Ferentz speaks at Big Ten media days

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz was the first coach to take the podium on the second day of Big Ten Media Days.

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Ferentz speaks at Big Ten media days

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Katina Zentz

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Katina Zentz

Katina Zentz

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

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CHICAGO — Kirk Ferentz took center stage at Big Ten media days as the first coach to speak on July 19.

The head man for the Hawkeyes didn’t deny that Iowa had lost some key talent and will have a different team in this season. After all, it’s true.

Four former Hawkeyes declared early for the NFL Draft in tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, defensive back Amani Hooker, and defensive end Anthony Nelson.

The biggest hole may come at tight end, where Fant and Hockenson — both first-round selections — flourished last season.

Ferentz compared the losses to the 2002 season, when the Hawkeyes were left without Heisman runner-up Brad Banks at quarterback and Mackey Award-winning tight end Dallas Clark.

Yet, he said he’s confident in the abilities of their successors, including Nate Wieting, Shaun Beyer, and Drew Cook.

“You don’t replace guys like that,” Ferentz said. They’re legendary players, if you will, for a reason. They just end up climbing the ladder and what have you, and I think any time you talk about losing a first-round player, that’s a pretty special accomplishment.

“We’re going to go with the guys that we have on the roster, and I think if you look at guys like Nate Wieting, who’s had some injury issues. I think he’s a really good football player, and I think he’s just waiting for his opportunity. He’s practiced well, trained well. I’m very confident he’ll play very well for us. Shaun Beyer is a guy who hasn’t put it all together yet, but he’s got the potential to do that, and this will be a great time for him to take a big step forward. Drew Cook was out this past spring, but we think Drew can help us at that position, as well.”

That’s important because veteran quarterback Nate Stanley needs pass-catchers.

Stanley enters the season as one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten, often finding himself ranked high on the list by analysts while finding himself toward the middle of the pack other times.

Ever since Stanley first played for the Hawkeyes, Ferentz has had confidence in him. Now, as his quarterback prepares for his final season, he wants to see continued improvement.

“I think it’s critical on any football team if you’re best guys aren’t improving or if they’re not playing their best, you’re not going to have a good football team, and Nate embraces that,” Ferentz said.

Sure things and question marks aside, Iowa remains one of the favorites to take home the Big Ten West title. The Hawkeyes finished second to Nebraska in Cleveland.com’s poll, and both teams received 14 first-place votes from a panel of media members across the conference.

Iowa lost four games last season, but if one or two things in those losses had gone the other way, things could have been different. Ferentz knows that.

“For us historically, we have to be able to win close games, and then I think bigger and more importantly, the bigger picture, we have to really be improvement-driven,” Ferentz said. “We’d better be getting better, and that’s true any day of the week, that’s true any month of the year. If we’re not moving forward, we’re going to have a hard time being successful.”

Outside of his team’s performance this season, Ferentz has one other main hang-up: recruiting.

“The speed of recruiting right now, to me, is really concerning,” he said. “In a logical world, you would wait for everybody to finish their careers, evaluate them, and then go about the recruiting process, kind of like the NFL does it … But that’s the world we’re living in, so you just adjust and adapt to it.”