And you know what that means...it’s time to breakdown Kirk Ferentz’s weekly meeting with the media!
Will we be spared quarterback questions week in and week out for a season, now that Cade McNamara is suiting up for the black and gold? If today is any indication, no! With that, let’s get right into it, as we’ve got a lot to cover. As always, check out the full transcript here, or just check out my highlights and snarky responses to the snarky responses, below.
This is so exciting it’s like the opening kickoff of the season (for me). Let’s start with Cade, shall we? That’s where the media did!
Q. How do you describe the current status for Cade McNamara and how you’ve seen him recover?
KIRK FERENTZ: He got hurt obviously a couple weeks ago — everybody saw that.
It’s a soft tissue issue, and he started working at the end of last week. He’s been practicing. I can’t put a percentage on where he’s at right now.
He’s been cleared medically. That’s the good news. Then the thing we have to judge as we go along is how effective can he be and can he go out and perform in a way that’s representative of the kind of player he is.
Looked good in practice today. It’s kind of day by day. We’ll see how sore he is tomorrow and see how he’s feeling. Obviously we’d love to have him out there, but we also want to make sure he can perform at a high level.
Medically cleared - great! On the depth chart - great! Day by day? Not great! If I were a betting
student-athlete man (too soon?) I’d guess he takes the field for at least a few drives this weekend, but who knows. Protect him for when it counts/
Q. Would you say “questionable” is sort of the right way to describe his availability?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah. I think right now he is. I know what he wants to do. I know how he’s wired, and that’s part of our job, to be smart about it.
It’s always tricky. We’ll kind of take it day by day, see what it looks like. Again, first and foremost is what the medical people say. If he can’t play, he can’t play, but that hasn’t been the case.
We’re going to make sure he can play effectively and make sure he can play in a way that’s representative of the type of player he is.
The ending to this answer and the answer before it make it seem like Kirk is almost wanting to showcase Cade right away, which I am all for. Or, it’s just they don’t want to risk further injury. Probably that!
Q. Is it the type of injury which if you play on it, it could get worse, or does he need a little bit more time to heal it?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, not do damage, otherwise they wouldn’t clear him medically, significant damage. But soreness and things like that, that’s probably going to be part of the equation.
There’s no right answers on these, and in all due respect, just about every guy on the team that’s been practicing is a little bit sore and has issues. Nobody is at full strength.
But what it boils down to is can he play effectively, and then second thing is, to your point, is that going to knock him out for three weeks if he does play. We have to be smart about that.
PROTECT THIS MAN AT ALL COSTS!
Q. If Deacon Hill were to start, how would you feel about that and has Joe Labas returned to practice?
KIRK FERENTZ: Regarding Deacon, a lot better than three weeks ago, two weeks ago or one week ago, and that’s what camp is for to watch guys improve. If there is a blessing, when Cade was out, gave him every opportunity to work a lot.
Then Joe just returned last week, at the end of last week, so it’s good to get him back out there. He looks good, and he seems like he’s fully healthy now.
It would have been nice to have him the whole period, but we didn’t, so he’s playing catch up, but that month of December advanced him, as well, and obviously spring ball.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a healthy situation right now and I am impressed with Deacon and his tempo. But you have to go out there and operate to do that, and he’s taken advantage of that, and he’s doing a nice job so far.
Sounds like the QB room is relatively healthy and getting reps in, which is good. I for one would love to see our extremely large backup get some in-game reps, but that’s just me. 6’3, 258 QB? Inject that shit into my veins.
Speaking of that large man...
Q. What led you to want and pursue Deacon Hill?
KIRK FERENTZ: It kind of happened by connection with Jon Budmayr. Jon was involved in his recruiting. We were looking to upgrade the room like we are every room that we have in the building, every position. Felt like he was a guy who could make our team better.
Obviously Spencer was out. Not going to play this year. Then we had a guy transfer out, so we had spots to fill. Good to get somebody who had some experience and somebody we had some firsthand knowledge with. So felt like that was a win-win situation.
You never know until he gets here and gets in the program, but we’ve been really happy with everything we’ve seen.
Including this question and answer mostly to say that Jon Budmayr is the absolute GOAT. This team as it stands right now does not exist without him. Give him a raise. Make him offensive coordinator. Shit, make him head coach. Do what it takes to keep him here, I do not care. He’s putting in absolute work behind the scenes.
Let’s quickly talk about the other backup, Joe Labas (I told you we were only talking QBs!):
Q. How long was Joe Labas out for and what has been the process of him getting back?
KIRK FERENTZ: It was soft tissue. It started mid-July, I think, so it was a significant issue. But Mother Nature takes its course. That’s how it goes.
Q. How have you seen him get back into the flow of things?
KIRK FERENTZ: It’s been great. He couldn’t really throw the ball because of what he had. It was kind of painful for him. But he’s been throwing for a couple weeks now and now he’s able to move around a little bit, so he’s done good, and that’s just maturity and being around.
Actually last December was a total initiation for him and our offense other than spring ball, preseason. He had gone through the whole entire season without practicing in our system, and now he’s had the benefit of playing a game and doing that, both in December and the spring. He’s a much better player than he was say last Dec. 1.
Obviously the offense was still garbage during the Music City Bowl but I did like a lot of what I saw from Joe Labas in that game, fundamentally. I think he will be a servicable backup quarterback for sure. Glad he’s on the up and up.
I’m also reading a completely different vibe with how Kirk talks about Labas and Hill than he did about Padilla. I don’t go to these pressers (or even watch them) but these answers seem more sincere than they ever were abotu Padilla. Maybe that’s just the preaseason talking, I’m not sure, but it seems different to me.
Now let’s get into the real meat: THE OFFENSE. BUCKLE UP BABY.
Q. As far as the quarterback room, have you seen the offense take the steps you have envisioned, like you needed to see them?
KIRK FERENTZ: I think probably the one or two words I’d use would be maturity or experience, and they usually go hand in hand. That’s a big difference. You don’t have to be a math major. We had one scholarship receiver at this time last year out there on the field.
You pull Linderbaum out of the equation the last two years, we haven’t had a lot of experience up there, where you think about a guys like Colby had 11 starts going into last year, but there were a true freshman where he was just trying to survive, in all fairness to him.
It’s a night-and-day situation right now. We have a lot more experience and a little bit more maturity in both those groups.
It’s a big part of putting a successful team together. We’re not as experienced in all positions as we’d like right now, but it’s something you’re working on, just like talking about Joe Labas. That’s what practice and reps are for.
Deacon the same thing; the guys are out there, if they’re doing a good job and practicing the way they need to, and I think a lot of guys have done that this summer, this August, so I think we’ve probably moved along a little bit. That’s the biggest difference right now, maturity and experience.
Hooo boy, here we go. There was nothing wrong with the offense last year, everyone! Injuries and inexperience were the only issues! I repeat, the ONLY ISSUES! My coaching staff — and especially my son — had nothing to do with our awful offense! We’re great in practice!
We’re already in midseason Kirk form.
Q. In the spring the talking point was about Brian’s contract, 25 points per game. Has that come up at all among the players? Did you address it with them, or did it just never come up?
KIRK FERENTZ: Non-discussion point. They may talk about it. You’d have to ask them. We’re worried about winning. That’s what we’re worried about, just like we always have been.
I’m worried about winning, but not enough to move on from a bad coach. I don’t know what I would do in this situation if I were Kirk as far as mentioning it to the team. It’s a weird situation all around, and I personally feel like it bears mentioning in some capacity?
Q. In talking to Brian this summer, as well, you think of the Purdue game, 24-3, or the Wisconsin game where you could have kicked a field goal if you had wanted to, I suppose. Is that kind of the bounce back to what’s 25 points versus 24, winning —
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, I just mentioned my sister Julia. I’ll mention my wife, Mary, who’s a pretty wise person, and she said this about 40 years ago. I don’t know. She goes, seems like if you win, everything works out pretty well. That’s kind of been a guiding principle. It’s not all about winning, but it is a barometer.
Just seems like if you’re successful enough over the long haul, good things happen, and if you’re not, it’s not so good.
That’s kind of where our focus has always been is just trying to win games, and it’s as simple as that. I think part of our problem, probably just one person’s opinion, sometimes people don’t like how we win, but to me the objective is to win.
I do know this, although it may not be true with the committees they’ve got now, but at the end of the year, they really don’t care who you beat or how you beat them, when they start thinking about what bowl game you’re going to or if you’re going to be in the playoffs or the Big Ten Championship, all those kinds of things.
Every game is different. Every situation is different and unique, and the objective is to find a way to the winner’s line. Bowl game, both teams playing without a quarterback that ever played, so what’s the best way to get there.
In essence we protected the ball, they didn’t, and we walked off with a victory.
You just try to map out the best plan to win, and that’s really what — that’s my job as a head coach is to make sure everybody in this program, they need to benefit from that kind of thinking, and that’s — otherwise I’m not being fair to our players or our coaches or our fans for that matter.
Oh my God. The answer to this question drives me up the absolute wall. There is so much going on here. I’m going to focus on the second half of the answer. “They really don’t care who you beat or how you beat them” um, what? That absolutely matters. How, not so much, sure. You play the games for a reason. But the CFP committee does care about who you play and who you beat. The Music City Bowl, not so much. It’s almost like Kirk is going to go out of his way to have his team score 24 points per game exactly and win like 11 games just to spite people. Obviously, that would mean a great season, but like, is this man at war with his own fanbase over the employment of his son?
I obviously love this team and I want this team to win. But like I said in my pessimism piece last week, this 25 points per game thing is going to be a weird situation that hangs over the head of the team the entire season and it will make things awkward. Obviously all fans want this team to win. But I don’t think anybody in the entire fanbase watched the season opener last year and thought ‘Yeah, I want more of watching that.” Kirk makes his point here in an extremely backwards way that also misses the point completely, and it’s extremely frustrating.
And with that, I’m going to end here. There’s way more stuff in the presser, but I’ve gone on too long. It’s good to have football back. I’m ready to be mad (and happy!) online again with you all.