Hawkeyes Have All Iowa O-line

The Hawkeyes' O-line covers the state of Iowa, from Denison to Williamsburg to Decorah

Decorah, Williamsburg, Iowa City, Dyersville and Denison. (HawkeyeReport)
Decorah, Williamsburg, Iowa City, Dyersville and Denison. (HawkeyeReport)

IOWA CITY -- Random can be pretty random sometimes.

You need to flashback to the Iowa High School state track and field meet in Des Moines in 2009. In the Class 3A shot put ring, the field finished 1) Drew Clark, Marion, 64-feet-7.75-inches; 2) Brandon Scherff, Denison, 57-03.5; 3) Brett Van Sloten, Decorah, 54-11.75.

That's three current Iowa offensive linemen, including the starters (Scherff and Van Sloten) at both tackle spots this season.

In the '08 2A meet, Dyersville Beckman prep Matt Tobin finished 10th in the shot put. Williamsburg's Austin Blythe didn't come until the 2010-11 seasons, finishing 7th and 14th, respectively.

There's your 2012 Iowa offensive line. No, wait, there's no record of James Ferentz throwing the shot, but he did finish second at heavyweight for Iowa City High in 2008.

So, there's your 2012 Iowa offensive line. From the left to right, you have Denison, Dyersville, Iowa City, Williamsburg and Decorah. That's left tackle Scherff, left guard Tobin, center Ferentz, right guard Blythe and right tackle Van Sloten.

All Iowa.

"We all take pride in it, because none of us are really that big of a name," said Tobin, who grew around six inches in his later years at Beckman. "Scherff was kind of a big name, but other than that nobody was a really big name."

There is the pride factor . . .

"It's pretty awesome," Scherff said. "We're not a highly recruited state like all the southern schools are, but it gives us a little boost, something to feel good about."

. . . but this was totally random.


How many scholarship offers between the five of them? There were only 14, with Scherff and Blythe chipping in six apiece. Ferentz and Van Sloten had offers from Iowa and that was it. Tobin was a walk-on.

Also, they've arrived at this moment from different paths.

James Ferentz is the veteran. He'll be a three-year starter with 26 consecutive starts. Tobin started 10 games at left guard last season, yielding his spot to Scherff three times. Van Sloten played the majority of the Insight Bowl after starter Markus Zusevics left with an illness. Blythe redshirted last season, so he's yet to see the field.

One more bit of randomness? None of them grew up on a farm.

"I think it comes with hard work," Tobin said. "That's a trademark of Iowa citizens."

If any doubts remain that this is a random act of depth chart, here's their position coach to extinguish all doubt.

"We try to recruit guys who are tough, who are smart, who are hard-working and who have a physical mentality," said Brian Ferentz, first-year O-line coach at Iowa (brother of center, son of head coach Kirk). "It's easy to find some of those guys in Iowa, but it's also easy to find some of those guys in surrounding states.

"Jordan Walsh, he's going to compete and he's from Illinois. We're going to have some different guys in the mix. Andrew Donnal is from Ohio. Nolan MacMillan is from Ontario [Canada]. He's in the mix."

But hey, the No. 6 is junior Conor Boffeli, a former West Des Moines Valley prep. And wait, if James Ferentz the center is from Iowa City High, then Brian Ferentz the coach also must be from City High. And, yes, he played football and wrestled there.

"It would be special, of course it would," Brian Ferentz said. "But, to me, it would be more special if we could put six, seven, eight guys together to be a really good offensive line. All those guys won't be from Iowa.

"But I do think it speaks to the character of Iowa kids and I think it also speaks to the fact that when we're successful here and we have a good football team, the core of our team is guys from Iowa because it's special to guys from Iowa.

"Not that it's not special to guys from other places, they just have to learn it. Guys from Iowa are born into it. They know it."



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