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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Things were happening fast for Iowa's offensive line in the second and third quarters.
Senior guard Jordan Walsh went to the lockerroom with a shoulder injury. True freshman James Daniels went in. In the third quarter, sophomore right tackle Ike Boettger left the game with an ankle injury and didn't return. Daniels went in.
To recap the day, James Daniels, a 6-4, 285-pounder, played guard, played tackle and survived the experience in the Hawkeyes' 29-20 victory over Illinois at Kinnick Stadium.
Daniels, brother of junior running back LeShun Daniels, was a four-star recruit who picked the Hawkeyes over home-state Ohio State and Alabama. He enrolled in January, made the dean's list and now could be Iowa's starting right tackle going into Northwestern next weekend.
'It is different because I was recruited as a center and then in camp, they put me at guard,” Daniels said through Iowa's sports information department (true freshmen aren't allowed to speak to the media). 'Now, I am starting to play tackle a little bit. It was kind of difficult, but I like it.
'Coach Ferentz wouldn't put me out there if he didn't think I could do it.”
That could be head coach Kirk Ferentz or offensive line coach Brian Ferentz, who, between series in the second half, sat the O-line down for some whiteboard teaching moments that seemed to click. The Hawkeyes rushed for 169 of their 278 yards in the second half.
A lot of that was senior Jordan Canzeri, whose school-record 43 carries and 256 rushing yards drove the Hawkeyes, but the O-line was there, too. And that was a funky O-line with Daniels being just the third true freshman to play there in Kirk Ferentz's 17 seasons (joining Mike Jones and Bryan Bulaga).
'The kid is an athlete,” center Austin Blythe said. 'When he first came in doing drills and in spring football, I didn't think there was a time when he didn't reach [block] somebody. Whether it be center, guard or tackle, he's going to do it all day. He's a great athlete. I think it took him a while to set in there and get the rhythm of it, but it's a tribute to him just going on and getting it done.”
Daniels whiffed on his first play and allowed a 4-yard loss on a running play. On his next series, he was beaten for a sack by linebacker Dawuane Smoot. On his next play in the next series, he sealed Smoot and helped open a hole that running back Jordan Canzeri hit for an untouched 75-yard TD.
'I was asked on radio how much he's played tackle,” Kirk Ferentz said in the postgame. 'I said, ‘Probably not enough.'”
Here's how it's down to a true freshman at right tackle: Sophomore Boone Myers missed his second straight game with a neck/shoulder stinger. Junior Cole Croston made his second career start there. Boettger's injury looks to be his left ankle. He came back out to the bench after going to the lockerroom and had ice wrapped around his lower left leg.
Daniels started seeing time at right tackle in the week leading up to last weekend's Wisconsin game.
Maybe the little things add up. Daniels' father, LeShun Sr., was a three-year starter at guard for Ohio State (1994-95). Daniels is a biology major who made the dean's list in college during what should've been the second semester of his senior year in high school.
'I understand everything,” Daniels said about his field promotion to right tackle. 'At first, it was tough because things are so much faster. In high school, you have time to learn stuff, but in college the coaches move on and move on.”
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