This fall, the Iowa offensive line might be completely corn-fed.
Iowa may have an o-line with all Iowa natives.
“It’s pretty cool if you think about it,” sophomore tackle Brett Van Sloten said. “It’s pretty neat being an Iowa guy and having a lot of Iowans on the team.”
Van Sloten is from Decorah and is penciled in at right tackle. The group he was working with most of the afternoon during the 2012 Iowa Spring Practice included freshman guard Austin Blythe (Williamsburg), junior center James Ferentz (Iowa City), sophomore guard Conor Boffeli (West Des Moines) and freshman tackle Brandon Scherff (Denison).
“We just try to get the best guys out there,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “There have always been good players in our state and this is no exception.”
James Ferentz is the only lineman to start all 13 games a year ago.
Scherff started three games last season at left guard and did a little backup work at left tackle for Riley Reiff. Reiff is expected to be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft in two weeks.
“I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Scherff said. “Tackle is different. I’m pretty much 1-on-1 with the end and don’t have help inside from the guard. It’s a learning process.”
Van Sloten took some very significant snaps in the Insight Bowl, taking over at right tackle for a sick Markus Zusevics.
“Coach always preaches next man in,” Van Sloten said. “I felt bad for the guy, gets sick the last game of his career.
“But it’s a building block. It’s nice I got that experience, but we’re moving on from here.”
Blythe and Boffeli were in during the 2-minute drill, but other guards rotated in, including junior Matt Tobin, who started 10 games.
Tobin is from Worthington, Iowa, for the record.
“I feel really connected with that group,” said Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg, a Keokuk native. “They’ve really done a nice job all spring and have done a really nice job adapting to the offense.
“I’m really happy they are my five guys.”
The O-line looked strong Saturday, pushing the defense around in half-line drills. The hope is to not have a drop-off despite losing three starters in Reiff, Zusevics and Adam Gettis.
“Those are great guys and will be missed, but it’s a continuous cycle,” Van Sloten said. “People leave, people move up. It’s never going to be the exact same. We’re just trying to connect together as a group.”
James Ferentz said six to eight guys have been competing all spring.
“Everybody is trying to improve individually,” James Ferentz said. “As a unit, we’re starting to mesh a lot better.”
And having an all-Iowa o-line provides some unity.
“There’s a sense of pride being an Iowan and playing for the Iowa Hawkeyes,” James Ferentz said. “It’s something a lot of us grew up dreaming about.
“If you look around and it’s a lot of Iowa guys, it’s like an unspoken bond. We all understand how important this is to each one of us.”
Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football