A countdown is underway.
For center Austin Blythe, it’s the number of practices before Iowa’s football team kicks off the season Aug. 30 against Northern Iowa.
For right tackle Andrew Donnal, it’s the seconds ticking away after every snap.
“At tackle, you have a lot more time than you do on the inside,” Donnal said. “I’m trying to work on my punch. That’s just one thing. I could name a million of them.
“It would take up too much time.”
Donnal, Blythe, right guard Jordan Walsh and left tackle Brandon Scherff form the nucleus of what should be a formidable offensive line.
The key is, getting all the pieces to fit.
“It’s something we build toward and we’ll eventually see in practice,” Donnal said, “then translate it to the game.”
With the skill positions mostly settled, including quarterback Jake Rudock, the front five has become a focus this spring.
Scherff, who passed up a chance to enter the NFL, is a stalwart. Blythe is back in a familiar spot. And Donnal is versatile.
Can they help fortify the Hawkeye offense?
“You can make huge strides going into (summer) camp,” Blythe said. “At the same time, we only have 30 opportunities to practice before our first game.
“So we need to improve fast.”
Some of that will depend on the development of left guards Sean Welsh and Ryan Ward.
Welsh, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound freshman, is listed ahead of Ward, a 6-5, 290-pound sophomore.
“Whoever plays left guard, it’s going to be a new player,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “So that guy is going to need some help.”
Depth is helpful, to a point.
“We’ve got to get the best five guys out there,” said Blythe, who anchored the unit last season, helping Iowa average 4.2 yards per rush while giving up a total of 15 sacks in 13 games.
“I think he’s a more confident player now,” Ferentz said of Blythe. “I think he realizes he could be pretty good at that position.”
Blythe’s tenacity and perseverance make him well suited for the trenches.
He overcame an injury his freshman season and a switch from guard to center, before starting every game last fall.
“Was doing well and went right down to the bottom again when he got hurt,” Ferentz said of Blythe’s experience in 2012. “It was a disrupted year.”
Donnal, meanwhile, bounced back and forth from guard to tackle.
“I don’t want to label myself,” he said. “There is a million things I could improve, but the main difference from inside to outside is a lot with the passing game.”
The quicker he adapts, the quick the Hawkeyes will jell.
“It does come down to a good cohesiveness,” Donnal said. “We’re always working toward it. It’s not something that just happens, of course … getting everyone on the same page and playing together.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football