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Kirk Ferentz met with the media for about ten minutes following the Hawkeyes Tuesday morning practice at Kinnick Stadium. Ferentz says there's been no decision at the quarterback position as they head into their final week of practice before the start of game week on Sunday. He also discusses the suspension of starting cornerback Manny Rugamba and which true freshmen might play this fall.
We are wrapping up the preseason and it’s been interesting because we have had three different phases.
We had a week where we were finishing summer school, so we were practicing in the evening and meeting in the morning. Two weeks of pure camp, which is a coaches dream. Then obviously started classes yesterday, so all the students are back on campus. It was a new set of challenges starting last Saturday when everyone was in town and really nothing to do. Then classes began yesterday.
It was good for us to get into the in school routine, if you will and for us to get back into our routine a little bit. Then obviously everyone is anxious to get into the next phases, which will be game week, next week, starting on Sunday.
Overall, I am pleased with the way the guys have worked. Needless to say, we have a lot of work to do still as we get ready for the first ball game.
Three points to share with you. First, Manny Rugamba will not be playing in the first game. He will be serving a one game suspension. That is for a violation of team policy that took place in the out of season. We will move on after that and he will be welcomed back to normal status after serving the one game suspension.
On the injury front, really nothing major to report. For the most part, the dicey guys that we have right now are on the second team, third team, and below that. On one hand, that’s good news, but on the other hand, some guys have missed time like always in camp. You like to see guys out there in camp to see how they are improving and it takes away from them moving forward.
Last thing and probably the biggest thing for everybody at your end is the quarterback situation. We will have a starter named by Monday at the latest. Right now, I am not sure when that decision will get made. The competition remains close. Both guys are doing a really good job and have certainly improved since the spring and I think they have made progress in the practices that we have had since then. We will make a decision here in the next couple of days and make that announcement on Monday and move forward from there. Game week starts on Sunday and we will start preparing for the first ball game. I think I speak for the players in saying that everyone is eager and anxious to get back into Kinnick. It was great to be in here for Kids Day. The fans were great that day and they will certainly be a lot more lively and festive when we get back in here a week from Saturday.
Q: You had said that you had a scrimmage on Friday and hoped to have some clarity after that at quarterback. Is it not clear because the guys are playing so well or are you looking for something?
FERENTZ: As I said, both guys have improved, but no one is pulling away from one another. It’s still neck and neck and we continue to rotate the guys with the one’s and the two’s. At some point we are going to have to make a decision and we will do that by Monday for sure.
Q: Do you sit down with the offensive staff and determine who the quarterback will be?
FERENTZ: Yeah, at some point we will all sit down and talk. We have been doing that every day, not just periodically. We evaluate all the players every day and it is certainly a little more prominent position. If one guy had pulled away by now we would have gone ahead and named him. Right now it’s still pretty close.
Q: Who steps in for Manny when he’s suspended?
FERENTZ: That would be OJ, Ojemudia.
Q: How comfortable do you feel with Ojemudia in there for Rugamba?
FERENTZ: We have had three guys playing really well in camp. The challenge is finding the fourth guy and fifth. That’s where we are at right now. I think all three of those guys, since the spring, have been playing at a pretty good level. If I had to name the next guy at this point it would be Matt Hankins. We have time to make those decisions too. We have known about this, as I alluded to, so we have been working with that in mind.
Q: What has Hankins done to impress you so far?
FERENTZ: We have had several freshmen do a good job. It’s a good group guys and a lot of DB’s that are first year guys. He has demonstrated the physical wherewithal and getting what we are doing systematically. Right now he is in the lead, but that could change by next week. He has done a good job.
Q: How much of the QB race is those guys trying to pick up the offense and translate the new offense?
FERENTZ: I don’t think the translation has been all that hard for them. You would have to ask them, but I think that’s been pretty smooth. The biggest thing is getting comfortable and them getting comfortable with their teammates because we have had a lot of moving parts in there in the passing game. I think it’s a combination of that. It would probably be easier for both of them if we had a lot of returners in the perimeter. We don’t and that’s made it different and a little tougher for us to evaluate as well. I am comfortable that we will be ready to play next Saturday. Whoever is leading us and whoever is playing receiver, tight end and all those things is going to have to do a good job.
Q: Is it tougher to evaluate the quarterbacks or the receivers?
FERENTZ: It’s everyone combined. It’s the chemistry and gelling of things. It looks a lot better than it did in April. Clearly we weren’t there in April and two weeks ago it was hit and miss, but we are gaining ground. Any time you have new players, you are going to have that.
Q: Are you confident that a quarterback will emerge or do you think you just have to pick one?
FERENTZ: If they don’t, then we will pick one. Sometimes it’s not scientific. A lot of times it’s not. That’s true at all positions. You judge the body of work and then you go with it. If that is the case, it’s a delicate balance. We will keep an open mind and whoever it is that’s in there doesn’t need to be looking over their shoulder. That’s not healthy and you don’t want that at any position. As we move forward in the season, and it’s true at all positions, if guys are struggling, we are going to give someone else an opportunity. We are just looking for gradual gains. That’s all we are looking for. It’s true at every position.
Q: What have you liked about Stanley and Wiegers so far in camp? Stanley clearly beat him out last year.
FERENTZ: Not clearly. He beat him out and we had to make a decision there. That was a close decision. That’s just how it works. Every year you evaluate differently and let guys compete. Last year, Nate was slightly ahead of Tyler and right now it’s pretty much neck and neck. We will see where it is this weekend and make a decision.
Q: Is it where one has more arm talent?
FERENTZ: No. It’s who plays the position the best. If it was that simple, we would have them all stand at the 50 see who can throw it the furthest. Jon Alt used to be able to throw it 75 yards. It’s who plays the positon the best and leads the team. That’s really what it comes down to. None of us are really going to know until we get into game activity anyway. That’s with every decision with every player.
Q: Which true freshmen are you thinking about playing beyond Hankins?
FERENTZ: I mentioned Hankins. I will probably talk more about that next week. We are still evaluating that and there are a handful of guys that are going to play. Maybe like last year, it will be on special teams that we start with. That’s usually how it works. Then they hopefully factor into the two deep.
Q: What do you like about Stanley? What do you like about Wiegers?
FERENTZ: (laugh) I like both guys. They are both outstanding young people. They are both really good students. The way they carry themselves, they carry themselves like quarterbacks. They have different personalities. Every quarterback that we have had over the 18 years has had a different personality. That isn’t the key. The key is who moves the team the best.
Q: Do you have to develop a different game plan for each of them?
FERENTZ: No, they are similar in that way. We won’t need to do that.
Q: At wide receiver, have you seen guys emerge since we saw them at Kids Day?
FERENTZ: I wouldn’t say emerge, but we are making progress. It’s fair to say that we will have young guys playing at that position and they are going through the up’s and down’s, which usually happens with first year guys.
Q: How has Quarells progressed?
FERENTZ: He’s good. He’s getting there. He has a lot to learn because he is new and that’s tough on him. He is new because he had to sit out however long that was so he is catching up. Great young guy and he has a chance to help us.
Q: What have you seen from a leadership standpoint from Akrum thus far?
FERENTZ: Akrum is having a really good camp and he’s acting like a senior. We are really pleased with that. He is practicing well and conducting himself well. He has always had a positive vibe on the field and he’s showing up every day ready to go.
Q: Is Matt VandeBerg fully healthy?
FERENTZ: Yeah. He is practicing well and we need him out there certainly.
Q: At what point do you think Quarells can help you?
FERENTZ: I’m not that smart, but I think he can help us this year. He is gaining ground in every practice, but it’s just, I’m not going to say unfair because it is what it is, but it put him behind in the race because we couldn’t coach him at all. The good news is he’s a college graduate, so he’s a little smarter than the average bear and hopefully he will move forward faster.
Q: What about the kickers? Is that still pretty tight?
FERENTZ: Yeah, it’s still pretty tight. I think we have seen a little separation there and we will hit that on Tuesday.