By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Brian Ferentz showed his gift for gab while addressing the media on Tuesday.
In other words, it was a typical press conference for the Iowa football team’s outspoken 36-year old offensive coordinator and son of head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Brian Ferentz joked with reporters and even suggested that one of them should be hired by Iowa after having asked a question that was filled with specific details about player usage from last season.
Brian Ferentz also violated an NCAA rule by mentioning the name of Iowa running back recruit Gavin Williams, and then Brian acknowledged seconds later that he had violated a rule.
Williams is a nearing the end of his junior year at West Des Moines Dowling and has yet to sign a national letter of intent.
College coaches are prohibited from talking publicly about a specific recruit before the recruit has signed a national letter of intent.
What Brian Ferentz said wouldn't be considered a serious violation and probably would draw only a warning from the NCAA, if anything.
Brian Ferentz also downplayed the potential impact of the 2019 NFL Draft, which starts on Thursday and is expected to have at least four Iowa players selected, including tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, both of whom project as potential first-round picks.
Brian Ferentz was asked if the draft could serve as a commercial for the Iowa tight ends, and he answered by reminding the media about what happened with former Cedar Falls offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher, who de-committed from Iowa in 2013 to sign with Alabama.
Brian Ferentz never mentioned Pierschbacher’s name, but it was obvious that is to whom he was referring.
“I've been around here a long time,” Brian Ferentz said. “I don't know that things always work that way. We have a better history and better track record than anybody in the country producing offensive linemen. Five years ago, an offensive linemen left this state to go somewhere else. Now, I'm sure he'll get drafted and have a great career. Had an excellent college career.
“But you would think it was a no-brainer you would come here if you were an offensive lineman. Well, he didn't and he was from right up the road. If you're a running back, why wouldn't you come here? Our stated goal is we want to run the football.”
One could argue that Pierschbacher outgrew his commitment to Iowa. He stayed loyal until the premier program in college football made him an offer that he just couldn't refuse.
And the decision to attend Alabama certainly has paid off for Pierschbacher, considering he started for three seasons at Alabama, won two national titles and is expected to be selected in the NFL Draft.
“You think of in-state guys, it's fairly rare for us to get a big recruit at that position,” Brian Ferentz said. “We're pleased with that, certainly, but when you look at historically -- it's not always correlated. Why wouldn't you come here? A thousand reasons, I guess. I don't know what they are.
“We should have a pretty good TV commercial Thursday night. Hopefully, guys are watching. But ultimately, it's still going to come down to recruiting the right guys.”
Brian Ferentz's comment about how rare it is for Iowa to land a big-time offensive lineman recruit caused me to ask him why that is the case.
Because I too have wondered over the years why Iowa doesn’t attract more heralded offensive linemen recruits, considering Iowa’s success with developing NFL offensive lineman and considering that Kirk Ferentz’s area of expertise is the offensive line.
Iowa has landed a few big-time offensive linemen recruits under Kirk Ferentz, most notably Bryan Bulaga and James Daniels.
But most of the offensive linemen who have played for Kirk Ferentz at Iowa were considered average as recruits.
“We recruit them,” Brian Ferentz said of the big-time recruits. “We try to get involved with them and often we do get involved with them and we've had some guys come in that were pretty highly recruited. James (Daniels) probably was the last guy, and Bulaga.
“If Tristan was anywhere but Mount Vernon, I think he probably would have been more highly recruited. Alaric, that was a dogfight till the end. I think it was us and Michigan at the end.”
Brian Ferentz was referring to Iowa’s starting offensive tackles, Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson.
Neither was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, but both are now showing NFL potential as they continue to develop at Iowa.
There isn’t one simple answer for why Iowa has struggled to sign blue chip recruits under Kirk Ferentz.
It is weird that more star running backs haven’t signed with Iowa, considering how much Iowa relies on its running game to build an identity on offense.
There are some cases where star recruits are only interested in signing with a blue blood program such as Alabama or Ohio State, while others are more influenced by things like the weather.
Iowa is also known for being a no-nonsense program where the team always comes first and where substance means more than style.
“I don't have a good answer: Brian Ferentz said. “The last thing I want to do, I spent a lot of time trying to crawl into the mind of a 16- and 17-year-olds. It's a scary place. My mind is a scary place. I know my mind when I was 16 offer 17 was frightening, probably downright terrifying, if you have kids that age, it's not easy.
“You think ultimately, it just depends on what you're selling. We sell what we are, and we're never going to change that. We're going to be very honest and we're going to be very direct and basically announce to you what it's going to be when you get here because if we don't, it won't work. You know, you can't -- you can't promise things and not deliver them so, we try to under promise and over deliver. I don't know if that's always the best sales tactic but we've had success with it."
Iowa had an advantage in recruiting James Daniels out of Ohio because his older brother, LeShun Daniels, was a running back for Iowa at the time.
"He was the right pick -- I mean, the right fit, and we had a lot of history with the family, too,” Brian Ferentz said. “Make no mistake, recruiting a brother is pretty easy. I don't know how much credit we deserve for recruiting James Daniels. We've recruited several sets of brothers and I've never lost on a brother where we had the older one. Usually whoever wins on the first one gets the brother.
“James Daniels, I think we had some inherent advantages.”