CLINTON — Kirk Ferentz has joined fans in labeling his team’s 2012 season “disappointing.” The Hawkeyes — 4-8 last year — lost six straight to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten Conference, missing bowl season for the first time in five seasons. On Wednesday, he said winter felt “a lot like the ‘07 season.”
“In my mind, we sat there at the end of the season and we’re 4-8,” Ferentz told Clinton County I-Club members at their annual banquet at Wild Rose Casino. “There’s really nothing much you can say about it other than you need to go back to work.”
Ferentz talked about his team’s spring game, quarterback competition, new conference alignments (how it’s “easier for a coach like me to grasp”) and joked about radio personality Gary Dolphin’s views on the season. His speech constantly circled back to the direction of the team.
His team returned from an unwanted lengthy winter break in good shape, according to the coach. Ferentz added that they’ll return for the 2013 season a “more veteran, more physical team.”
“I told my players the past is the past, first and foremost,” Ferentz said. “Things do happen. Players do improve, and that’s really going to be at the core of what we’re focussed on and what happens to us next year.”
And while Iowa spent the past six months analyzing how to exchange losses with wins, changes around Hawkeye nation took place.
The conference added two new teams (Rutgers and Maryland) and abandoned the confusing (Leaders and Legends) divisions in favor of an East and a West. Iowa will play in the West Division that features Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Purdue. Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana make up the East.
“There’s a lot of talk right now about Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan (in the East),” Ferentz said. He added that doesn’t increase Iowa’s chances of securing a conference title. “The facts are that Wisconsin’s two-for-two in the new setup.”
He also quashed rumors that the staff has settled on a starting quarterback.
“We’re not quite ready to name a quarterback,” Ferentz said, jokingly adding, “Although, I had a few suggestions in the restroom.”
While in Clinton, the coach also discussed things local fans can look forward to. Casey Kreiter, a Central DeWitt graduate, will return for his senior season as Iowa’s long snapper.
“He’s an outstanding kid,” Ferentz said. “Hard worker, got a great attitude. He’s always prepared, and that’s representative of the kind of guy he is.”
With such a refined skill set, Ferentz said Kreiter has a bright future.
Again, even in side conversations, discussions with the coach continued to return to the team’s direction. Iowa will likely face at least five ranked opponents throughout the year, including an opening-day non-conference game against Northern Illinois, which made the 2012 Orange Bowl.
“Our schedule’s normally challenging,” he said. “I think the competition will be really stiff. I like the way our team has handled every step of the way so far.”
There are still a few months left before the season starts, and a lot of training to go, but for Ferentz the “path” of his team should lead to less disappointment.