IOWA CITY, Iowa Kirk Ferentz twice Wednesday led into a statement about the Hawkeyes' disappointing 2012 season with reference to the national deficit.
It only got worse from there.
Right off the bat, Ferentz was asked if offensive coordinator Greg Davis would be retained. Forget the stats they were among the worst in Ferentz's 14 seasons for the offense if that's the first question out of the chute for a postseason news conference, that's pretty much everything you need to know about the 2012 Hawkeyes.
Well, there's this, too: Iowa finished 11th in the Big Ten in scoring and total offense and 111th nationally in scoring and 114th in total offense.
"As far as I know, yeah," Ferentz said when asked about Davis, who in his first season presided over an offense that generated 310.4 yards a game, lowest since 2000.
Pressed further . . .
"I think Greg is an excellent football coach, I think he's a tremendous professional and a tremendous person," Ferentz said. "I have every bit of confidence that Greg will be in . . . and I don't want to get into tenures or job security and all that stuff, that's really not what we're here for, but Greg's a tremendous football coach and we wouldn't have brought him here 10 months ago if we didn't feel that way.
"I feel stronger about the kind of coach and person he is now after working with him."
Probably don't read too much into that pause. This is five days after a 4-8 disaster that saw Iowa's season end with a six-game losing streak, the quarterback throw the fewest TDs since 1999 (single-digit TD passes have happened just three times in the last 31 seasons at Iowa) and the defense allow 5.54 yards a play (worst since 2003).
Ferentz acknowledged at the outset that all of the rumors about assistant coaches, resignations and transfers weren't true and wouldn't be discussed. This is all still very fresh and so Ferentz might well be in a "no declarations" mode.
"This won't be as interesting and dramatic as maybe people want it to be," he said.
On if he'd consider any tweaks in a coaching staff that was overhauled prior to 2012 (all but two assistants changing positions): "We're 4-8 right now, so I think we have to be open to everything, be it staff, players, where guys line up, all those types of things," Ferentz said. "It's not something you typically make a rash decision on. It's things you have to look at, and I think we have to look at how all the pieces to the puzzle fit together."
Asked if he anticipates changes, Ferentz said too early to tell, see how it plays out.
The hot transfer rumor that whisked around Iowa-dom last week centered on quarterback Jake Rudock. Ferentz said that definitely wasn't true.
"The fact that the player in question came and grabbed me yesterday morning after the meeting and said, 'Could I visit with you,' " Ferentz said. "We sat down at 2 o'clock, and it was the exact opposite of him going [transferrring] to New Orleans."
Ferentz talked about "swings of momentum" this season injuries to running back Mark Weisman and season-ending injuries to O-linemen Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal and not being good enough to "push through."
"We had a lot of good guys working their tails off this year, but we just didn't have enough," Ferentz said.
Beyond sending the offensive coordinator into the sunset, there was no talk about changing schemes. Ferentz was asked about philosophy and he boiled it down to what Iowa does best when it's working at its best.
"Defensively, if you miss tackles and give up big plays [Iowa allowed 20 20-plus yard plays during a 0-for-4 November], you're not going to successful," he said. "Offensively, if you don't block people . . . Some people can move the ball without blocking, that's become a new art, but I don't think fits here. I don't think that's ever going to fit here. It'd be really tough to pull off.
"My biggest thing is we're doing things that are smart fundamentally, where people turn on the film and say, 'hey, that team is coached.' Quite frankly, there were some times this year where you can't say that."
Ferentz said Iowa has a "deficit." It's a matter of facing it head on.
"I'm not going to try to spin that [4-8 in '12]," Ferentz said. "That's like saying 'what $15 trillion deficit?' There is one and it ain't going away, so we've got to knock our deficit down.
"We've got to realize there is one and work on that."
– Fullback Brad Rogers will undergo back surgery this offseason. He missed four games and played sparingly this season. Ferentz said one other starter from 2012 might face surgery, but didn't name the player or injury.
– O-linemen Brandon Scherff (broken fibula, dislocated ankle) and Andrew Donnal (ACL) should be full speed this spring, Ferentz said. Also, cornerback Jordan Lomax (torn labrum) and safety Ruben Lile (ACL) should be good to go this spring. Ferentz said Lomax has a strong shot at one of the starting corner spots.
– Iowa will have three contenders at quarterback next fall, sophomore Jake Rudock, junior Cody Sokol and redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard. Here's what Ferentz said he'd be looking for: "Who moves the team, who reacts under pressure, who is accurate throwing the football, and who has leadership capabilities? All of those kinds of things. There is a lot that goes into it. I think all three of the guys are eager to compete."
– On recruiting needs: "We have three senior linebackers, but we're thin and we've been depleted there medically, so that is certainly a concern. Then on the offensive side, guys who could score touchdowns would be a good thing. We've got a couple, so if we could get some more, that would be great."