Iowa's offensive line shuffle continues

Tackle Ike Boettger is out for the year; freshman Tristan Wirfs is likely in this season

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IOWA CITY — During the last few seasons, the Hawkeyes have built-in some interchangeability on its offensive line. That seemed to be a point of emphasis during fall camp and now that turns out to be a wise move.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz confirmed Tuesday that senior offensive tackle Ike Boettger will miss the rest of the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Boettger, a three-year starter, suffered the injury in the third quarter of Iowa’s victory last weekend at Iowa State.

On the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday, Ferentz said Boettger faced a four- to six-week rehab. He corrected himself during his weekly news conference.

“Did I say weeks?” Ferentz said. “Yeah, that’s a Freudian slip and wishful thinking, so more like four to six months.”

Is Boettger’s career at Iowa over? He redshirted his first year at Iowa, moving from tight end to the offensive line and putting on something like 75 pounds during that process.

Ferentz said a medical hardship waiver is unlikely because he did redshirt.

“I just feel bad for Ike,” Ferentz said. “Not only is he a good football player, but he’s a great kid. He’s a senior, so now something he was really looking forward to, you know, it’s a tough deal. We’ll move on. We’ll live on. We have to. We’ve got no choice. That’s the way it works.

“But you just worry about him. It’s tough on him. He’ll get back up on his feet and he’ll be a good leader in his own way.”

Senior Boone Myers came up with Boettger. They were Iowa’s tackles for the majority of the last two seasons. They both went through a rigorous strength and conditioning process to grow into offensive tackle bodies.

Of course, there’s an emotional element to this.

“It’s hard, it’s the last thing you want for a guy going into his senior season,” Myers said. “I don’t know what to say, it’s just hard. You don’t wish it on anybody, not even your enemies. It’s just something that rips your heart out.”

It took the Hawkeyes a few series against the Cyclones to figure out the O-line. They closed out the game with freshman Alaric Jackson at left tackle, Myers at left guard, junior James Daniels (who saw his first action last week after missing the opener with a knee injury) at center, junior Keegan Render at right guard and senior Sean Welsh at right tackle.

This is the lineup that probably sticks.

Welsh has played right tackle on and off during his career (four-year starter), going back to Northwestern 2015. When Boettger left the game, that was Iowa’s first and probably surest move.

“I can’t explain it. Wherever you put him, he does well,” Ferentz said. “He’s just one of those football players. Some guys are like that, some aren’t. Some can’t move around. ... Doesn’t seem to bother him. He looks the same, just keeps playing, and doesn’t seem to affect him mentally or physically.”

With two seasons at left tackle on his resume, Myers could end up being the “next tackle in.” He suffered a high-ankle sprain during camp and said Tuesday that’s no longer an issue.

“I feel fine, I feel like I can play,” Myers said. “It’s the coaches and what they think a good-working lineup is. We have a lot of guys who can play a lot of different positions. They’re just putting the pieces together and finding a good lineup.”

Ferentz did say that former Mount Vernon prep Tristan Wirfs is now on high alert to play this year. Wirfs (6-5, 315) made the trip to Ames and warmed up as the No. 2 right tackle. With Welsh comfortably sliding over, Wirfs is either No. 3 or 4, behind Jackson, Welsh and maybe Myers.

Either way, it sounds like a matter of time before Wirfs sheds the redshirt.

“I think it just pushes him forward,” Ferentz said. “We’ve been leaning in that direction anyway, so right now we just have to plan like he will play at some point because we’re really running out of depth. We’ve been practicing with him on the second team, pushing him forward as if he were going to play.”

Wirfs might’ve already burned the redshirt, but an undisclosed injury in camp set him back, Ferentz said.

“There are some things he does very well, and at times he does things extremely well,” Ferentz said. “But the consistency factor is the biggest part. He was almost doing too well until he got hurt. It was about a week, but a week might as well have been a month. It just seemed like that because it really set him back. Now we’ve seen him climb the ladder here a little bit the last two weeks.”

Jackson (6-7, 320) has passed his first few tests at left tackle. The freshman is locked in at that position.

“He’s got a good attitude, he works hard,” Ferentz said. “The progress he’s made from being a 342-pound kid when he walked in here who was overweight to cutting down to 315, 317. We saw him go through that transformation and it was an indicator that this guy thinks right. He’s not your average bear. This guy’s thinking right and it really means something to him. We’re seeing that on the field too. He’s really doing a good job for us.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

Iowa QB Nate Stanley

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz transcript

KF pre-UNT.pdf by Marc Morehouse on Scribd

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