- Erin Kirkland/Daily
By Ben Estes, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 15, 2012
It’s been a bumpy season for Iowa.
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Beset by injuries at running back and offensive line, including season-ending injuries for left tackle Brandon Scherff and right guard Andrew Donnal, the Hawkeyes have had a disappointing season. That includes quarterback James Vandenberg, who has struggled after emerging as one of the better signal-callers in the conference last season.
But fifth-year senior center James Ferentz — son of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and brother of first-year offensive line coach Bryan Ferentz — has been a steady force through all the ups and downs.
Back at Big Ten Media Days in July, the Daily sat down with Ferentz to discuss having family members as coaches, what Vandenberg brings to the table and his team’s success against Michigan in recent years.
The Michigan Daily: I’m sure you’ve been asked this plenty of times, but what’s it like to be coached by your dad?
James Ferentz: It’s a very unique situation. It’s something that, I can’t imagine there’s too many other kids (who) get to play for their dad in college football, let alone get coached by their brother, and then coached by their dad on top of that. It’s a very unique situation. I’m very thankful to be in it, and I’m just really trying to enjoy it since it’s so unique. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of other people that get to experience this.
TMD: I assume you call him “coach” and not “dad” when you’re with the team, right?
JF: Oh yeah. Now it’s just a little more confusing since we have two Coach Ferentzs (laughs).
TMD: Has your dad treated you like his son, or have you been like any other player over your time there?
JF: That was something that he did a great job of when I first came in. He was very hands off, he just treated me like another guy on the team. He let me make my own name. It was up to my to prove to my teammates that I wasn’t here just because of my last name, and that I belong.
TMD: Your quarterback is seemingly one of the few true dropback passers left in the Big Ten. What do you think of his place in the conference, which seems to have more dual-threat guys by the year?
JF: The Big Ten has a great crop of quarterbacks. You look at every team, I think everyone has one of the best quarterbacks. It’s hard to compare them because everyone has different styles, but I wouldn’t trade James for anybody else. Every time he’s on the field, I think we have the potential to win the game. When he also steps on the field, he makes everyone else around him better. So we’re really fortunate to have James back there, and as an offensive line, it motivates us to keep him upright and healthy.
TMD: For all he accomplished and all the numbers he put up last season, it seems like he’s something of a forgotten man in terms of getting attention and accolades and all that. Do you think he’s underappreciated by those outside Iowa?
JF: I just think he’s in a tight spot, because when you have players like Denard Robinson who are so electric and just phenomenal football players, maybe another year, different conference, he would be at the top of the list because he is definitely well deserving, but he’s just behind some other extraordinary football players.
TMD: But you guys certainly know what he’s capable of.
JF: It’s no mystery to me or the guys on the offensive line. I think I speak for the rest of the team, like I said, I honestly believe anytime Vandenberg steps on the field, we have the potential to win the game.
TMD: Last year’s game against Michigan was certainly a tightly-contested one. What are your memories of that matchup?
JF: I just remember the last play of the game, when we batted it down in the end zone. We were very fortunate to come out with the victory. This year obviously we’re going up to Ann Arbor, and it’s going to be a very difficult game. Coach Hoke’s done a great job with them, and we’re ready for a challenge.
TMD:(Redshirt junior offensive tackle) Taylor Lewan just mentioned how he hasn’t beaten Iowa yet in his four years. How have you guys been able to have so much success against Michigan in these last few years?
JF: I hadn’t even thought of it until you just said it to be honest with you. I think it’s just how we try and operate one game at a time, focus on the game at hand, because the most important step’s the one right in front of you.