116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Iowa held its pro day in late March and all 32 NFL teams sent scouts to check out Hawkeyes.
The star of the show was offensive lineman Brandon Scherff, who's projected as high as a top 10 pick in the NFL draft (April 30 in Chicago). Defensive lineman Carl Davis was the co-star. Offensive lineman Andrew Donnal seems to have generated buzz and interest. Defensive lineman Louis Trinca-Pasat might find himself in a unique position, if the NFL changes extra point rules and moves the ball to the 1-yard line, prompting more 2-point conversions.
Former Iowa D-lineman Karl Klug just signed a two-year deal that could reach as much as $5 million with the Tennessee Titans as a defensive lineman and fullback/H-back.
The NFL knows where to shop when it comes to linemen types. Head coach Kirk Ferentz has made Iowa into an offensive and defensive line factory. Of course, defensive line coach Reese Morgan and offensive line coach Brian Ferentz contribute heavily here.
'There's a great level of trust with NFL personnel departments and Kirk Ferentz's program,” said NFL agent/advisor Jack Bechta, who's represented Iowa athletes from linebacker Pat Angerer to wide receiver Tim Dwight to offensive lineman Eric Steinbach. 'If he didn't pioneer it, Kirk Ferentz certainly took the ‘moving the big, athletic tight end and turning him into an offensive lineman' to a new level.”
The interactions Iowa players had with scouts on pro day punctuate the simpatico between Iowa linemen and the NFL.
'They (NFL scouts) have no football questions for us,” said Scherff, the reigning Outland Trophy winner (Iowa's fourth overall and second under Kirk Ferentz). 'It's all about your background, where you come from and why you choose Iowa. They said, ‘You're learning from the best of the best. You guys are technicians.' That has everything to do with coach Ferentz, coach Brian and coach Morgan.”
Trinca-Pasat: 'Any Iowa guy going into the league, they're kind of like a second-year guy (in the NFL). We're taught technique here, we're disciplined. You don't get a lot of that from many other programs. They know what to expect - hardworking, hard-nosed, grinder, blue-collar guys who do what they're told. That's what they expect out of pretty much every Iowa guy.”
The Hawkeye/NFL draft pick numbers for the Ferentz and Hayden Fry eras bear this out. (We're now talking 36 years of Iowa football, so this is a significant portion of Iowa's modern football history.)
Ferentz has had 13 offensive linemen selected in the draft and should send two more this year. The second-most-drafted position under Ferentz is defensive back with 13. Nine defensive linemen have been selected to the draft followed by tight end (eight) and linebacker (seven).
Of the 36 Hawkeye draft picks and free agents who saw time in camp or who made NFL teams last fall, 10 were offensive linemen, six defensive backs and five each of linebackers, tight ends and defensive linemen.
The Fry era produced 19 NFL picks on the offensive line followed by running backs with 10 and D-line with nine.
'Kirk Ferentz runs a pro-type system on and off the field,” Bechta said. '(Strength and conditioning coach) Chris Doyle is a big part of that. The NFL has gone to the Big Ten for linemen for the last 40 years, and Iowa has a premium on that reputation.”
OK, your question is why this hasn't translated to more victories?
First, the obvious answer: Iowa's history isn't speckled with Big Ten championships. In the 36 years of Fry/Ferentz, Iowa has 11 seasons of nine-plus victories. That's one sterling season every four years, and that's also why you're probably a little restless going into 2015. It's been five years since Iowa finished 11-2 and won the Orange Bowl after the 2009 season.
The next place you have to go is the offensive skill positions.
Tight end is the outlier. Ferentz has had eight tight ends picked in the NFL draft, including five who were still in the league last fall. Fry had five tight ends picked. Iowa is more than good here.
Quarterback is a different story. Iowa has had one QB (Ricky Stanzi, fifth round 2011) picked in Ferentz's 16 seasons. Fry had four. Iowa has had two QBs picked in the NFL draft since 1992, when Matt Rodgers went in the 12th round.
The last Iowa QB to throw a pass in the NFL is Dan McGwire, who transferred from Iowa to San Diego State and ended up being a first rounder with the Seattle Seahawks. He threw one incomplete pass in 1995.
In the 36 years of the Fry/Ferentz era, Iowa has had just eight wide receivers drafted (three for Ferentz, five for Fry). Dwight remains the last Iowa wide receiver to catch a pass in the league with six catches for the 2007 Oakland Raiders.
The Fry era running backs show up well here with 10 picks, led by Ronnie Harmon. Ferentz backs Ladell Betts and Shonn Greene had and have, respectively, decent NFL careers, but they're the only two running backs drafted in Ferentz's 16 seasons.
'There's more competition for skill players in college, that obviously has an effect on Iowa,” Bechta said. 'There probably is some skepticism at this point.”
Let's not leave this on a dark note. Stanzi lives!!!!
The New York Giants signed Stanzi to a future/reserve contract in January. (A 'future/reserves” deal is a tool a team can use to claim the rights of a player it thinks might be able to help them in the upcoming season.) Bechta, who represents Stanzi, believes this is his best shot in the league.
Stanzi's journey started after being picked by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. He was cut in 2013 and signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who eventually cut him. Stanzi was then signed to the Houston Texans practice squad for the final two weeks of the 2014 regular season.
Stanzi has yet to appear in a regular-season game. In three preseason games for the Jaguars last year, he finished 17 of 28 for 159 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Yes, the Giants have Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl winner, and have invested two years into Ryan Nassib, a former Syracuse QB. Stanzi is the No. 3 as it stands.
'Ricky is in a pretty good position,” Bechta said. 'He had three different head coaches and three offensive coordinators in Kansas City. He never had a clear shot at reps. He should have that in New York.”
Bechta wouldn't go as far as saying Stanzi will get Iowa passers off the NFL schneid. An Iowa QB will throw a pass in the NFL at some point. This isn't a make-or-break thing for Iowa football, but skill players in the NFL might be something that would grab a recruit's attention.
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