Well that was certainly an interesting game, wasn’t it?
All hope was lost, until Cooper DeJean, my favorite Hawkeye in a long, long time, saved the day. Had he not, we’d be having a lot different of a discussion this week. But as things stand, we’re already having a pretty uncommon discussion, as Iowa will be using its backup quarterback for the rest of the season. We haven’t been in a situation like this in a long, long time. Oh, and Iowa hosts Purdue, who will present more of a challenge than people are giving them credit for. Let’s see what Kirk Ferentz had to say, shall we? Check out the full transcript here, and my extremely intelligent insights below.
Let’s start with the obvious, from the opening statement, and go from there:
KIRK FERENTZ: Regarding Cade’s injury, it is not positive. I was suspicious of that the other night. He has an ACL injury, so it has to be repaired. He’ll be out for the season, stay with the team, be supportive, and continue to be part of the team.
It was a tough break considering the last two years for him, he’s had more than his share of obstacles and challenges from that standpoint. Your heart goes out to guys when they’re fighting hard to have a chance to go out and compete and don’t have that opportunity due to health challenges. He should be fine once the recovery is over, and just a tough deal for him.
Not great, but not surprising. Wishing him the best of luck for a speedy recovery. But now, it’s BIG BOI DEACON TIME, BABY! And it might actually...help the offense? more on that soon.
Q. With Cade, has he given you any indication with that last year of eligibility remaining whether he’ll use that to stay?
KIRK FERENTZ: I think his intentions are to come back and play next year again. That will be great. It’s a long road in front of him, but it’s a lot better than it was 30 years ago, that’s for sure, a lot more predictable. And he has a great attitude. He’ll work hard at it.
Q. Has he already had the surgery?
KIRK FERENTZ: No, it will be sometime next week. They normally let those things settle down a little bit. If there is good news, it’s a clean injury. Sometimes they can be a little bit messy, but it looks clean, and that’s good. He’s been fighting some other stuff too. Maybe this will give him a chance to get totally healthy again.
I find it unsurprisingly-surprising that Cade plans to come back next year. For one, there were rumblings that, had he played all year and not had much success, he’d leave for greener pastures, which I understand. That’s probably out of the realm of reality now, understandably. But, if Deacon Hill plays well all year, do we go right back to a QB controversy next season?
Q. How is the offense moving forward?
KIRK FERENTZ: You have to move on. We didn’t have any time to think about it Saturday night, obviously. I thought that was one of the highlights of the game is the way the team kept playing. Deacon stepped in and did a nice job. Not a big surprise. We’ve seen great improvement with him the last eight weeks, but Cade’s missed a lot of practice time. I’ve referred to that. So that’s helped him move forward a bit.
But during the game, you certainly don’t have time to reassess or think about it. I don’t think our guys have done that since then.
The worst part about football is the injury category. Easily that’s the worst part about it, but it’s also a reality. When those things happen, everybody’s got to keep moving. You’re empathetic towards the people that are out and affected by it, but everybody else has to keep moving, and it’s an opportunity for somebody to step up and get the job done.
Including this here because it’s an absolute dodge. He knew exactly what the question was, and just ignored it because he knows his son is still bad at his job.
Q. How much does this open up your offense? Because it appeared that you were limited by what Cade couldn’t do running the ball, whether it was boots or negative plays?
KIRK FERENTZ: Or sneaks. Trick plays like sneaks, yeah.
This was definitely one of the more interesting aspects of putting in Deacon. The sneak was almost IMMEDIATE. This is what I meant about it potentially helping the offense. I don’t think Cade was necessarily hindering things, but if this is what it takes to get the offense moving, so be it.
Q. Where did you see Deacon improve when he had to fill in for Cade?
KIRK FERENTZ: Both those guys didn’t play last year, and Deacon, it’s been a couple years really. That’s probably the biggest thing for him is getting in games and actually playing, or scrimmage situations, those types of deals. So doesn’t get much more live than it did Saturday. I thought he did a good job managing things and making good decisions for us.
Now it’s all about continuing to do that and take steps forward. This was a big challenge. These guys play a different, unique type of defense. It’s not the same as what we saw, but it’s, again, another challenge. Every week is going to be a challenge.
I agree with this assessment. Take away the drops (good god) and Deacon had a solid game. I’m honestly excited to see what he brings to the table. My boy has an absolute cannon.
Q. You talked a lot about that arm strength. We’ve heard a lot about it. Is there anything else in his skill set that really sticks out to you.
KIRK FERENTZ: We don’t tackle our quarterbacks in practice. I’m guessing it will be a challenge to tackle. That’s probably a good thing. Just the mental part of things. He’s a lot more comfortable just with every part of this thing. Even calling plays, which sounds pretty simple, but a lot of people do them off cards and things like that. So it’s a little different repertoire for him.
No duh he’s gonna be tough to tackle, he’s 260 lb of pure...muscle?
Q. The first thing everybody said about Cade was he’s a great leader. Do you feel Deacon is settling into that level? How do you feel the guys responded?
KIRK FERENTZ: Totally different personality. I recognize him in the locker room afterwards for the next man in, stepping in and doing a great job and just keeping us moving forward. And the players were responsive. He’s very popular with the players.
Again, night and day difference in terms of personality, and that’s one of the beautiful things about this sport. So, yeah, he’ll do just fine. The guys want to play for him. They respect him, and they’re all pulling for him.
Again, I ask: is this Cade’s job to lose?
Q. When you look at Purdue, they look different than Illinois did last year, but they’re very, very aggressive, 17 sacks. They seem to be a five-man line even though they’re like a 3-3-5 officially. What kind of challenges does that put on your offensive line?
KIRK FERENTZ: That puts pressure on everybody. They’ve been successful, talking about Coach Walters going back to Missouri, we got our first good look at things that year, 2020, and the last two years at Illinois.
It’s the same defense basically, but, yeah, they’re always squeaking in, evading, doing those things. Sometimes they’ll do those five guys rush. Other times it will be three. They mix it up doing various coverages. There’s a lot of moving parts, and it’s a challenge for everybody really to move the ball.
We’re going to have to really be clear on what we’re doing, and then — they force you basically to block every guy out there with the five-man rush basically. It’s five guys blocking five. Either they’re moving a couple guys, working them in combination to get somebody open, or just one-on-one block. It’s a challenge every play. It’s like however many plays, 60 plays of just you got the guy, this guy and that guy, and they kind of do the same thing in the back end a lot too.
This is going to be an extremely difficult challenge for this line. At least you know that the pass protection is better than run protection, but man. Why not just send the house all the time?
Q. As a line coach, what’s missing in the run game?
KIRK FERENTZ: It’s a complex equation. Offense is more complex other than just saying this, this, and this. The fourth quarter the other day, at least we looked like we were back kind of going the way we need to go.
A lot of variables involved. Certainly going to help us. This is a tough team to run the football against because of their front and the way they’re designed. We’re going to have to find a way, and we’re going to have to be patient too because there’s a lot of ugly plays when we play a team like this. Hopefully you can find a crack or a crease and pop one through there.
It’s not like you’re just going to run the ball five yards, five yards, five yards. That’s not realistic.
I hate this answer so much. Nothing is missing in the run game apparently. Has nothing to do with the coaching staff, nope. Just gotta execute. Kirk, we all know it’s not going to be five yards every place. At this rate, we’d take five total rushing yards...once per drive and be thrilled. Yes, we’re down backs, but line play has been so bad. That’s what’s missing in the run game: good offensive line play. Not very complex to me, Kirk.
Let’s finish with this:
Q. Would you authorize a package of plays for Cooper DeJean on offense? Is that something you would authorize?
KIRK FERENTZ: That’s a discussion and a thought. Believe me, we’ve all had that discussion. In baseball, a couple weeks ago, I think I mentioned a guy getting pulled after seven innings throwing a no-hitter. If you did a pitch count on Cooper, he is getting a lot of snaps.
I suppose you could do it, but you don’t want to compromise what we’ve got defensively right now. That’s a consideration. He’s been a pretty big factor on special teams. Yeah, what I’d love to do is have five of them. I wish he had five brothers. If they were quintuplets or whatever you call it, but not the case.
I’ll give Kirk a pass here, he’s obviously not going to be announcing in a presser that we’ll see Cooper on offense, but also sadly I think we need to take him at his word, especially considering the Kirk philosophy of wining games with special teams and defense. That’s where they’re going to keep him. Why produce on offense?
I’d be fine with reducing his defensive snap counts, or taking him out of punt returns if it meant more snaps for him offensively that were effective. But that’s just me. I also want him protected because again, he’s my favorite Hawkeye in a long time.
Q. As far as Cooper, is there ever a point where he can help you more on offense than on defense?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, but you have to think about how is that going to impact our defense. We’ve seen that in the past, and it’s pretty dramatic actually.
Typically, you don’t have players like him. If you’ve got a great player — and we didn’t have another Bob Sanders on the shelf. And they’re totally different players, but they’re both impactful players. So if you move this guy over here, what are you going to do over here? Always have those equations to balance.
It’s great to talk about, but it’s a little bit more complicated in terms of the impact and the ripples that it causes or the impact it could have on several places.
Sure, this is fair. But maybe he’s just a better offensive player than defensive player? We’ll never know until we try, but knowing this coaching staff, they’ll never try.
Actually let’s end with this (I’m including the follow-up question/answer as well, for fairness):
Q. With some of those issues up front, is there any sort of growing likelihood that we see Daijon Parker this year, or what’s the status with him?
KIRK FERENTZ: What issues are you talking about?
Q. Pass pro issues, running the ball, just not putting up numbers you’d like to see.
KIRK FERENTZ: Overall I thought our pass pro improved. I thought it was better. Daijon is the same category as the other guys. He’s working hard to get back. He’s lost a ton of time, the start of spring ball. So was playing catch-up when we started practice in August, and he’s working hard every day. Tremendous young guy. Just talked about Nick, same thing, Daijon is a terrific guy.
Just working hard every day and not sure when you’re going to be in there. Can’t predict.
WHAT ISSUES ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
WHAT TEAM ARE YOU WATCHING KIRK?