during this as well as Kirk’s press conference recaps. And today, we have an extra special guest in an appearance from Gary Barta. With that in mind, let’s get right to it, because we have a lot to cover. Check out the full Barta transcript here and the Ferentz transcript here.

For all y’all going to the game on Saturday like me, some handy info from Barta regarding entering the stadium and the mobile ticketing process:

BARTA: We certainly encourage people to start coming into the stadium earlier, game one, for a couple of reasons. One, because of the changes. Also, not unlike service industry across the country, shortage of staff. If you think about everywhere you go and you see that experience, we have between 500 and 1,000 workers on any given Saturday.

And we know for sure we’re going to struggle to hit that 500 mark. So we will be understaffed.

All of the concession stands — including beer! — will be cashless, too.

I’m not going to mention what Barta said about “The Alliance” because it’s all meaningless. Talk to me when you sign some papers. Next!

Q. I’m sure you’ve heard there are season ticket holders that are wishing there were a mask mandate because they want to go back to the game as much as anyone. Have you heard from those folks and what’s your response to that?

GARY BARTA: I’ve heard from those that absolutely want a mask and those who absolutely don’t want a mask. So I think this is one of those topics that’s certainly very challenging. I respect both opinions, but we’re moving forward with the plan we think is going to best fit where we are at this time.

The question before this, Barta was asked about any sort of vaccine requirement, and he gave the same university-approved language that everyone else does about the Board of Regents, being a state institution, yada, yada, yada...but I do think his language is kind of funny here “best fit to where we are at this time” AKA we’ll do the maximum we can do, which is nothing.

ONTO KIRK!

First up: captains (and an injury update!):

KIRK FERENTZ: ...Captains this week, we’ve got Tyler Linderbaum and Matt Hankins, Jack Koerner and Spencer Petras. Those are the four captains who will go out for the toss. Kyler Schott, as you all know, has been injured and he’ll be injured here for a couple more weeks, I believe. He’ll not be playing.

Well, not unexpected, but still not great. Let’s keep on the offensive line:

Q. Can you kind of expand on, you talked about rotating the offensive line, what positions you might rotate who might be in there?

COACH FERENTZ: I’m not sure. I really am not sure what it’s going to look like. I’m pretty sure Linderbaum will be playing center.

And we’ll play probably 6-8 guys during the course of the game. And we need to learn more about them and how they’re going to perform.

And this is quite a test, because (Indiana) is very multiple in what they do, and they’re very aggressive with what they do — they bring a lot of pressure, add to the mix. So it puts a little bit of pressure on those guys up front.

Q. How has Spencer, where he’s now from this point last year, because he didn’t have a lot of reps?

COACH FERENTZ: It’s night-and-day comparison, really. Last year he went into the season pretty much cold — no spring ball, no camp. And now he’s got eight games under his belt. But he’s also had a lot of time to practice beyond those eight games and watch himself perform and learn more about himself.

And he really has done a good job in all regards, starting with the leadership part of it. He’s totally committed. Has been. And I think that experience has just allowed him to play a little faster now, a little bit more decisively. And for the most part he’s been pretty accurate and done some good things.

It’s interesting during camp, you’ve got ups and downs and we’re playing against each other every day it’s a little bit of a different challenge, unique challenge. But he made a couple of throws a week ago .. that stood out. It was like, wow, these look like good football plays here.

I think he’s gained some ground, and I think everybody is doing a good job around him. Anxious to see him play this Saturday.

I, too, am anxious to see him play this Saturday. I think his play from the get-go will be a big determining factor in whether the game ends in the win or loss column.

More on Petras:

Q. Spencer, from what other guys of said, has been playing really well. How has that played out, is the playbook more open to him?

COACH FERENTZ: He’s operating quicker and more decisively. I don’t know if “relaxed” is the right word to describe him. He’s got a hyperactive note to himself ...

And the fact that he’s one of our leaders, voted as a captain, that tells you how people see him too. He’s done a really good job. He’s totally invested.

Q. Obviously he’s the No. 1 quarterback, is there a clear No. 2 or No. 3?

COACH FERENTZ: Right now it’s clearly Spencer, Alex and Deuce, it’s one, two, three. We like Joe as well, he’s a good young prospect.

There you have it, folks.

Q. What’s the status of the defensive line? Noah Shannon wasn’t playing on Kids Day. And they kind of struggled a little bit. I’m just wondering how their growth has been the past couple of weeks and who has been taking those spots in the interior?

COACH FERENTZ: ...I can say this on both lines: We’ll probably play more than five guys or four guys. We’ll be rotating players in and out, because we’re still learning. We’re still learning about a lot of our guys right now.

Part of that is just the guys in the equation. The other part is injuries. And that’s part of every camp I have to remind myself. It’s frustrating, especially the end of last week. We had a lot of guys in and out and the week before, too. We were kind of in the same situation.

So it just makes it tough to really gauge where guys are at, how well they’re doing. We’re hopeful we’ll have everybody at full speed outside of Kyler on Saturday ...

I feel pretty much that way about Joe Evans and John Waggoner, along with VanValkenburg. We have a lot of young guys in the mix. It will be interesting to see how they play and perform.

This doesn’t really surprise me, as I always feel like any Iowa offensive or defensive line takes a bit of time to take shape. So, we’ll see here, but this does worry me a bit for the first two weeks, because we’ll need strong line play on both sides of the ball.

Q. Seemed like it was trending this way, but are Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce in the wide receiver rotation?

COACH FERENTZ: Definitely. I don’t know if we’ve got five or six in our rotation, but they’re definitely in. And just pleased with the progress they continue to make. Jackson Ritter has entered that group. And I don’t know if he’s on the depth chart. I think he is. I can’t remember. But he’s definitely made some steps forward, too.

And Charlie Jones, I’ll throw him in there. He’s been a good returner, obviously, but he’s done a nice job at receiver. Who does that leave us? We also have Tracy. That’s a start.

So, reading between the lines here: expect a lot of wideouts to be targeted...whoever makes the catches will get more playing time?

Q. What do you think the main key to victory this week, some of the more intangibles or some of the more execution pieces?

COACH FERENTZ: One of the things that comes to mind is playing clean. And that’s true, you watch any early season football. You consider the turnover/take-away margin, this Indiana team was so good at last year.

They forced a lot of turnovers, to their credit. And part of that is their style, the way play defense; they come at you aggressively. We have to really protect the football. True in any game but it’s going to be important in this game ...

When we’re looking at them, they have some of those guys but they also have a lot of grad transfers we haven’t seen playing their system. I know this, a lot of them have good credentials. So it’s trying to piece all those things together, too.

My thought is that we’ll see a heavy emphasis on the run game at first to let everything settle in and see how the line plays and the wideouts play to try and reduce turnovers early, but who knows. I am not a coach!

Q. At this time what percentage of your team is vaccinated?

COACH FERENTZ: It’s probably in the upper 90s right now. We’ve had people jump on that train. It’s been a big month moving the needle that way.

This is very good! Put me on the record that the moment a Big Ten team has to forfeit a game (especially if that team is one Ohio State), we’ll see some sort of rule change mandated by the Big Ten, whether it’s about vaccine requirements, capacity limits, or masks in the stadium, or something along those lines. Money (and playoff appearances) talk, and ain’t nobody gonna let this season go off the rails because of COVID (I hope).

PLAYER HIGHLIGHTS: (We’ll keep it short this week since we had Barta):

LISTEN TO THIS MAN AND GET VAXXED IF YOU HAVEN’T.

If I remember correctly, this already sounds like a more confident Petras than we had last season? So that’s good.

Anyway, it’s game week. It feels good. Let’s get a win. Go Hawks.