Big Ten 2010 // Iowa's Achilles Heel - The Offensive Line

Wait...he didn't just write that Iowa - home of the unheralded, but quickly admired, corn-fed behemoths - may have issues on the Offensive Line, did he? 

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Rising Sophomore Riley Reiff (#77) is the last man standing.

Oddly enough, Iowa's traditional strength could be its undoing.  Let's look at the best starting lineup for the 2009 Offensive Line:

LT: Bryan Bulaga 

LG: Riley Reiff

C: Rafael Eubanks

RG: Dace Richardson

RT: Kyle Calloway

The names crossed out?  They don't live here anymore.  Gulp.

Is it going to be that bad? Here's the thing. Nobody really knows. Riley Reiff is moving over to Left Tackle. The general consensus is that he is a special player that should excel on the offensive line for the next two/three years before a professional career calls him (By the way, we should all hope that he makes it as a first round draft pick if only so that Mel Kiper and Todd McShay can analyze his character issues due to this glorious incident prior to his red-shirt year). Let's assume that Reiff can settle in and be strong. What will the other four spots look like?

At the end of Spring practice, it appeared that Senior Julian Vandervelde had claimed the Left Guard spot. Vandervelde has the most experience on the squad, and he started games in each of the last two years. Last year's problem: he didn't really play that well when he started. If he progresses, if he can lead an inexperienced line...

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One of these three boys is Julian Vandervelde in the 2000 Little League World Series. The other two are starters on the Penn State D-Line. Now you know why Iowa owns Penn State.

At Center, it appears that James Ferentz may be slightly ahead of Josh Koeppel for the starting slot. If the last name Ferentz (it's pronounced FAIR - ents) sounds familliar, it's because his brother Brian started at center for the Hawkeyes last decade and is now a tight ends coach for the New England Patriots. Regardless of which man wins the job, he'll be new and replacing a fifth year Senior. That means that delay of game penalties while the line tries to figure out its blocking assignments are to be expected.

Right guard looks to belong to Adam Gettis, a rising Junior. Gettis started the season opener last year. His performance was notable only for the number of times he was shoved backwards into Ricky Stanzi and Adam Robinson.  Luckilly, with a new year comes a new schedule. Gettis shouldn't have to worry about facing athletes on the interior line on this season's slate like he faced last year against Northern Iowa. Crap.

Out at right tackle, Markus Zusevics has received a lot of positive buzz from Spring ball.  That said, he's another blocker who has yet to see meaningful minutes in a game. That's a scary theme. And as you might expect, there is no experience on the bench behind any of the projected starters. 

So, how bad will this be? Tough to say. It's not a mystery that Iowa's best teams have come with a veteran offensive line that controls the time of possession. The Hawkeyes do not have that this year. So the questions remain: Will this line be good enough to enable Robinson, Jewel Hampton and Brandon Wegher to find holes for five yard gains? Can they keep Stanzi upright? Will the line, in some combination, congeal enough to fight off the Ohio State front seven in November?

To end a positive note, I'll add this: at least we don't know that the offensive line will be bad. We just don't know that it will be good. And as weaknesses go, that's not a bad position to be in.

 

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This week...


MONDAY: 
Spring Field Guide

TUESDAY:
 Achilles Heel

WEDNESDAY: 
Greatest Strength

THURSDAY: 
MVP Profile

FRIDAY:
 Keeping the Enemy Close

***

More Big Ten 2010...

Indiana | Michigan | Illinois | Minnesota Purdue | Michigan State | Northwestern | Wisconsin | Penn State

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