IOWA CITY, Iowa – Even with 12 victories under his belt, Kirk Ferentz doesn’t plan to change his approach to recruiting.
It’ll be just like last year when Iowa was trying to bounce back from a 2014 season that unraveled at the end.
The circumstance on the field might change, but the message from Ferentz doesn’t. In this case, there is no New Kirk.
“The message is, this is a great place, there’s great people here and it’s a great opportunity I think for young people to come in here and grow and develop,” Ferentz said during a press conference on Thursday. “We certainly have a nicer place for them to come every day and work and do the things, eat and be together. Those are important things.
“But to me the most important thing about anything you do in sports are the people involved, and I think we have got great people here working with our players. Not just as a coaching staff but the entire – everybody they inter-face with here. There’s a support and a commitment to giving them a first-class experience educationally, citizenship-wise and football-wise. That doesn’t change.”
Ferentz’s message is one of the few things that hasn’t changed over the past year.
The players and coaches are now firmly entrenched in the new football facility, while Iowa has gone from winning just seven games in 2014 to winning a school-record 12 this past season.
Iowa lost its final two games this season, including a 45-16 drubbing by Stanford in the Rose Bowl. But with Iowa finishing 12-2, there still is more positive energy than a year ago.
“But just like a new building is more attractive to prospects, so is winning,” Ferentz said. “There’s no debating that. Sometimes opportunity, if you have a bad team, hey, maybe I can come in and play. But most guys think they can play regardless.”
It’s hard to know what kind of impact Iowa’s success from this past season is having on recruiting because most of the 24 players in the 2016 recruiting class committed before the season started, including a record 16 in June alone.
“The crazy thing, most of our staff is already done with our recruiting,” Ferentz said. “So it’s kind of like the next round here. Although, we are not taking anything for granted with this class. Guys can move any time they choose to.”
Verbal commitments aren’t binding. Nothing becomes official until a recruit signs a national letter of intent.
The national signing day for football is traditionally held on the first Wednesday in February, which for this year is Feb. 3.
Ferentz and his assistants are trying to add the final piece or two to Iowa’s 2016 recruiting class. One of Iowa’s top remaining targets is offensive lineman Matt Farniok, who is from Sioux Falls, S.D. He recently narrowed his list to Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan State.
Iowa also has four players committed to its 2017 class, all of whom are from instate. They are defensive tackle Juan Harris from North Fayette, defensive end Coy Kirkpatrick from Madrid, tight end Jacob Coons from Solon and offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs from Mount Vernon.
FATHER AND SON REUNION: In addition to being the Dean of Big Ten football coaches, Ferentz is also the father of an NFL player.
Ferentz’s second oldest son, James Ferentz, plays center for the Denver Broncos after being claimed off waivers in September. James also played center for his father at Iowa from 2010-13.
Kirk had the opportunity to watch James play in person this past Sunday in Denver and two days after the Rose Bowl.
“It’s hard for me to talk because I’m his dad,” Kirk Ferentz said Thursday. “He’s a good story. He’s a really good story. And if I wasn’t his dad, he would be one of our great stories.”
Kirk told reporters that James was working for Randy’s Carpets in Coralville and training for the NFL when the Broncos called.
“Basically he was moving carpet around,” Kirk Ferentz said. “I don’t think they actually let him put it down. He’s not that refined. You know, that’s what he was doing, and training here. It’s a good story of sticking with your dream and chasing it.
“I encourage all of our guys in your 20s, that’s what your 20s are for in my mind, chase your dreams a little bit and see where they take you. You’ve got your whole life to work a real job. It’s great. I’m really happy for him.”