CEDAR RAPIDS - Cedar Rapids Jefferson was anxious to see if 2016 would be a year of reconstruction or merely a reload.
Against an experienced Pleasant Valley team, the J-Hawks learned they have a ways to go.
Pleasant Valley senior quarte ... »
No. 17 ... Junior guard Jordan Walsh (6-4, 290) started all 13 games last season. He finished a couple, too. He didn’t pitch a complete game, so to speak. He traded series with senior Andrew Donnal. It was a matter of consistency.
“The other four guys we felt like were on a certain level, and then the next two or three guys, toward the end of the season, we felt like we’re playing at a high enough level that they should be competing for us on the field,” O-line coach Brian Ferentz said, “but we didn’t feel like they were playing at a high enough level to displace those other four guys.”
So, rotation. Early this spring, Brian Ferentz said the left guard spot could be the rotating position this season. If you look at it, Walsh and Donnal are expected to be starters this season. If the rotation prepared two starters, then you have to argue that it was a success. It does remain to be seen how effective Walsh and Donnal will be.
For Walsh, Brian Ferentz is looking for consistency. Last season, a few Iowa defenders, including middle linebacker James Ferentz, said Walsh was their toughest block to take in practice. Still, consistency is the thing.
“Consistency. I think that’s what it boils down to for anyone,” Ferentz said. “That’s the difference, if you look at last year, and it’s certainly no knock on Jordan or Andrew or Nolan [MacMillan], but you look at Connor [Boffeli], Brandon [Scherff], Austin [Blythe], and Brett [Van Sloten], from a consistency standpoint, those four guys were more consistent than the other three, and that’s why they didn’t come out of the football game, and that’s why the other three guys rotated.
“So, for Jordan, what he has to improve is his consistency. He’s capable of being a great player, and he flashes that at times. He needs to do that all the time. That’s what we’re looking for, and he knows that. I expect at this point in his development, he’s older. He’s a year older. He’s a fourth year guy, and I would expect to see that from him.”
The first tangle ... We didn’t get a lot of chances to talk with Walsh last season. The right guard, and who rotates in and out, isn’t a huge interview magnet. But he did talk after Iowa’s opening loss to Northern Illinois. It was Walsh’s second career start.
You’ll notice a theme.
“Definitely being more consistent,” Walsh said when asked about what he needed to tighten up. “I think that’s the biggest thing, consistency.”
There was one play where Walsh was bullrushed into QB Jake Rudock. He knocked his arm and the ball was intercepted. “I think I needed to sink down better on that play and have better separation,” Walsh said.
Kind of like Gettis ... Walsh is a fourth-year junior. It has been a build to get to the point where, yes, he could be a full-time starter. Maybe think Adam Gettis, the former Hawkeye who finally improved, built his body and beat injuries to become a starter as a fifth-year senior. The 25-year-old is in his third season with the Washington Redskins. He was a project who needed all five seasons to come through and did.
Walsh earned the call a little earlier and has a chance to build a resume.
“My body has changed a lot [since his arrival in Iowa City in 2011],” Walsh said. “I’ve gained a few pounds over my time here and I’ve gotten stronger and more explosive. It feels good just being out there. It’s something everyone dreams about, being a Division I football player.”
Outlook ... Walsh is a year older, his body is a year more mature and he’s had a year in the game. That all should pay dividends. Walsh was a much more confident player this spring. And how couldn’t he be? His assignment for 15 practices was a three-point stance across from senior defensive tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat, two players who’ve built themselves into Big Ten titans.
“I feel pretty comfortable, there are some things I do still need to work on,” Walsh said. “Coach Brian always says take one day at a time and attack everything.”
Walsh has a chance to stick as a starter. Given Iowa’s inexperienced depth on the O-line, that would be a huge deal for the Hawkeyes.
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