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How does head coach Kirk Ferentz feel about his team’s biggest challenge yet?

NCAA Football: Iowa at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Well folks, the Michigan Wolverines are coming to town this weekend. Judging by the last time they met (and I was there to witness it in person), it won’t be pretty. But who knows! This team is full of mysteries!

The primary question of this week though is how good the Iowa defense truly is. I thought they were pretty damn good last year and look what happened in Indy but’s a new year! Anyway, it’s Wednesday so let’s see what the man in charge had to say about it all. Full transcript available here.

You know where we’re going to start: injury updates. And it starts with one that is NOT great, Bob:

KIRK FERENTZ: ...[U]nfortunately we did get bad news on Jestin Jacobs. Didn’t sound good the other night, and that’s been confirmed. He’s going to have to have surgery and he will miss the rest of the season. That’s obviously a tough break.

A tough break, indeed. This really sucks for him, obviously, and really hurts the defense. But does this mean we’ll get to see him next year?

Q. Going back to Jacobs, is it a long-term surgery like where the NFL Draft potential would be impacted?

KIRK FERENTZ: This year’s draft or next year’s draft? I’m worried about Michigan right now. I’m not looking down the road that far. But he’s out for the season. He’s out for the season. It’s just disappointing.

Ok so that’s interesting! Definitely something to keep an eye on...

KIRK FERENTZ: Keagan right now will not be going this week, so we’ll take that a day at a time, week at a time, and keep moving forward there.

Not only am I starting to think that Keagan Johnson won’t be at Iowa next year, I don’t even know if we’ll see him in uniform again at this point. Sigh.

Q. Is Terry Roberts available for Saturday?

KIRK FERENTZ: We’ll see. We’re hoping so.

Q. Has he been able to practice?

KIRK FERENTZ: A little bit, limited. We’ll see how it goes.

Ok! Some potential good news! Now let’s get into the task at hand: the Michigan Wolverines.

Q. Last year you faced McNamara. Are they much different with McCarthy at quarterback?

KIRK FERENTZ: You might argue they’re better. I don’t know. They’re both really good players. I don’t want to call it a dilemma. It’s been a discussion point, at least it sounds like, up in Ann Arbor and maybe points beyond that.

From where I’m standing, it looks like it’s tough to go wrong either way, and maybe that’s the situation they’re facing.

I’m not sure who we’re going to see, but they’re both really good football players.

Ok so I have not watched a ton of Michigan football this seems like McCarthy is the guy now, yeah? Of course, McNamara looked like a world beater against us last year, but it’s my understanding that he’s one of the few weak(ish) links on the team. So again, I could be wrong, but let’s hope we see some McNamara if we want a win.

Q. You sit on the floor below us where you’ve got that huge TV screen of your game against them last December on it. Is this a week-long thing? How did that game make you, your coaches, your players feel?

KIRK FERENTZ: It obviously didn’t feel very good that day, that’s for sure. Our challenge at that point back in December was to move forward — like we do any game, you look at and study and learn from it and move forward ...

But the one thing it did do probably for both teams, both staffs, is just give us a little bit more familiarity because we haven’t played them in a while. Obviously we learned about their personnel and their football team last December just like they did about us. But all that said, now it’s a different team. They have a lot of new faces as well as familiar faces. It kind of is what it is.

This is a classic Kirk Ferentz coach speak answer. I’d be willing to bet that last year’s loss eats at Kirk a lot. But also, if that horrendous loss against Kentucky was them moving forward well...yikes.

Q. I know you just said you want to focus on moving forward, but do you get the sense from the players that they’re maybe treating this as a revenge game, and if they are, do you see that as beneficial for them to treat that like that?

KIRK FERENTZ: It depends on the individual. Those words aren’t coming out of my mouth ...

But it is a reminder, what I was talking about earlier. If you aren’t on top of things and you give up a couple of big plays, all of a sudden the hill gets pretty steep. When you’re trying to ascend a hill like that against a team that’s that talented, it’s tough. It’s tough, and then they’ve got you where they want you.

The first thing you have to do is just keep it close and make sure every play is sound, and if they’re going to get something, make them really work and earn it, and we didn’t do that necessarily last year.

If somebody has motivation that comes out of that, I think we all want to do better, needless to say. But it’s not as simple as hey, let’s go get these guys. I wish it was.

No doubt ‘keep it close’ was the gameplan last year, too. I wonder what Phil’s got cooking to ensure it actually stays that way this week. I mean, I have to imagine that our defense this year is better than Maryland’s, right? We should be able to keep this close. But I do agree with that steep hill mindset that Kirk mentioned there. All I’m asking is for no snowballing.

Q. You talked about last week Aaron Blom not necessarily out of the mix, but you praised Drew for his performance. Is it safe to say that he’s the incumbent at the kicker position right now?

KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, I don’t like that word “incumbent.” It’s a competition every day for everybody, but you’ve got to give Drew credit. He did a nice job.

I guess the point I was trying to make, and I still feel this way, nobody is down on Aaron. We all believe in Aaron. He does a good job in practice every day. I think right now Drew has earned the right to be our kicker.

But it’s all about competition. You’re talking about two young guys, two inexperienced guys, too. I’ve said in the out of season we expect some ups and down, probably bumps in the road at that spot, and hopefully we can just keep pushing forward, but it’s good to have two guys in competition. That’s for sure.

I wanted to include this quote for two obvious reasons. One, it’s very clear that Drew Stevens is the better kicker and I will be shocked if we see Aaron Blom again. But also, ‘it’s a competition every day for everybody’ might be the funniest Kirk Ferentz quote I’ve ever read in my life. Give us all a break, man. We’re not idiots.

Q. Is it too late in the season or in the process to experiment with a defensive player at receiver if you’re very shorthanded —

KIRK FERENTZ: You could do it. I don’t think it’s ever too late. But it’s not like we’re exactly deep anywhere right now. We don’t have that kind of pool to draw on.

Cooper probably could play offense pretty well, I’m guessing, a couple spots. But we’ve got to use him on defense right now. Gordie Lockbaum, I’ll throw a name at you. Last guy to probably do it, but that was at Holy Cross, and I don’t think they played Michigan. We’re not going there.


Q. How close do you think you are to having an offensive line rotation kind of set in stone?

KIRK FERENTZ: I don’t know. We’re just going to keep working. I think so far it’s been good for the guys. I don’t think it’s hurt anybody. It’s not hurting us I don’t think. But until the picture becomes more clear, somebody has really got to kind of grab on to it. If they do, then the job is theirs.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing, quite frankly, especially with guys that aren’t established. I hate using that word, too. That’s like “incumbent.” Because everybody has room for improvement, coaches included.

I’d argue that the lack of stability with the line is hurting the pass blocking, but I digress. Also, is that a little jab at Brian at the end there? -eyes emoji-

Q. In the run game, you guys had a steady dosage of Gavin, Leshon and Kaleb. How do you see that shaking out as the season goes on?

KIRK FERENTZ: We’ll take that week by week, too. Just depends how it presents itself ...

Kaleb is growing and getting a little bit better every week. My guess is we’re going to need all three of them. All three of them are really quality players and all have different strengths and weaknesses, so I’m glad they’re on our team.

More Kaleb Johnson, less Gavin Williams, please and thank you. Let’s end it there. Definitely other nuggets in the full transcript if you want to check it out. I’ll be predicting the worst, but hoping for the best. Go Hawks!