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UI flush with O-line options

[ 1 ] August 11, 2012 |

Two summers ago, Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh shuttled back and forth from Williamsburg to Iowa City on County Road F46.

Now Blythe and Walsh are ready to step into their roles as the next great offensive linemen for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

“For a guy to be ready in his second year, and I think we have two guys that are close, is really a testament to what they do,” Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz said. “They carry themselves a certain way. They don’t act like freshmen.”

Blythe, particularly, is regularly taking snaps with the first team during the early part of camp.

“I don’t look at that,” Blythe said. “I’m just worried about coming out here and getting better and doing things to the best of my ability.

“Things will shake out how they shake out.”

Blythe did rave about Walsh, who is behind him on the depth chart.

“He’s got a tenacious attitude,” Blythe said. “Every time almost, he’s on the ground on top of somebody. He finishes like nobody else on the team.

“That’s a tribute to his work ethic and his attitude.”

The pair became friends after rooming together at the 2011 Offense-Defense All-American Bowl.

“We played Xbox together and had a good time,” Walsh said. “We just connected really well.”

Well enough that when Walsh was having trouble lining up a place to stay the summer before his freshman year, Blythe rolled out the red carpet.

“I knew I was going to be at home, and I asked my parents if he could stay with us,” Blythe said. “They said that’s fine.”

Walsh came from Glendale Heights, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, so it was only a minor culture shock to stay in Williamsburg.

“I had a lot of friends from high school we’d go and hang out with,” Blythe said. “He was kind of shocked with how many people I did know in Williamsburg.

“We went out golfing a few times and everyone would wave. He’d be like, ‘Man, how do you know so many people?’ Price of living in a small town.”

The two would take that road from Williamsburg that turned into Melrose Avenue in Iowa City almost every day to work out and prepare for the season.

“Him and his family took care of me a lot and I really appreciate that,” Walsh said.

Both redshirted last season and both impressed the coaches this spring.

“Austin did a real nice job in the spring, and the other true freshman last year, Jordan Walsh, was right behind him,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Austin was probably more consistent throughout the spring … whereas Jordan really climbed it fast, in 15 days.

“Both those guys are certainly in contention for starting spots right now.”

Despite losing three seniors — including first-round NFL Draft pick Riley Reiff and fifth-round pick Adam Gettis — Iowa has lots of options on the O-line.

Senior James Ferentz returns with 26 straight starts at center. Sophomore Brandon Scherff is hoped to be the next great left tackle.

Senior Matt Tobin started 10 games at left guard last season. And junior right tackle Brett Van Sloten got his trial by fire in the Insight Bowl when the starter got sick.

“(Scherff) has got an opportunity to be a really good football player. I really feel that way about a lot of our young linemen,” Kirk Ferentz said. “But it’s going to take a little time certainly.”

The new offensive line is pushing his unit to embrace the idea of becoming the Bullies of the Big Ten.

“Coach Brian just talks about it a lot,” Blythe said. “It’s something we’ve embraced as an offensive line. As a whole team, really.”

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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