IOWA CITY, Ia. – Forward thinking led Brandon Scherff to switch from quarterback to offensive lineman.
It also led the 6-foot-5, 315-pound left tackle back to the Iowa football program for his senior season.
“The reason I came back was to improve myself in all aspects of football, pass blocking, run blocking, finishing at the second level,” Scherff said Wednesday. “Just playing faster and smarter, hopefully becoming a better leader.”
Scherff and the Hawkeyes are nearing the midway point of spring workouts, and will hold an open practice Saturday in West Des Moines’ Valley Stadium.
His decision to postpone a career in the NFL gave Iowa an anchor for its offense.
“When a guy chooses to come back like that, it’s usually because he really still likes the college experience,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The energy and the positive vibes that a good established player shares with his teammates, it’s something that’s invaluable.”
Scherff also bring stability.
He is one of three returning starters on the line, along with center Austin Blythe and right guard Jordan Walsh.
Right tackle Andrew Donnal also has extensive experience.
“We had great leadership from our seniors last year,” Scherff said. “We’ve got to find some new guys to step up.
“That’s my goal. And hopefully, it’s a couple other people’s goal to step up with me.”
Before becoming a fixture up front, Scherff was in the backfield.
He was a sophomore quarterback for his high school team in Denison, passing for 1,200 yards.
“I don’t doubt that it happened,” Ferentz said with a chuckle, “but I want to see that video.
“I would think he could probably throw a ball 80 yards,” Ferentz added. “I know John Alt (another lineman) played here back in the 1980s and I have seen him throw a ball that far.”
Scherff realized his future was in the trenches when big-time programs began recruiting him.
After moving to tight end as a prep junior, Scherff became a lineman as a senior.
“He was probably 215 pounds in 10th grade,” Ferentz said. “The thing I remember about him is, it seemed like every time we would see him… he was 10 pounds bigger.
“He just kind of morphed right in front of our eyes.”
Now, he’s paving the way for a deep corps of running backs, including Mark Weisman (4.3 yards per carry last season), Jordan Canzeri (6.5), Damon Bullock (4.0) and LeShun Daniels Jr. (3.9).
“Whoever they’re going to put behind us, we’re going to try to do our best to get them to the second level or past that,” Scherff said. “They’ll do their job. We’ll do our job.”
Scherff’s return may bring back memories of Robert Gallery, who passed on the NFL and played one more year at Iowa.
Gallery helped the Hawkeyes rush for 172.9 yards per game in 2003, during a 10-3 season.
“The parallel is that both guys are very, very good players,” Ferentz said. “And both of them have attitudes where they just like the college experience.
“They’re here because they chose to be They wanted to be.”
Ferentz says quarterbacks Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard made progress during the Hawkeyes’ first six spring practices.
“They are improved and they are improving,” Ferentz said. “Last year at this time, those guys were competing for a job.
“Now, both of them have played on the game field.”
Rudock emerged as a starter, completing 59 percent of his passes for 2,383 yards. Beathard showed flashes of his potential while appearing in five games.
“Jake has more experience,” Ferentz said. “But it’s still a situation where both guys have to be at their best.”
Ferentz also mentioned freshman Nic Shimonek as someone who is making a positive impression.
“At the end of the day,” Ferentz said, “it’s a room with good guys and they’re competing well.”
Hawkeye fans have been clamoring for tailback Damon Bullock to move to the slot.
But as running backs coach Chris White explained, that’s unlikely.
“I know you guys have asked this question a lot,” White told reporters. “Damon is a running back, and especially at this point in his career, to think you can throw a guy out from running back to wide receiver just because he’s athletic and he can catch…”
This all stems from the fact Bullock seems more effective in open spaces, than coming out of the backfield.
“I see what you’re seeing, but it’s a lot of work to it, and he’s not really built that way,” White said. “He’s 205 pounds and he’s got a running back body.
“He’d have a lot of work to do releasing at the line of scrimmage, reading coverage, all the things that go into being a wide receiver.
“But we realize what he can do, and we’re trying to get him isolated out there.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football