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Iowa football 2023 winter position breakdown: Offensive line
After being ‘forced to play some guys that probably weren't quite ready,’ Iowa will have more experienced offensive line in 2023
IOWA CITY — It’s no secret Iowa’s offensive line play in 2022 was not up to par for Kirk Ferentz-coached teams.
“We were forced to play some guys that probably weren't quite ready to compete at the level we're looking for,” Ferentz said earlier this month. “It's hard to run an offense when you can't block with proficiency.”
Fortunately for Iowa, its young position group has gained another year of development time, and reinforcements have arrived from the transfer portal.
Here is an early look at Iowa’s 2023 offensive line:
Jack Plumb started 14 games at tackle in his Iowa career, including 12 in the last two seasons. Plumb brought a veteran presence to the line, but had the fourth-lowest PFF pass-blocking rating among Big Ten offensive linemen with at least 200 blocking snaps in 2022.
Matt Fagan was a walk-on for most of his Iowa career before earning a scholarship last spring. He did not see any game action in 2022, though.
Justin Britt and David Davidkov are on medical scholarships, Ferentz said last week, marking the end of their Iowa careers. Britt said in a tweet he has not retired from football, though.
All five of Iowa’s starting offensive linemen from the Music City Bowl — Mason Richman, Connor Colby, Logan Jones, Gennings Dunker and Nick DeJong — are expected to return in 2023.
Richman, an all-Big Ten honorable mention, has started 25 games for the Hawkeyes at left tackle.
Colby was a Football Writers Association of America freshman All-American in 2021, but faced some adversity as a sophomore. He started the year at right tackle before moving back to guard.
Jones will be in his second year as an offensive lineman after making the switch from defensive line to center ahead of 2022 spring practices.
Dunker, the 2022 Solon Beef Days hay bale toss champion, made his first career start in the bowl game after having a reserve role at guard throughout the season.
DeJong, the lone senior returning to Iowa’s offensive line, began the 2022 season as the starting left guard before Colby moved from tackle to guard. He started at right tackle in the bowl game.
Beau Stephens started 10 games at right guard before suffering an injury on Nov. 12. He had a reserve role on the line after recovering from the injury.
Tyler Elsbury, who started two games at left guard, will be a junior. Michael Myslinski, the son of an NFL strength and conditioning coach, appeared as a reserve in Iowa’s loss to Ohio State.
Jack Dotzler and Kale Krogh, members of Iowa’s 2022 recruiting class, did not play as true freshmen. Walk-ons Asher Fahey and Jeremy Chaplin also are back.
Who’s joining the mix
Rusty Feth and Daijon Parker joined the Hawkeyes via the transfer portal.
Feth, who played for Iowa offensive line coach George Barnett while Barnett was at Miami (Ohio), has experience at center and guard. Parker, who transferred from Division II Saginaw Valley State, has experience at tackle.
Four offensive linemen are in Iowa’s 2023 high school recruiting class — Trevor Lauck, Leighton Jones, Cannon Leonard and Kade Pieper.
Lauck has a four-star rating from 247Sports, and the other three have three-star ratings.
Way-too-early projected two-deeps
Considering the developmental nature of the offensive line position, these projections are more likely than others to change between now and the start of the 2023 season.
- Mason Richman
- Nick DeJong
- Connor Colby
- Tyler Elsbury
- Rusty Feth
- Logan Jones
- Gennings Dunker
- Beau Stephens
- Daijon Parker
- Nick DeJong
After two years of unusually young offensive lines, Barnett finally will have a veteran group to work with at Iowa.
The transfer portal additions give the Hawkeyes more options up front although it may take some time for Feth and Parker to adjust to Big Ten play.
How much this position group improves in the offseason will have a large bearing on how high the ceiling is for the 2023 offense.