116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
No. 28 — The No. 3 OT
No. 28 ...
Depth on the offensive line will be the ongoing saga for the 2014 Hawkeyes. You heard coach Kirk Ferentz say this spring that, yes, the Iowa staff wanted to bring in speed and, yes, Iowa borrowed from the stack of offensive line scholarships to bring that speed to Iowa City. The result should come home in 2014 for the wide receivers (Iowa brought in five WRs in the ‘13 classes). The 2014 recruiting class invested in five defensive backs. That might come in handy this year with the safety position facing a deficit of experienced depth.
Iowa rolled the dice on the offensive line. Why not? It had all-Big Ten left tackle Brandon Scherff and fifth-year senior Andrew Donnal on the depth chart. Scherff is a preseason all-American. Donnal is more of an unknown, but he received glowing reviews from coaches this spring. One more reason to gamble: O-line coach Brian Ferentz is a demonstrative coach and one who strives to will his players to a better place.
After Scherff and Donnal, though, that's the gamble. And that's why O-line health will be an ongoing storyline for this edition of the Hawkeyes.
'I think moving forward there is a really good opportunity to get some players that can fortify that position here in the year coming and recruiting, so I'm not panicking,” Kirk Ferentz said. 'Also I've seen enough behind the scenes to feel like we're going to be OK.”
It should be noted that Iowa does have at least three potential tackles who've committed to the 2015 class (Landan and Levi Paulsen and Brett Waechter), so the O-line scholarship bucket is refilling.
The candidates ...
We need to throw some definition around this. We are talking about the No. 3 tackle, the player who would replace either of the tackles.
So, with that said, during the spring game, sophomore walk-on Cole Croston (6-5, 270) was the first tackle off the bench. Croston and red-shirt freshman Ike Boettger (6-6, 267) were the No. 2 tackles, with redshirt freshman Sean Welsh (6-3, 285) and sophomore Ryan Ward (6-5, 290) in the third group. Earlier this spring, red-shirt freshman walk-on Boone Myers (6-5, 285) was listed in the mix at No. 2 left tackle.
It's probably easier to pick out who definitely won't be the No. 3 OT. Why is this an important position? After Scherff and Donnal, the experienced depth evaporates. None of the players listed above has played beyond mop-up.
Boettger seems to be enjoying a quick rise after moving from tight end at the beginning of last season. His weight tops around 270 right now, but he's a redshirt freshman. That will change. (Interesting bit of coincidence, Iowa does have a former Cedar Falls prep possibly factoring on the O-line in ‘14 and he's not named Ross Pierschbacher, who, you know, signed with Alabama.)
Always a chance that ...
Maybe the No. 3 OT is something Iowa won't have to break out this season? Scherff missed a few series here and there in 2013. Donnal mixed in at guard and played every position on the OL except center. But there's also the possibility of emergency, like in 2012 when Scherff and Donnal were lost for the season in a span of three plays against Penn State.
It should be noted that Scherff and Brett Van Sloten played 99 percent of the tackle snaps last season.
The No. 3 OT is much too high at No. 28 if everyone stays healthy. If there's an injury, it's too low.
That said, let's give ranking who would go in first a shot:
1. Boettger - He was behind the rest of the group this spring, but has made up ground. He could be an important player in ‘14.
2. Croston - Still on the thin side, but you can see the growth in his body and game. He's still a walk-on, but has worked his way to a plus, a player whose game has visibly improved.
3. Ward - A third-year sophomore who's probably wanting to taste playing time.
'We're always trying in recruiting to make our football team better,” Brian Ferentz said. 'So, if you compare it to the NFL Draft, we want to take the best available, and unfortunately for us, at the offensive line position over the last few years, really we haven't been able to develop some of the depth perhaps we'd like from a scholarship standpoint.
'To me, where we've been fortunate is we've had some guys that have walked on to our program and paid their dues the hard way. They've really improved and elevated.”
l Comments: (319) 398-8256; firstname.lastname@example.org