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Iowa football: An analysis of the offensive line

[ 0 ] August 14, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Brian Ferentz doesn’t waste his time talking about potential. The buzzword for Iowa’s offensive line coach is consistency.

“We expect to have a good offensive line every year,” Ferentz said. “I think there were times last year where we met that expectation, and times when we couldn’t have been further away from that expectation.”

Iowa’s line was rounding into form until starting left tackle Brandon Scherff and starting right guard Andrew Donnal were injured in a three-play sequence against Penn State and lost for the season. Iowa lost its last six games and averaged just 91.3 yards on the ground during that stretch.

Iowa lineman Brandon Scherff (68) participates in a practice at Valley Stadium on Sunday, April 14, 2013 in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Charlie Litchfield/The Des Moines Register)

Iowa lineman Brandon Scherff (68) participates in a practice at Valley Stadium on Sunday, April 14, 2013 in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Charlie Litchfield/The Des Moines Register)

Analysis: The Hawkeyes’ defensive line

Scherff and Donnal are back, and there is talent at every position across the line. There’s depth, too, but not of experience.

“So do we have potential to be good? Sure, we have potential to be good every year,” Ferentz said. “What we have to do is make that a reality.”

The centers

Austin Blythe (6-3, 275, so.), who started nine games at right guard in 2012, is the heir apparent to replace three-year starter James Ferentz. “That’s something I want to build on,” Blythe said. Brian Ferentz said Blythe is “very quick in the short area, he’s very explosive, very powerful.”

Eric Simmons (6-2, 300, so.) is listed as the backup at both center and left guard. He redshirted last season after transferring from Iowa Western. “He’s probably a guy, if we did it all over again, we would have taken right out of high school (Madrid),” Ferentz said. “He’s learned two positions. He’s got a chance to really help us.”

Tommy Gaul (6-3, 277, jr.) is another option. “He’s got a good skill set for the position,” Ferentz said. “Very quick, very smart. If we can continue to put a little weight on him, I think he can help us.”

The guards

Left guard Conor Boffeli (6-5, 290, sr.), who came to Iowa a tight end, started last year’s last three games. “He’s a really talented guy,” Ferentz said. “He was always in a spot where there was a lot of depth ahead of him.”

Listed as the starter at right guard is Jordan Walsh (6-4, 270, so.). He has one career start and seven appearances. His backup is redshirt Mitch Keppy (6-5, 295, fr.).

“I think all of our young guys have responded pretty well to the pressure and that really excites me about the future,” Ferentz said.

The tackles

Brandon Scherff (6-5, 310, jr.) started the first seven games last season until getting injured. “We expect him to play at a high level here at left tackle moving forward,” Ferentz said.

Andrew Donnal (6-7, 305, jr.) is Scherff’s backup, and a versatile option. Ferentz said that Donnal can play guard or tackle. He started three games last season, switching from left tackle to right guard, before getting injured. Also at left tackle is oft-injured Nolan McMillan (6-6, 294, sr.). “On a personal level, I really want to see Nolan succeed,” Ferentz said.

Brett Van Sloten (6-7, 292, sr.) anchors the right tackle spot. He started all 11 games last season. “We’re looking to lead the offense,” Van Sloten said. “It all starts with us.”

Backing him up is Ryan Ward (6-5, 290, fr.). Ward redshirted last season, but he traveled out of necessity even though Ferentz said playing him and burning a season of eligibility “would have been very unfair to Ryan. As a function of depth, Ryan was elevated and got to practice with us. I think that was really beneficial to him.”


Iowa signed two linemen in February — Colin Goebel (6-5, 280, Lisle, Ill.) and Sean Welsh (6-3, 285, Springboro, Ohio). “Both those guys have come in and done a very good job,” Ferentz said. “Boone Myers has, too (6-5, 270, walk-on freshman from Webster City).”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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