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Pat Harty: Hawkeyes have no shortage of local linemen

[ 0 ] September 4, 2014 |

Barely a year has passed since former Iowa football recruit Ross Pierschbacher shifted his allegiance to Alabama.

Aug. 11, 2013, was a dark day for Hawkeye fans, who hated to see a heralded offensive lineman from in state — Pierschbacher is from Cedar Falls — pick another school. The fact that Pierschbacher was the first player to commit to Iowa’s 2014 recruiting class, and had been committed for eight months when he switched to the Crimson Tide, made a bad situation worse.

Pierschbacher now is a backup guard for Alabama as a true freshman, proving that in his case the hype was warranted.

As for the school he left behind, it certainly won’t have a shortage of offensive linemen from in state anytime soon. Iowa’s 2014 recruiting class had three offensive lineman from in state, while the 2015 recruiting class already has four, all of whom are from small towns in northwest Iowa.

The four offensive linemen in the 2015 class are twins Levi and Landan Paulsen, who live in Moville and attend Woodbury Central High, Hartley native Brett Waechter and Inwood native Jake Newborg.

None of them are ranked as high as Pierschbacher was in high school, although both of the Paulsen twins are ranked as four-star recruits by Scout.com. Iowa also received a verbal commitment from four-star center and Ohio native James Daniels on July 31.

Recruiting rankings don’t always translate to college, though, especially in the case of Iowa under coach Kirk Ferentz, and even more so when you’re talking about offensive linemen.

Iowa has signed two consensus five-star offensive linemen under Ferentz — Blake Larsen in 2001 and Dan Doering in 2005 — but neither came close to living up to their enormous hype.

On the other hand, Iowa has had numerous offensive linemen who were successful in college after being lightly recruited in high school. The list includes Bruce Nelson, Mike Elgin, Robert Gallery, Julian Vandervelde, Josn Koeppel, James Ferentz, Brett Van Sloten and Connor Boffeli, among others.

“We’re still not getting five-star linemen, but that doesn’t bother us too much,” Ferentz said. “If we get the right guys, that’s a good thing.”

Ferentz, whose area of expertise is the offensive line, must feel that the Paulsen twins, Waechter and Newborg are the right guys or he wouldn’t have offered them scholarships. Newborg was the first of the four to commit on Aug. 31, 2013, followed by The Paulsen twins on March 2 and Waechter on June 11.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Waechter said Wednesday night. “We got to know each other pretty well even before we all committed. That we’re going to be able to spend the next few years together is pretty awesome.”

This is considered a strong year for offensive linemen in Iowa. Combine Iowa’s haul with Bryce Meeker from Cedar Rapids Prairie and Julian Good-Jones from Cedar Rapids Washington, both of whom are committed to Iowa State, and that’s six high school senior offensive linemen from in state who have scholarship offers from either Iowa or Iowa State.

Iowa didn’t offer Meeker or Jones a scholarship, evidence of how meticulous the evaluation process is at the major college level.

“In the ’80s most of the guys we had, at least the Iowa guys, it was us or Iowa State and usually nobody else,” said Ferentz, whose son, Brian Ferentz, is the Iowa offensive line coach. “Now more people are involved a little bit.”

Pierschbacher’s snub will sting for a while, but this could be a story that ultimately has two happy endings. It’s easy to see Pierschbacher having success at Alabama, while it’s also easy to picture Iowa being just fine on the offensive line without him.

Brandon Scherff came to Iowa with little hype compared to Pierschbacher, but now Scherff is considered one of the elite offensive linemen in the collegiate ranks and a likely first-round NFL draft pick next spring. Scherff has a chance to become the fourth left tackle from Iowa to be taken in the first round since the Oakland Raiders used the second pick overall on Gallery in 2004.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Waechter said. “It’s the best place for linemen to go with all the first-round draft picks, and Scherff’s there now. Brian Ferentz is just a great coach, and so is Kirk, obviously.”

MONDO SHINES: Iowa City West graduate Mondo Williams began his redshirt sophomore season at Iowa Western Community college in record-breaking fashion.

Williams intercepted a school-record four passes, including a 17-yard return for a touchdown on his opponent’s first play scrimmage, to help the Reivers defeat Coffeyville Community College 57-35 Saturday.

Williams also had a 96-yard kick return for a touchdown erased by a block in the back.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Iowa receiver recruit Adrian Falconer, who is from Leesburg. Fla., helped his team win last Friday by catching six passes for 111 yards. He caught a 39-yard pass on Leesburg’s first play from scrimmage. … West Des Moines Dowling quarterback Ryan Boyle completed 11-of-15 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown to the lead top-ranked and defending Class 4A champion Maroons past Cedar Rapids Xavier last Friday. Boyle is one of three quarterbacks committed to Iowa’s 2015 recruiting class. … Iowa City Regina quarterback Drew Cook completed 19-of-26 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns during a 29-28 loss to Solon. … Fellow Iowa quarterback recruit Jack Beneventi completed 13-of-26 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown in his team’s season-opening victory last Friday. Beneventi transferred to Fenwick High School in suburban Chicago for his senior year after attending Benet Academy.

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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.