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How Rusty Feth, Daijon Parker can add to Iowa’s offensive line in 2023
Iowa’s offensive line has ‘legitimate chance to have some really, really good competition’ in August
CEDAR RAPIDS — As Kirk Ferentz stood in the back of a Cedar Rapids hotel ballroom Thursday, he envisioned a group of eight or nine offensive linemen where "maybe any one of those guys could possibly start.”
“Rather than just trying to survive,” the Iowa football coach told reporters before he spoke at the Linn County I-Club, “I think this August, we have a legitimate chance to have some really, really good competition.”
Along with the return of starters such as Mason Richman, Connor Colby and Logan Jones, some of the confidence stems from what Iowa’s newcomers can bring to the position.
Two of the offensive linemen whom Ferentz expects to be in the mix have yet to get significant practice reps, if any, at the Hansen Football Performance Center.
Rusty Feth, a transfer from Miami (Ohio), did not enroll at Iowa in the spring as he finished his academic program at Miami.
Daijon Parker, a Division II transfer from Saginaw Valley State, appeared in one practice and then missed the rest of the spring with an injury.
The lack of practice time while wearing black and gold aside, the Hawkeyes still have plenty of familiarity with the newest offensive line arrivals.
Offensive line coach George Barnett coached Feth in 2019 and 2020 during his seven-year stint on the RedHawks’ staff.
“We feel like we really know who he is,” Ferentz said of Feth. “He’s an older guy who’s played, so there’s a lot of value in that. Played good football, not just played.”
Parker, one of the players “in that mix” of eight or nine competitive offensive linemen, was listed as the second-team right tackle ahead of spring practices.
Ferentz expects Feth, meanwhile, to “compete for a starting job” at one of the guard positions.
Feth’s most recent experience is at center — he played exclusively there in 2021 and 2022 — but Ferentz has continued to express confidence in center Jones.
“We feel pretty good about our center right now, so (Feth will) come in and compete for guard,” Ferentz said. “But I think he also gives us a safety valve at center, which is really nice.”
Jones took 781 of 788 possible snaps at center, per Pro Football Focus, in his first season after switching from the defensive line to offensive line.
Here’s a breakdown of how the offensive line could look once Feth and Parker are fully in the mix:
Left tackle and right tackle
Richman, all-Big Ten honorable mention, has started the last two seasons at left tackle. As long as he’s healthy, a change there would be unlikely.
Nick DeJong, Daijon Parker and Gennings Dunker are options at the other tackle position.
DeJong and Dunker were the first-team tackles at Iowa’s open spring practice while Richman and Parker were out with injuries.
Dunker had exclusively played at guard last year, but the guard positions would be relatively crowded if he stayed there.
Interior offensive line positions
As mentioned earlier, Ferentz has expressed plenty of confidence in Jones as the starting center.
Then at the two guard spots, Iowa has four players who have started games before at the FBS level.
Feth will be the most experienced option with 34 career starts.
Colby, a Cedar Rapids native, has the next-most experience with 24 starts. He was a Football Writers Association of America freshman All-American in 2021.
Beau Stephens has 10 career starts, and Tyler Elsbury has two career starts.
Of course, a lot can change between the spring and September. Only two of last year’s first-team offensive linemen on the spring depth chart — Richman and Colby — were starters for most of last season.
“It’s going to be fun to watch and see who emerges, who improves and who’s in the starting lineup in September,” Ferentz said.