LINCOLN, Neb. — If he was supposed to be engaged in a war of words with Brian Ferentz, it was news to Nebraska football coach Mike Riley.
Ferentz, Iowa’s new offensive coordinator, a former Hawkeyes lineman and the son of coach Kirk Ferentz, took a bat to the beehive last week when he appeared on the Hawk Central podcast and fired shots at rival programs Minnesota, Iowa State and — last but not least — the Cornhuskers:
“A lot of new staffs are selling kids on hope. They hope to win. They hope to graduate guys,” the younger Ferentz had said on the podcast.
“They hope to have former players go on and play in the National Football League. They hope to develop guys, because they’ve never done it. You watch the draft and it always amazes me all the guys that (say), ‘Congratulations to so-and-so,’ and they never even coached the guy. They didn’t develop them, but they’re quick to take credit for it.
“We recruit against a couple schools that talk about their (NFL) pipeline. I’m thinking of one a little bit west of Omaha that talks about their pipeline. I think they’ve had like two guys drafted in two years, so I’m not sure how much of the pipeline the coaches have contributed to. But perception is reality in recruiting, so you work against that a little bit.”
When a reporter asked Riley for comment Monday afternoon on the “little bit west of Omaha” jab, the Huskers coach demurred rather than fire back.
“I don’t know about that,” Riley said following an appearance at a downtown Lincoln luncheon.
So you didn’t hear it?
“No, no, I didn’t hear it,” the coach replied.
‘I was gone last week. I’m not sure what that means.’
— Nebraska coach Mike Riley on Iowa coordinator Brian Ferentz’s Cornhuskers jabs
“I didn’t hear it. I was gone last week. I’m not sure what that means. I don’t even know. I really don’t.”
When a reporter attempted to summarize Ferentz’s comments in a few seconds, Riley nodded, smiled politely, and elected to stay out of the fray.
“I don’t have reference to that,” he said. “So I better not comment.”
As for the younger Ferentz’s math, it was a little … well, off.
The Cornhuskers have actually seen five players drafted, combined, in 2016 and 2017, although only one — safety Nathan Gerry — was taken last month. The Hawkeyes have also had five players selected over the last two NFL drafts, with four this year but only one — center Austin Blythe — in 2016.