By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The Iowa football team, for the first time in two years, and for the 22nd time under Kirk Ferentz, will hold its media day event on Friday.
Last year’s event, like practically everything else during the summer of 2020, was canceled due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Iowa would go on to play a shortened eight-game schedule from late October to early December, finishing 6-2, but with both postseason games, including the Music City Bowl matchup against Missouri canceled due to Covid-19 issues with Iowa’s two opponents.
The current Iowa team is similar to a lot of Iowa teams under Ferentz, not a world beater by any means, but with a good, solid foundation on both offense and defense, a team capable of winning eight, nine, and maybe even 10 games with a little luck.
Depth rarely is a strength for Iowa, and this year is no exception. And with the virus still spreading, there is more to worry about than just injuries.
Kirk Ferentz will answer a wide range of questions on Friday, as will his assistant coaches and the Iowa players.
Ferentz will address the media at 2 p.m., followed by interviews with the Iowa assistant coaches from 2:30 to 3:15 and with the players from 3:15 to 4:45.
Iowa will also hold its Kids Day practice on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium after it, too, was canceled last summer.
In preparation for Friday’s media day, here are 10 questions for Kirk Ferentz, and my prediction for how he might answer them.
- At Big Ten media day in late July, you said that not quite 70 percent of your players had been fully vaccinated for the coronavirus. Has that percentage changed since then? And how concerned are you about player availability heading into the season?
Answer: My guess is that Ferentz would say the percentage has risen slightly since Big Ten Media Day, but without giving an exact number . He also also would say that the players still are deciding for themselves whether to get vaccinated, and that player availability should be a concern for every team.
2. It has been slightly more than a year since the racial unrest from last summer rocked your program, and tarnished your image. How different is the culture within the program now compared to when the accusations of racial disparities were made?
Answer: Ferentz would speak optimistically about the culture moving in the right direction, but would also say that the players are the best sources for information and insight in this case.
3. Has the gap at quarterback between starter Spencer Petras and backups Alex Padilla and Deuce Horgan narrowed at all since the start of preseason practice?
Answer: Ferentz would praise all three quarterbacks and would say that Padilla and Hogan are gaining ground and getting better with each practice. But Ferentz would also make it abundantly clear that Petras still is the starter, and that it’s still too early to know for sure how the competition behind Petras will play out.
4. You’ve coached some very talented and highly decorated offensive lineman at Iowa, and now your latest star is junior center Tyler Linderbaum. Who was the first person to suggest that he switch from defensive tackle to center? And how much of it was your idea?
Answer: Ferentz probably would say that he can’t remember specifically how it happened, especially if it was clearly his idea because he rarely toots his own horn, even if it’s the truth.
5. With Phil Parker so established and proven as your defensive coordinator, how much do you concern yourself with coaching defense? And did you learn anything from watching how Hayden Fry worked with his long-time defensive coordinator Bill Braisher?
Answer: Ferentz would say that Phil Parker makes his job so much easier because Ferentz knows the defense is in good hands, and all he would be doing is getting in the way. And then he would give one of his famous snorts.
6. You’re not big into ranking things, but is it fair to assume that this past year ranks among your toughest personally and professionally, with the global pandemic, the racial controversy and having to cut ties with Chris Doyle?
Answer: Ferentz would dismiss any thought of ranking the past year, because again, he isn’t into that kind of stuff. But he also would acknowledge how difficult that past year has been on him, but without going into much detail, and while stressing how important it is to learn from what happened and to grow.
7. With exception to last season’s Covid-19 condensed season, Iowa hasn’t faced a Big Ten opponent in a season opener since defeating Indiana 16-7 in Bloomington, Ind. in 1980. But now, ironically, Iowa faces Indiana in the 2021 season opener in barely three weeks, and the Hoosiers are on the rise under Tom Allen. So does that change your preseason routine at all? And would you prefer to not play a Big Ten opponent in the season opener?
Answer: Ferentz would say that the preseason practice routine hasn’t changed much, but he also would say that he prefers to not play a Big Ten opponent in the season opener.
8. Are you close to picking a starting five on the offensive line? And have your spent more time with the offensive line since first-year offensive line coach George Barnett is new to the program?
Answer: Ferentz would say that they’re getting close, but it’s still too early to know for sure due to the spirted competition at several positions. He also would praise Barnett and say that it’s business as usual.
9. Did you have any time to watch Major League Baseball’s Field of Dreams game between the Yankees and White Sox? If so, any thoughts?
Answer: Ferentz would say that he caught a glimpse of it between staff meetings, but wishes he could’ve watched more.
10. How much do you think geography should be a factor when, or if, the Big Ten Conference considers expanding again?
Answer: Ferentz would say in his self-deprecating way that his opinion doesn’t matter, and that he doesn’t expect the Big Ten to ask for his advice before saying that geography should be a factor.