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July 24, 2017

Kirk Ferentz

Chicago, Illinois

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.

KIRK FERENTZ: Good afternoon. I'm sure, like every coach that's been up here, we're certainly eager to get started here on Sunday, and this has been a really good football team to work with since back in January. I think they've done a nice job handling each step along the way. But certainly eager to get on the field and see how this team develops and continues to grow.

We had some good moments last fall. Like every year you graduate some outstanding players, outstanding seniors. Last year's no exception. But at the same time we have good players coming back and some guys that we think are really good prospects as well. So kind of eager to get there.

Like every year you have areas of strength returning, areas where you're not experienced and you're trying to measure up your team a little bit. And that's certainly, as we get started next week, something we're really anxious to tune in on.

I think if you just look at our team in a nutshell our inexperience is really on the perimeter both offensively and defensively, including the quarterback position.

And then I think I'd be remiss if I didn't include our specialist, our kicking competition is still in effect. We're not sure who our punter is right now, much like the quarterback. And we lost a tremendous returner in Desmond King, somebody that won't be easily replaced. So those are things that we're focused on. If you want to talk about strengths the closer we are to the football, that's probably where we're a little more experienced.

So it's all how the team comes together. This is certainly the talk season right now, the training season. And you can only talk so much and you can only train so much, and then it is time to move into the next phase. So we're excited about that. And, like I said, we'll begin, typically it's in August. This year, for the second time at least in my career in college, second time it's going to start up in July. So we'll get started on Sunday and eager to get it going.

Q. In the same year you've seen Bob Stoops step down at a relatively young age, obviously the unfortunate passing of Bobby Elliott, what does it mean to you right now to be the nation's senior coach right now?
KIRK FERENTZ: Oh, you know, I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it. Bob's a really, I think we consider each other to be good friends. Bob was a player at Iowa when I got there in 1981. He was a junior and a captain on the '82 ball club.

Then we worked together four or five years before he went to Kent State. So Bob's a tremendous guy. And just he's done an unbelievable job at Oklahoma. Great job as an assistant and then when he had his opportunity at Oklahoma, just has been fantastic for them, their institution, certainly good for college football, really good for college football. So in my mind we lost one of the good coaches in this game, one of the best coaches that's ever coached.

But I'm happy for him. He's totally at peace. We've talked. I saw him a week ago and then Bob Elliott again. I think these are all reminders how precious life is and how precious opportunity is.

Now I feel very, very fortunate. This will be my, I guess, 28th year at Iowa, and feel fortunate that in 1981 I somehow, some way I ended up there as an assistant.

Q. I know how much you love to talk about depth charts, one of your favorite topics. But today you listed two starting tight ends, multiple tight ends in your starting line up, in the depth chart you released. Why the change?
KIRK FERENTZ: Accentuate the positive, I guess. It's an area that we think has a chance to be a strength on our football team. It's well documented, at least in our state, that we're inexperienced at receiver position. Certainly great to get Matt VandeBerg back. But I think it's fair to say that we'll play with multiple tight ends frequently, at least until some of the other guys get caught up a little bit.

So we were pleased with what we saw in the spring, just wanted to recognize that. But to your first point, depth charts really are pretty meaninglessly almost everywhere this time of year. But a month from now, six weeks from now they start to have a little bit more relevance.

Q. One of the three players that you brought here, Sean Welsh, published that very heartfelt, very revealing, very emotional op-ed on the school website. What were some of your thoughts when you first heard that he was going to do that? And how do you feel about some of the reaction that you've received from the publication of it?
KIRK FERENTZ: Sean came to me probably a month ago, five weeks ago, somewhere in that ballpark and said he had an interest in doing so. And talked to several people about it outside our program, just to get their vantage point on it. But it was with the attitude of hopefully that we could go ahead and move forward with it without any visible downside.

And I think it just speaks volumes about Sean as an individual, what a courageous young man he is. To watch him wage this fight the last couple of years has been more than impressive.

And we get to watch guys play football. It's a tough, competitive game. But to watch a guy deal with an issue like this the way he has, is so important and so impressive and also obviously the support network that he had available to him, everybody was just fantastic.

So I really commend him for wanting to come forward. And it was all in the spirit of trying to help other people, whether it's college-aged students, athletes. Certainly depression doesn't discriminate. Anybody is potentially vulnerable to it.

I think him coming forward and handling it the way he did is so commendable and hopefully it helps other people down the road.

Q. Coach, talk about your opener. That's got to be a tricky game with Wyoming.
KIRK FERENTZ: I'm trying to figure out who scheduled that game, actually. Wyoming was struggling a little bit years ago. And Coach Bohl's has done an unbelievable job, no big surprise.

Just a tremendous job bringing that program back in short time and building it step-by-step. And anybody that's familiar with the work he did at North Dakota State, I think it would not come as a surprise.

But what is a surprise a little bit is that quarterback, he's just a fantastic football player. He's got a really interesting story, but the bottom line is he played great last year.

But it was more than just him. They have an excellent football team. They were division champs, and we expect a real tough battle in our first contest. We're going to need to be ready.

Q. Akrum Wadley, a lot of hype about him. Do you see any kind of next-level NFL potential in him and what are your expectations for a big named tailback this season?
KIRK FERENTZ: There's some talk of that at the end of last year. I know he gave a little bit of thought to it. I don't mean this in a disrespectful way, I thought that was a little bit premature.

We've been with Akrum now for four years, coached in the National Football League, and I think we were aware of some things that we felt like he needed to do.

It's really been fun. Akrum is a very talented young guy, like Matt VandeBerg, both of them were undersized when they showed up at our place four-plus years ago, but they've both worked very hard.

And the turning point, in my mind, for Akrum was the 2015 season, we were playing up here on the road without LeShun Daniels, who was out with an injury, then (indiscernible) went down early in the game, and that was the day that Akrum really took a major step forward, I think, in his performance.

He just understood we needed him, we were counting on him; he delivered beautifully, and since that time he's just grown with each and every week.

So he's a very talented guy. He's a more mature, physically mature player than he was a year ago at this time, which will let him play at a higher in our conference.

And like all of our players, you hope they all grow and improve. He's certainly done that. We think he's poised to have a tremendous year. Has a great attitude, loves football is, good with his teammates. I'm thrilled he's on our football team.

We're all keeping our fingers crossed. For us to have a successful season, we certainly need our best guys to play their best, and he's certainly one of our best players.

Q. Drake Kulick suffered a really ugly injury to his leg last year in the season finale. How has he progressed and will he be ready for August camp?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, we expect him to be full speed on Sunday. He's worked extremely hard. I think that's a topic that's talked about, but I think people don't really appreciate just how difficult it is to come back from an injury, and his was no fun, certainly when he experienced it.

I think as you well know, he's got a tremendous attitude. He's been a strong team leader on our football team.

He's put that attitude to work. He's fought through the ups and downs of recovery, through rehab, and has had a good summer. I'm not going to tell you he's going to be pain-free the whole season long, but he's been cleared and he's ready to term and have a great senior year.


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