116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — After every practice, an Iowa offensive lineman is handed a printout with the list of how everyone did in the one-on-one pass rush drills
Right there, on the printed page, is your day broken down into 'wins' and 'losses.'
Everyone in the world should get one of these at the end of their day. Whatever you think you are, whatever you did, there it is. It can be full of red flags or it can be sterling validation of a practice well played.
Depends on you.
'It can be validation,' junior center James Daniels said. 'One day, I thought I was 5-for-5 or 6-and-4 and I wasn't. I was like, wow, when you think you're doing something and you're really not, it can make you seem bad.'
Here we go again with sacks.
Hey, it's a thing for this offense. Yes, the Hawkeyes won 20 games the last two seasons. They did that despite allowing 60 sacks, which ranks Iowa squarely in the Big Ten's double digits for sacks allowed.
It doesn't seem to matter if a running back misses a block and that leads directly to a sack. It doesn't matter if the receiver took too long getting open. It doesn't matter if the QB holds on to the ball for too long.
A sack is an ax whack into an offensive lineman's soul.
'Whenever there's a sack, we're always responsible, regardless of how long the receiver takes or whatever the quarterback does,' senior guard Sean Welsh said. 'We're responsible for the protection of the guy behind us. If he gets sacked, there are no excuses.'
If it's a sack, the O-linemen automatically count it as a strike against them. It's the kind of thing that leaves them in the video room study mumbling to themselves ...
'You've always got to be your own worst critic,' left tackle Boone Myers said. 'So, when you're watching film, in the back of your mind, it's always, 'I've got to get better. I've got to get better at this. I've got to get better at that. Run blocking, pass blocking, lifting.' You've got to have that chip on your shoulder that says I need to get better.'
By the way, the post-practice printouts are new with first-year O-line coach Tim Polasek. If you're an O-lineman and you're looking for a sympathetic ear, you're not going to find it with Polasek.
The instructions are straightforward: Don't be that guy.
'We're putting a big emphasis right now on just winning your one-on-one situations,' Polasek said. 'Somewhere along the line in each protection, there's going to be a one-on-one situation or a couple of one-on-one situations and then there's normally a double-team in there that's working to a second-level player.
'Most certainly, we can't get beat on double teams. We're really trying to put an emphasis with the scoreboards on one-on-ones, really evaluating that stuff and asking the kids to watch it at night. With all of the technology now, they're on their iPads and looking at that stuff at night and just paying attention to details and taking pride and taking ownership.
'It's not going to be me.'
And that runs alongside pretty much everything you hear out of Iowa football. Do your job because the guy next to you is expecting it.
'As much as the O-line is about playing together as five, every play is going to have a one-on-one situation,' Polasek said. 'Everything comes back to the old Oklahoma drill. Me and you, one-on-one with a ball carrier. I want to keep you off the ball and you want to get to the ball.
'Sacks in general and when those sacks come, third-down production, that's always a big emphasis.'
Along with some new drills, another something new that Polasek, former offensive coordinator at North Dakota State, has brought is walking through different blitz looks during practice.
'Two years ago, we walked through some things but we never really walked through as many looks as we have in the past,' Daniels said. 'I feel like walking through the looks will help when we see those during the season.'
After two years of 30 sacks, what would be an acceptable number? You just have to peel back a few years to find success. In 2014, Iowa allowed just 21.0 sacks (tied for 31st in the nation). And in 2013, pass protection was outstanding, allowing just 15.0 sacks (leading the B1G and finishing 12th nationally).
Iowa's passing game was historically unproductive in 2016. Pass protection had a hand in that. With three seniors and five players returning with at least seven or more starts, the O-line needs to keep up its end of the bargain.
With a new starter at QB (probably sophomore Nathan Stanley) and a rebuilt wide receiver group (Iowa added graduate transfer WR Matt Quarells from New Mexico in the last two weeks), the O-line has to be feeling pressure to help everyone 1) stay upright and 2) make plays.
The pride is strong with this group. No, they don't want it to be them.
'The best thing I can do is help the guy behind me feel confident, like he's not going to get hit,' Welsh said. 'And I want him to feel that we're confident he'll get the job done. I think that's the only thing we can do to help him out.
'We're taught that whoever is the quarterback he should be able to sit back there with the ball as long as they want.'
THE DEPTH CHART
C — 1. James Daniels, jr., 6-4, 295; 2. Spencer Williams, #fr., 6-3, 295
LG — 1. Keegan Render, jr., 6-4, 310; 2. Ross Reynolds, jr., 6-4, 300
RG — 1. Sean Welsh, sr., 6-3, 295; 2. Levi Paulsen, so., 6-5, 305
RT — 1. Ike Boettger, sr., 6-6, 307; 2. Tristan Wirfs, fr., 6-5, 315
LT — 1. Boone Myers, sr., 6-5, 310; 2. Alaric Jackson, #fr., 6-7, 320
NEXT MEN IN
' name has come up just about every time Iowa coaches have spoken this offseason.
Reynolds was a 2-star recruit out of Waukee. Iowa was his lone FBS offer. Northern Iowa and several other FCS schools wanted Reynolds. He's a fourth-year junior and now he's making noise. Development doesn't come with a timer. They're making football players not cookies.
Sure, it'd be nice if someone could wave a wand and make a Big Ten-ready OL. It takes time. There are so many boxes to check, beginning with strength and then quickness and so on.
A closer look: Iowa defensive line 2017
Yes, that's true freshman Tristan Wirfs on the depth chart. On media day, OL coach Tim Polasek said Wirfs and Mark Kallenberger
, a Bettendorf freshman offensive tackle, would have chances to earn spots at Nos. 8 or 9.
Wirfs, a Mount Vernon all-stater, also might be in one of those investment years. It's kind of like quarterback Nathan Stanley last year. Sometimes, the Iowa staff plays a true freshman less for what they can do now and more for how ready they'll be in year 2 as sophomores.
Cedar Falls redshirt freshman Spencer Williams seems to have settled in at No. 2 center. This allowed junior Lucas LeGrand
to move from center out to right tackle, which might be a better fit for his 6-5, 295-pound frame.
If you had to nominate a No. 6 OL, as in the next guy to see the field, you could make a strong case for sophomore Levi Paulsen. He started a game last year and the Iowa staff has a comfort level with moving Paulsen in and shifting guard Sean Welsh
to right tackle.
— During the open scrimmage Aug. 12, the Hawkeyes did a ton of rotating on the offensive line. A lot of that was due to injury. LT Boone Myers
started fall camp with foot/ankle problems. He practiced, but was visibly struggling with the injury, so he didn't play a ton. Levi Paulsen and Wirfs also were out of the lineup for the scrimmage.
That probably had a lot to do with the jumbling, but it still was a lot of jumbling.
'We've got good competition,' head coach Kirk Ferentz said. 'It's kind of like the linebackers. We have a pretty good idea how Sean Welsh
is going to play, but you're always toying around and seeing what flexibility guys have. It's one position we're developing depth. ... You just never know what combinations are going to unfold.'
One little wrinkle was junior Keegan Render
moving from left guard to center for a few snaps. That's a new one. 'It's stuff we all need to know and it makes it that much easier if someone goes down,' Render said. 'We can switch positions and keep going.'
— Last year was Alaric Jackson's
first in a college weight room. He said he lost 40 pounds. In Iowa's media guide, Jackson is listed at 6-7, 320.
'I give all of the credit to Coach Doyle (strength coach Chris Doyle), he's very good at his craft,' said Jackson, a redshirt freshman from Detroit. 'I got rid of some bad weight and got toned up. I feel like I'm in great condition and as athletic as I can be.'
— The tight end-to-offensive line switcheroo became famous during Ferentz's early years as Iowa's head coach. When you have primo examples like Robert Gallery and Eric Steinbach
, this type of thing becomes a bit of a phenomenon.
It happens less and less now. Iowa is able to recruit offensive linemen to play offensive line. It still does, however, do the projection thing and tight ends still do make the switch to offensive tackles.
will be a three-year starter at tackle this fall. He began his Iowa career as a 240-something-pound tight end. He's 6-6, 307 this fall.
'It was a huge change physically,' said Boettger, who played QB at Cedar Falls High School as a junior. 'It takes your body a while to catch up and get used to it. Last year, I felt like I started to catch up. This year, I feel a lot better all around.'
Who's the next TE to make this move? There probably isn't one on the roster right now. Iowa's TEs top out in the 250 range and most of those are upperclassmen. Sophomore Nate Wieting is 6-4, 250, but he's been injured most of spring and fall. Maybe Class of 2018 commit Jack Plumb
will count here. He's a 6-8, 240-pounder from Bay Port (Wis.) High School. He caught a TD as a tight end in Bay Port's opener, but when he moves on to Iowa, Plumb will make the switch to offensive tackle.
l Comments: (319) 398-8256; email@example.com