IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa Offensive Line Coach Brian Ferentz could have issued excuses Wednesday when asked about his unit’s 2014 inconsistencies. Instead, he took responsibility.
"I think the way anybody is evaluated is wins and losses, so was it difficult to evaluate the offensive line last year? No, we won seven games and we lost six. I don’t think that’s hard to evaluate at all," he said.
"So we try not to get too caught up on what are the numbers, what are we doing here, what are we doing there. If you win the game, you’re playing well enough, if you lose the game you’re not playing well enough. Whether it’s in the run game or protection or any of those things, I think when you look at the bottom line from last year, we didn’t perform to the standard that we set around here and the expectations that we have."
Ferentz took questions for about 20 minutes. Here’s "What We Learned" from the session:
-Not a revaluation, but Ferentz feels good about the interior of the line, anchored by senior center Austin Blythe. The concentration is developing tackles to replace departed starters Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal. Redshirt sophomores Boone Myers and Ike Boettger sit atop the depth chart this spring.
"At this point the most important thing that can happen for him, Ike Boettger, Cole Croston, any of those guys, is just to get reps, and to get repetitions against quality players, which we’re pretty fortunate that they get a chance to work against quality guys every day."
-Blythe was moved to guard last season to compensate for injuries. Ferentz said he’s back where he belongs.
"Having him move back to center, I think that’s his best position. I think he’d probably tell you that’s his best position for whatever reason, and it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing that we have a center with experience, that’s started games, that’s played in big games, and also happens to be a pretty good player. Those are all good things. Those are all positive things."
-Ferentz added the "run game coordinator" title to his job description this offseason. When asked about it on Wednesday, he seemed annoyed by the question.
"Your guys’ job is to write stories and to create stories and do all those things. I think if you look around the country, this is a pretty common…it’s important to remember that as an offensive staff we have five very capable, very qualified coaches on that staff that all have a tremendous amount of input. This is really just a clerical, I don’t know — it’s almost a formality. I don’t think it really means too much, if that answers the question."
He was then asked how the new title came about.
"The head coach told me that I was the run game coordinator and he released it to you guys. It certainly wasn’t my idea."
Then he was asked how that conversation went and what the position means.
"Again, I’d kind of go back and refer to the previous question. Conversations that happen between coaches, between players, any of those things that happen behind closed doors, I’ll leave those behind closed doors, whether that’s right or wrong, whether you guys agree with it or not. You’d have to ask him. If he was comfortable divulging our conversation then he could tell you, but I’m not going to do that."
-Iowa will have 14 scholarship players on the offensive line this fall, adding five true freshmen at the position. Ferentz was asked if that was a good number after working with a thin margin in recent years.
"I think it’s fluid. I think whatever is best for the football team at that period in time, and that’s changed year to year, and based on where we have needs, where we don’t have needs, how much we’ve gotten out of a certain class, how much we haven’t gotten out of a certain class, eam-wide. Right now we took five last year, and I think we all agreed we needed to take five, and that’s why we did it. We had a really good class in state. There were a lot of really good players in state across the board, and there were certainly a lot of good offensive linemen in the state, too."
-With the quintet being added this year, Iowa will not be as focused on the offensive line in the 2016 recruiting cycle.
"I don’t know how many we’ll take. I know we’ll take at least two, maybe more, and we’ll see how that goes. But as far as where do we get the whole number at? I don’t know. I think if you’re any lower than 12, you’re probably skating on some thin ice."
-Of the five incoming O-Lineman, which guy as the best chance to play early?
"If I had to handicap it right now I’d say that James Daniels has the best chance to help us because he’s the only one that I’ve seen practice. So I’ll be interested to see the other four guys practice. It’s been very difficult historically to get on the field as a true freshman here at that position, and there’s a reason for that. Basically the closer you are to the football, the least ready you are physically to play the game, or mentally for that matter because it’s really all the same.
"But James has done a nice job, and he’s gotten a lot of reps, so right now he leads the race but it’s kind of by default, waiting for some other guys to jump in and join the race."