IOWA CITY — Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz has coached a Pro Football Hall of Famer in Jonathan Ogden and a guard considered the NFL’s best lineman in Marshal Yanda. Ferentz also has coached first-round draft picks in Robert Gallery, Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff.
Does current Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff — who was named as an Outland Award finalist on Tuesday — belong in the same category as those players?
“Yes and no,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “I’ve seen very few freaks of nature or freak people or super people in coaching or playing, but Jonathan Ogden does fit in that category. I’m convinced of this that he could have been an NBA all-star as a power forward or he could have been a brain surgeon. ... So you’ve got to take him out of the equation.
“We’ve had a lot of Pro Bowl guys, and there’s no question Brandon is in that category as a college player. If I was a betting man, I’d bet on the same thing in the NFL. He’s just a rare talent. His talent is very different from Ogden’s and different from Yanda’s. He’s a better athlete, and I mean that in all great respect to Marshal; there’s a reason why he got drafted in the third round, clearly under-drafted. But to that point, the competitiveness and what they bring to a team in terms of good chemistry, great example, work ethic, toughness all the things that you would hope for in a player, Brandon embodies those things.”
Scherff, a 6-foot-5, 320-pound mauler from Denison, Iowa, has started 34 games at Iowa. He was a first-team all-Big Ten selection by league coaches last year. He became a known figure nationwide with a video last summer showing him twice hang clean 443 pounds.
Tuesday, Scherff said he has little interest in awards.
“I think I’d just rather ... obviously (I’m focused on) the team’s success and we want to come out with two more Ws and two more trophies and that’s going to mean a lot more than anything else,” Scherff said.
Ferentz coached offensive line for the Baltimore Ravens and served as assistant head coach when the Ravens drafted Ogden in 1996. NFL Network named the 2013 Hall of Famer No. 72 on its top 100 greatest football player list and the fourth-best tackle to ever play behind Anthony Munoz, Jim Parker and Forrest Gregg. Yanda unanimously was named as a midseason All-Pro by most NFL observers, including Sports Illustrated and Pro Football Focus.
When asked if Scherff could start immediately for an NFL team, Ferentz said, “If I was an NFL line coach, I’d love to have the opportunity to get him in the organization.
“At the end of the day it’s not about the combine stuff, although Brandon’s got freakish strength and explosion,” Ferentz said. “But a lot of guys can’t carry that to the field and Brandon’s got the ability to do that, too. He’s a rare guy.”
The Outland Trophy is awarded to the most outstanding interior lineman. Other finalists include Auburn center Reese Dismukes and Texas defensive tackle Malcolm Brown. The winner is announced Dec. 11.
Three Iowa players previously have won the Outland Trophy: Calvin Jones (1955), Alex Karras (1957), and Robert Gallery (2003). Mike Devlin was a semifinalist in 1992.
Iowa tight end Henry Krieger-Coble had shoulder surgery on Monday after an injury last week in practice. He’s out for the rest of the season, Ferentz said. Defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat apparently injured an elbow against Wisconsin but returned to the game. When asked about the status of Trinca-Pasat, a team captain, Ferentz said, “we hope he can play.”
Iowa inserted backup offensive tackle Ike Boettger as a blocking tight end to replace Krieger-Coble in Iowa’s two- and three-tight end formations.
As for Nebraska, wide receiver Kenny Bell remains questionable after suffering a head injury against Minnesota, Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini said. Bell is Nebraska’s career record-holder in catches (171) and receiving yards (2,565). He has 37 catches for 664 yards and three touchdowns this year.
This is the fourth consecutive year Iowa has played on Black Friday. Football programs are creatures of habit so playing games on a different day presents challenges. However Ferentz has started to embrace the change.
“I kind of like it actually on a couple fronts,” he said. “At this time of year, I think it’s doable, realistically doable. In the early part of the season, you need nine days to get ready for a game and they don’t give you that. That’s how it feels. Later in the year, if you’re doing things efficiently, it probably forces you to be more efficient. That’s a good thing.
“The other part is you get to watch everybody sweat on Saturday sitting there with your feet up. Not a bad deal.”
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