Iowa Football

Iowa football Depth Chart Monday: O-line faces challenge in Northern Illinois

Some clarity at linebacker headed into the season opener

Iowa lineman Dalton Ferguson (76) smiles as he watches kids push on either side off a big ball at his station during the Iowa Football Youth Camp held at Johnston Middle School Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Johnston. (Brian Achenbach/Freelance)
Iowa lineman Dalton Ferguson (76) smiles as he watches kids push on either side off a big ball at his station during the Iowa Football Youth Camp held at Johnston Middle School Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Johnston. (Brian Achenbach/Freelance)

Depth charts are an unofficial record of what’s supposed to happen, but, hey, this is week 1, so let’s take a dive into Hawkeyes 2018.

At least on paper for this weekend’s opener against Northern Illinois.

It’s simply “hold on to your helmet” week for Iowa’s offensive line, and by extension, running game.

Sophomore tackles Tristan Wirfs (OWI) and Alaric Jackson (team rules violation) are suspended for this one. That pushes redshirt freshman Mark Kallenberger and fifth-year senior Dalton Ferguson into the starting lineup this week.

Last week, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz wasn’t cutting any slack. Iowa did this to itself he said, Iowa will have to fix it.

This will be the first game for Kallenberger, a 6-6, 282-pounder from Bettendorf, and first start for Ferguson, a 6-4, 308-pounder from Solon. (Kallenberger will replace Jackson on the left side; Ferguson will be on the right.)

This clearly is a hot spot, especially against the Huskies, who finished fifth in the nation in sacks (43.0) and tied for the nation’s lead with 114.0 tackles for loss. The Huskies also boast defensive end Sutton Smith (6-1, 237-pound junior), who tied for the nation’s lead with 14,0 sacks last season.

Some insights from Iowa O-line coach Tim Polasek on media day a few weeks ago:

“Mark Kallenberger just continues to kind of plug along,” Polasek said. “I’d like to see him maybe raise his own expectations, get those close to where ours are as a coaching staff for him.”

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On Ferguson: “I’m seeing his best right now,” Polasek said. “I haven’t been around him much on the field. Dalton’s been a great Hawkeye. His teammates really matter to him.”

Everyone talked linebackers all summer.

Junior Amani Jones has been cemented into the middle linebacker spot. Nick Niemann’s speed gives him some position flexibility, so it was a search for the next best during camp. Junior Kristian Welch appears to have held at the weakside linebacker spot. He’s listed No. 1 ahead of redshirt freshman Djimon Colbert, who gave Welch a run during camp. Niemann is listed at outside linebacker, ahead of fellow sophomore Barrington Wade.

Competition at running back is fierce.

Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said last week sophomore Ivory Kelly-Martin has positioned himself as the starter, but he emphasized the need for sophomores Toren Young and Mekhi Sargent to contribute.

Today, Kelly-Martin was listed as the starter. Young and Sargent have an “or” between their names for No. 2.

Defensive line also will have a suspension to deal with. Junior tackle Cedrick Lattimore (team rules violation) is out this week.

Senior Sam Brincks (6-5, 275) will get the call this week and probably be in some sort of tackle/end rotation much of the season.

The Hawkeyes likely will rotate as many as nine D-linemen this season.

“We’re happy with where we’re at,” defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “I think that’s the strong point of our defense right now. With that rotation, keeping them fresh is really going to help.”

Iowa has just 13 seniors, so this is a young roster with 23 freshmen and sophomores on the depth chart.

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Here’s an oddity: All of the starters on both lines of scrimmage are Iowans.

In 2012, the Hawkeyes has an all-Iowa O-line: Brandon Scherff, Matt Tobin, James Ferentz, Austin Blythe and Brett Van Sloten. D-line? The closest Iowa came to that under Ferentz was the 2006 season opener when Iowa City’s Alex Kanellis started alongside Mitch King, Matt Kroul and then Bryan Mattison, an Indiana native.

IMPORTANT: Game day traffic.

(I don’t want to screw this up, so I’m copying and pasting straight from the UI email.)

• Fans are encouraged to avoid the First Ave. I-80 exit due to construction and rather use the Coral Ridge or Dubuque Street exits off I-80 or the Melrose exit off US-218.

• Construction will impact the Myrtle Street parking lot. Access to the Myrtle Parking Lot during the closure will be available using Benton Street to Greenwood Drive. Riverside Drive will remain open with lane reductions, but will not allow access to Myrtle Lot.

• The Hawkeye Express returns for its 15th season. Fans can park and ride the train to the game for only $15 per rider. All tickets are cash only and there is not a season pass for the train. The train will begin three hours before each game, regardless of kickoff time.

• Regular Hawkins, South Hospital Drive, and Melrose gameday closures will continue like years past.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.