IOWA CITY, Ia. Kirk Ferentz made it clear on Tuesday that he'll take whatever he can get from defensive coordinator Norm Parker, now and in the future. The Iowa coach said it would be completely up to his assistant when he chooses to retire.
"I will gladly use his spot for whatever role he wants to serve," Ferentz said. "If he just sits in here and watches tape and runs meetings, I don't care if he he goes to practice."
Ferentz said it didn't matter to him that he's limited by the NCAA in the number of coaches he can have on his staff. Norm is the defensive coordinator until he retires, no matter how much he can take on.
"All I will do is encourage him to stay here, but I won't do it to the point where he feels like he is letting people down when he walks away," Ferentz said. "That is his decision. It's like a guy getting a job offer on our staff; I will never tell a guy not to leave. That is their decision to make.
"In the meantime, Norm in any role here is what we are looking for and we have all agreed on that. That is how I feel. If he can be here in any role."
Parker has missed the last seven games after having his foot amputated on Sept. 10 due to complications from diabetes. He spoke to the team before the Oct. 23 Wisconsin contest and watched the game from the Kinnick Stadium press box on Saturday against Michigan State.
Parker will not travel to Indiana for this weekend's game, Ferentz said.
"Norm is gaining ground," Ferentz said. "I think we're probably anywhere from like five to eight days, based on what I know, before he comes home. We're gaining ground here. I think we're getting real close to him coming back home. The next step will be getting him in the office a couple hours a day, that type of thing."
Parker, whose coaching career began in 1965, joined Ferentz's staff when the head coach took over the program for the 1999 season. Ferentz didn't know Parker well and there were other candidates for the position.
"We interviewed three outstanding coaches for the spot and they all would have been fine," Ferentz said. "One has been a very successful Division I head coach. I was looking for a lot of attributes that Bill (Brazier) brought to the (Iowa) program in the 80's. Norm isn't from Texas but he had a lot of the same attributes that Bill had; just so solid."
LB SHUFFLE - Ferentz announced on Tuesday that the team would be without starting outside linebacker Tyler Nielsen for weeks. Later in the day, Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter Marc Morehouse quoted unnamed sources saying that Nielsen broke a vertebrae and likely miss the rest of the season.
Nielsen, Jeff Tarpinian and Jeremiha Hunter were projected as starters going into the season. Tarpinian has missed most of the campaign with various injuries and Hunter sat out the last game and a half with a leg injury. Iowa also lost second-team middle linebacker Bruce Davis to an ACL tear in Week 3,
The result has been a scramble to put together a cohesive unit. Ferentz sounded optimistic on Tuesday that Hunter and Tarpinian could make significant contributions on Saturday.
Who starts? Tough to say with any degree of certainty. If Hunter can start, he'll be on the weak side. My other guesses would be James Morris in the middle and Troy Johnson at Nielsen's spot. Ross Peterson and Shane DiBona also could work their way in there. If Tarpinian makes enough progress this week, he could open at the OLB spot or in the middle.
Ferentz said true freshman Christian Kirksey could see an increased role at linebacker.
"He's gaining ground, too," the coach said. "Probably have to play a more significant role this coming week. We'll keep pushing the young guys along. More opportunity now."
SASH LATERAL - Given an opportunity to review the Tyler Sash-to-Micah Hyde interception and lateral for a TD on Saturday, Ferentz poked fun at his strong safety:
"Looked as good on tape as it did Saturday," the coach said. I'm OK with that one. Not quite sure why I did it, but it worked out fine.
"Somebody alluded to Tyler's Sash's basketball career. I told you before, I saw him in sixth grade, seventh grade. He wasn't throwing many assists back then. If the ball went to him, it stayed there. It was usually going in the direction of the basket. He's matured. Football has brought out some good attributes in him."
WHERE'S A-ROB? - RB Adam Robinson, a fixture at the media gatherings, did not show up for Tuesday's press conference. He also was absent from Saturday's post-game get-together. He was requested by journalists at both sessions.
A poster on our premium message boards said he heard Adam was shaken up on the radio post-game show. Another poster said Robinson got up woozy after a hit. Ferentz did not address it Tuesday.
I'm poking around on this one. Could be nothing. Could definitely be something. Its rare when he misses the media opportunities.
THE RULES - Ferentz was asked to comment on recent news that the Iowa basketball program was found to have been quietly of secondary violations with the NCAA after recruits met with celebrity Ashton Kutcher:
"There's reasons they have rules and all that," Ferentz said. "I guess it could happen. We have players in the locker room, sometimes recruits come in the locker rooms. You have to make sure they have the code of silence. But you just have to be careful. That's all you can do.
"I'm not going to forbid our players from coming in the locker room, our former guys. I'm not going to tell an honorary captain he can't come in. We typically bring recruits in the locker room, too. It's just one of those deals. We try to keep them separate.
"From what I heard about the other case, it was very inadvertent. Those things happen all across the country. It's one of those deals.