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IOWA CITY — Jake Rudock has no time to inspect left tackle Brandon Scherff’s handiwork in the middle of a play. The Iowa quarterback has enough challenges of his own after the snap.
But when Rudock reviews a postgame video with offensive coordinator Greg Davis, at times they sit and marvel at what Scherff does to opponents.
“It’s fun,” said Rudock, a junior. “Coach Davis will point out, ‘OK, let’s watch Scherff here for five seconds,’ and he might plow somebody in the ground. It’s really cool to see and it makes it easier for those running backs when they’re running behind him and he puts someone on the ground. I’m sure it’s a lot easier to see the holes.”
Scherff, a behemoth at 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds, has earned significant praise this off-season. Longtime NFL scout and analyst Gil Brandt tweeted that Scherff could be the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Scherff, a first-team all-Big Ten pick last year, was tabbed for the preseason Lombardi and Outland award lists. Fox Sports listed him No. 2 among college football’s “freaks” this off-season.
Iowa released a video that showed Scherff hang clean 437 pounds twice during workouts. Scherff also runs a sub-5.0 40-yard dash and sometimes catches punts during special teams drills. But he’s known more for his on-field dominance and manhandling opponents. In the second half against Northwestern, Scherff allowed his opponent just one tackle — and that was because the defender grabbed a hold of a running back’s leg while lying on his back. At times Scherff’s head-up opponent completely avoided contact.
“It’s kind of hard to go straight through Brandon,” Rudock said. “He’s a big guy and guys understand that.
“Sometimes you’ll do that (avoid) to defensive lineman. Coach Davis told us stories about (former Nebraska defensive tackle) Ndamukong Suh when he was at Texas, and they couldn’t block him. They put two guys on him, and they just couldn’t quite get the job done. But they eventually found a way to win the game. Sometimes you do everything you can, and it’s just not going to work.”
Brandt wrote Scherff is “strong like Suh” in a tweet touting Scherff as a top prospect.
Iowa’s Drew Ott — who switched from left defensive end to the right side — competed against Scherff every day in spring practice. Ott gives up an inch and 55 pounds to Scherff, but he also stands to lose much more if he doesn’t compete at Scherff’s intensity level.
“It’s a big challenge. I’ve got to come focused every day. Otherwise I will be on my back all the time,” Ott said. “I would say it’s a mind-set because he can flatten you at any place. You’d better be focused. There are no plays off when you’re going against him.”
Ott’s shift from left defensive end to the right side has subtle changes, and at times the Iowa junior has found the switch a bit awkward.
“There’s really no difference, other than you put your left hand down,” Ott said Wednesday. “It doesn’t seem like a big deal but when you’ve been putting your right hand down for a year and a half, it throws you off a little bit. It’s basically the same responsibilities as left end. Not much different.”
Ott, a junior, started every regular-season game at left end last year. Dominic Alvis played seven games at right end before a back injury kept him out until the Outback Bowl. Mike Hardy, the likely starter at left end, played the final five regular-season games at right end after Alvis’ injury. Ott registered 50 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, and 2.5 sacks. He also had four quarterback hurries and one forced fumble.
The Iowa-Iowa State football game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 13 and will be carried by either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, the Big Ten announced Wednesday.
The conference released the times and networks for each team’s first three games this season. Iowa’s Aug. 30 season opener against Northern Iowa starts at 11 a.m. and BTN will broadcast the game. The Hawkeyes’ Sept. 6 home game against Ball State kicks off at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Times are set for six of Iowa’s first seven games. The Hawkeyes’ Sept. 27 Big Ten opener at Purdue, their Oct. 11 homecoming game against Indiana and their Oct. 18 trip to league newcomer Maryland all air at 11 a.m. Among Iowa games held before November, only its Sept. 20 game at Pittsburgh has yet to have a starting time.
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