A closer look: Iowa's offensive line

Plenty to like, some concerns for Hawkeyes' front line

Offensive lineman Brett Waechter and fullback Brady Ross hang out on a mat at Media Day at the Kenyon Practice Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, August 6, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Offensive lineman Brett Waechter and fullback Brady Ross hang out on a mat at Media Day at the Kenyon Practice Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, August 6, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)


FIRST UNIT: LT — Cole Croston, sr, 6-5, 307; LG — Boone Myers, jr., 6-5 305; C/RG — James Daniels, so., 6-4, 295; C/RG — Sean Welsh, jr., 6-3, 290; RT — Ike Boettger, jr., 6-6, 307

SECOND UNIT: LT — Brett Waechter, fr., 6-5, 290; LG — Ross Reynolds, so., 6-4, 300; C — Lucas LeGrand, so., 6-5, 290; RG — Keegan Render, so., 6-4 308; RT — Dalton Ferguson, so., 6-4, 301

UPPERCLASSMEN: Ryan Ward, sr., 6-5, 295; Steve Ferentz, sr., 6-2, 282; Mitch Keppy, sr., 6-5, 300

UNDERCLASSMEN: Jake Newborg, fr., 6-3, 290; Landon Paulsen, fr., 6-5, 305; Levi Paulsen, fr, 6-5, 305; Ross Reynolds, so., 6-4, 300

TRUE FRESHMEN: Aleric Jackson, 6-7, 285; Spencer Williams, 6-3, 290; Cole Banwart, 6-4, 280; Burke Prins, 6-4 260


Throughout Coach Kirk Ferentz’s 18-year tenure, the Hawkeyes seemingly have passed a baton at left tackle to future NFL talent. Robert Gallery, the 2003 Outland Trophy winner, was the No. 2 pick overall in the 2004 NFL draft. His replacement was Marshal Yanda, who currently is considered the best NFL guard by most observers. After a year gap, Bryan Bulaga assumed the position and was a 2010 first-round pick. Riley Reiff held left tackle for two seasons and was a first-round selection in 2012. Brandon Scherff won the Outland Trophy in 2014 and was picked No. 5 overall by Washington in 2015.

Senior Cole Croston holds that position this year. Waiting behind him is redshirt freshman Brett Waechter, a former three-star recruit who generated modest Midwest interest before committing to Iowa in June 2014. Waechter has the size and frame (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) that Iowa coaches like. He’s tough and aggressive but nimble on the outside.


“Brett has great technique, and he’s put on some weight from last year,” Croston said. “So I think he’s in a position to where if he’s got his number called upon to go out there, he could do my job just as well as I could.”


This summer, ESPN’s Ed Cunningham labeled Iowa’s offensive line as the nation’s best. While the Hawkeyes annually rank among the Big Ten’s top lines and routinely produce NFL talent, it’s a bit premature to put this group in that category, offensive line coach Brian Ferentz said.

“Last year there were questions, but I think my take on them last year surprised some people,” Brian Ferentz said. “I remember saying everybody was a first-time starter at one time. To me there were questions, but I probably wasn’t as concerned as the rest of the world. Just like this year, I have more questions than maybe the rest of the world. And I’m certainly not as blindly optimistic as a lot of the prognosticators are.”

Iowa lost Rimington Trophy finalist Austin Blythe and all-Big Ten guard Jordan Walsh to graduation. The Hawkeyes return five players with starting experience and only one — Croston — is a senior. But the unit gave up 30 sacks last year — second-most in the Big Ten — and 81 tackles for loss. There’s no doubt the unit could gel into one of the country’s top units, but it’s ambitious to call Iowa the best when replacing Blythe and Walsh.

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