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Harty: Scherff ready for his next challenge

[ 0 ] June 28, 2012 |

Brandon Scherff already has an interesting story to tell that’ll only get better if he becomes the Iowa football team’s next great offensive left tackle.

The only problem with his story is that some of his teammates don’t believe it because it seems a little far-fetched when you look at Scherff’s 6-foot-5, 310-pound body.

It’s one thing for a high school tight end to grow into a college left tackle, which has happened in spectacular fashion at Iowa with players like Robert Gallery and Brian Bulaga.

What doesn’t happen very often is a former high school quarterback morphing into a left tackle at the BCS level.

That’s why Scherff’s story is so unusual because he did it in less than five years.

He has gone from being a high school quarterback who passed for 1,200 yards as a sophomore in 2007 to Iowa’s starting left tackle as a redshirt sophomore.

His teammates are well aware of his story, but it takes some convincing at first.

“None of the incoming freshmen believe me,” Scherff said.

Scherff eventually moved to the trenches for his junior and senior seasons at Denison High School in western Iowa and that’s when college coaches took notice. He had the frame to weigh 300 pounds in college, but he also had the mobility to play quarterback and strength to win a state title in the shot put.

It was a rare combination that was worth investing in the opinion of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.

That investment is starting to pay dividends with Scherff expected to start at left tackle for Iowa’s season opener against Northern Illinois on Sept. 1 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

“I’ve got a long ways to go,” Scherff said when asked Wednesday if he was ready for the challenge of being Iowa’s starting left tackle.

The last two players to start at left tackle for Iowa were selected in the first round of the NFL draft after leaving college with a year of eligibility remaining.

Scherff is replacing Riley Reiff, who was taken 23rd overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2012 NFL draft.

Reiff became the starter at left tackle after Bulaga skipped his senior season in 2010 to enter the NFL draft. Bulaga also was taken 23rd overall by the Green Bay Packers.

Scherff credits Reiff for showing what it takes on a daily basis to succeed at the Big Ten level. Scherff was a sponge around Reiff, soaking in whatever he could to get better.

Scherff started three games at left guard last season, but he was being groomed to play left tackle.

“When we were watching film he could critique what I would do and what he would do,” Scherff said of Reiff. “And that’s helped me a lot. He told me to approach every play like it’s your last.”

Left tackle is one of the glamour positions in football, caused partly by the importance of protecting a right-handed quarterback’s blindside.

Senior James Vandenberg is the latest in a long line of starting quarterbacks for Iowa to throw right-handed. He also is coming off a season in which he passed for more than 3,000 yards, so to say that Vandenberg is important to the offense is stating the obvious.

“The backside of the quarterback, you’ve got to protect that,” Scherff said. “That’s the main thing. You don’t want your quarterback getting hurt.”

The offensive line has long been considered the strength of the Iowa program under Ferentz. The perception is that Iowa reloads more than it rebuilds up front.

That perception will be tested this coming season with three of the five starters from the 2011 offensive line needing to be replaced, including the tackles.

In addition to Reiff, two-year starting right tackle Markus Zusevics and starting right guard Adam Gettis have departed.

“We lose three great guys,” Scherff said. “But we’re going to keep working here and get stronger and hopefully nobody will notice the changes.

“(Iowa) is known for its offensive linemen, so we’ve got to try and carry a chip on our shoulders.”

Scherff said it’s too early to feel the pressure of trying to live up to the standards set by previous left tackles at Iowa.

He’s just taking it workout by workout and being diligent about watching film, improving his technique and listening to his new position coach, Brian Ferentz, who is Kirk’s oldest son and a former Iowa offensive lineman.

Scherff spent his first two seasons with Reese Morgan as his position coach. Morgan has since moved to defensive line coach, but Scherff said the transition has gone smoothly.

“Coach Morgan was an awesome coach,” Scherff said. “There really is no difference between those two. All I know is the defensive line got a great coach.”

Now it’s up to Scherff to prove that Iowa has another great left tackle.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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