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IOWA CITY — When push came to shove last December, offensive tackle Brandon Scherff decided he was happy at Iowa and the NFL could wait.
That was a very, very good thing for Iowa.
Scherff, a 6-5, 320-pound senior, was a potential No. 1 draft pick after putting in a full season as Iowa’s left offensive tackle last year. He ended up on the Big Ten coaches all-conference first team. Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz was surprised at that. He thought more in the way of honors would’ve gone Scherff’s way after 2014.
Ferentz did his best to put Scherff at the top of a lot of lists during a Wednesday news conference. He went down a list of areas that he believes Scherff needs to improve in to become a more complete player.
And then it was a love fest, or, as Ferentz termed it, a “love letter.”
“That’s my disclaimer, I will share my love letter to Brandon Scherff with you guys now,” said Ferentz, who’s beginning his third season as Iowa’s O-line coach. “If this guy doesn’t get recognized for what he is moving forward, I think it would be a real travesty.
“There’s not a better offensive lineman in college football, that’s my opinion. I think you guys know after two years and some of you knew me well before then [Ferentz was an offensive lineman for the Hawkeyes from 2002 to 2005], I don’t say things like that lightly.”
He doesn’t. (Case in point: Ferentz tweeted late last season that Iowa has a lackluster stadium experience at Kinnick. He stood behind that Wednesday, “I don’t tweet about politics. I don’t tweet about other things like that,” he said. “I made a comment about something that I thought was relevant. Has it improved [Kinnick Stadium gameday experience]? We’ll find out when we get to August.” So, yeah, he definitely says what he means.)
If Scherff would’ve gone to the NFL, yes, Iowa would’ve put two offensive tackles on the field in 2014. The drop off, however, would’ve been considerable. Without Scherff, Iowa would have two new starters and two backups with little or no playing time at offensive tackle.
Senior Andrew Donnal is set to start at right tackle. Everyone around the program believes the 6-7, 305-pounder will seize the job. Sophomores Ryan Ward and Cole Croston (a walk-on) are behind Donnal. They saw some mop-up time last season. Walk-on redshirt freshman Boone Myers is listed as the No. 2 left tackle behind Scherff, but he also has lined up at left guard this spring and could make it a rotation there. (Ferentz said Wednesday that left guard would likely be a rotating proposition this season).
It’s an understatment to say Scherff’s return is a boost to Iowa’s O-line. He’s a pacesetter and — maybe, without getting overly dramatic — a lifesaver.
“In my opinion, he was the best offensive lineman in our conference last year,” Ferentz said. “I got a chance to see during bowl preparation some tape of other very good offensive linemen in the Southeastern Conference, and I would have stacked him up against any of those guys.”
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa staff has helped develop high-caliber O-linemen during Ferentz’s 15 season. Brian Ferentz put Scherff on the same line with all of them, from 2003 Outland Trophy winner Robert Gallery to Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda to first-round picks Riley Reiff and Bryan Bulaga.
“I’d put him in the same category as Riley, Marshal, Bryan Bulaga, another guy who’s a Super Bowl champion,” Brian Ferentz said. “I’d put him in the same category as Robert Gallery, Bruce Nelson, Eric Steinbach. Guys like that have paved the way. How does he compare to every one of those guys? I don’t know. They’re all really good. I’d take them all. I’d put him in the conversation. I think that’s fair.
“Now, he’s got to live up to all this. I would just throw that disclaimer out there. That’s part of the challenge that he has right now.”
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