Iowa Football

A minor airing of grievances for Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz

From officiating to recruiting to early entry, it was a bit of a free-for-all with Iowa's coach on Monday

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz follows warmups before an NCAA college football game against Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., Fri
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz follows warmups before an NCAA college football game against Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz missed the bowl news conference last Sunday night. He went to Foxboro, Mass., to watch his son, James, start on the offensive line for the New England Patriots. That’s a pretty big deal for a family steeped in football.

Iowa was going to the Holiday Bowl, either way. Ferentz has another excused absence coming up on Wednesday. Yes, it’s national signing day, but it’s also the day when the bowl game uses one of its automatic “hey coach, we need you over here” deals and Ferentz will be in San Diego, Calif., the site of the Hawkeyes’ Dec. 27 bowl matchup vs. No. 22 USC (8-4), meeting San Diego media along with USC head coach Clay Helton.

It’s that time of year where if Ferentz hears what he wants to hear in a question, he’ll answer with a bit of a rant. There were a few of those when he met with the media on Monday afternoon.

On having signing day and bowl obligations collide, Ferentz sees a solution.

“The world has changed, most of these guys have been committed to us for months,” Ferentz said. “Common sense would say signing would have been somewhere in the summertime. That will probably be about a decade before we catch up to that one. Anyway, that’s the way it goes. Don’t try to make sense of our rules.”

The question about quarterback Nate Stanley didn’t even use the words “social media criticism.”

“It’s just funny you bring that up because somebody made a comment to me somewhere in the last two or three weeks about he’s a target, via social media, a lot of angst,” Ferentz said. “Image that, quarterback, coordinator, or head coach being criticized.

“I just happened to think about that while I was sitting there yesterday (at the team banquet on Sunday night), he was up there getting his 12th award. I thought of two things really quickly: Like I don’t know anything about any of that stuff, and I don’t care.”

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Ferentz was asked about the learning process with players leaving early for the NFL Draft. The first player to make the leap was tight end Dallas Clark in 2002. That doesn’t mean the situation stays exactly the same. Ferentz acknowledged the NFL has sharpened its focus this time of year as opposed to years past. Now, NFL executives have tightened up on what teams look at this time of year and, Ferentz said, it’s less of a free-for-all.

The fact of the matter is a record number of underclassmen left for the draft in back-to-back years. Ferentz said Monday that defensive end A.J. Epenesa, offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs and safety Geno Stone have submitted themselves for an NFL evaluation. The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is Jan. 20.

Iowa runs an open house for NFL scouts, providing space to evaluate practices, a video area and even meals. Ferentz said the current policy for Iowa’s staff is to not discuss junior prospects with NFL personnel people.

“We might as well break that one down, too,” Ferentz said. “We need to revamp how we communicate with them, because we won’t talk about our juniors with them right now. They appreciate that and understand. Now, I’m knocking on their door and saying, ‘What’s the deal here?”

There was a question on the officiating during the Nebraska game. There were several questionable calls in the Hawkeyes’ 27-24 victory. Of course, Ferentz wasn’t going to get into specifics. They won and the game is in the books.

But he did hear something he wanted to talk about.

“I was at a game last Sunday that was unbelievably — I’ll stay it straight, I’m not coaching in the NFL — I’m not going to get fined,” Ferentz said. “I mean, the officiating was terrible in that game. That cost the team that lost the game in my opinion. Two of them were right where I was sitting.”

There was definitely a minor suggestion to get rid of replay review from Ferentz. That’s not happening. He talked about how the interpretations of rules have changed and how that becomes accumulated confusion. It’s never been about the officials personally for Ferentz, it’s the rules and how the officials are asked to process those at internet speed during a game.

“It’s fine for the guys on those committees, but the guys officiating on the field look like a bunch of clowns because they’ve made it so hard,” Ferentz said, regarding the NFL, and not college, obviously an important distinction here. “I think that’s happened in our game, too. I worry about that. You’re making this almost impossible. If you’re a good guy, why would you want to go out there and do this when you’re getting set up to fail? It’s really a hard deal. It’s a concern.”

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— Wide receiver Brandon Smith, who suffered a disastrous ankle injury on Oct. 19 vs. Purdue, is working out and on the field, Ferentz said.

— Iowa said Monday it has 900 tickets remaining from its allotment of 6,000 for the Holiday Bowl.

— The Hawkeyes have had a core of 22 players committed to the program since midsummer. Ferentz expects everyone to sign when the national signing period begins on Wednesday.

Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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