IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz took nearly a dozen questions Tuesday on Iowa’s offensive line. The session was all over the map, and the answer is never going to be in the words.
There was a question about sophomore Kyler Schott, a walk-on who won a guard spot after a nice performance in the opener. He’s out until after the bye week (Nov. 2) with a foot injury.
Question on sophomore Mark Kallenberger, who played tackle/guard during camp and last Saturday made his first start at guard. Ferentz said Kallenberger held up. Redshirt freshman Cody Ince saw 18 snaps in rotation with Landan Paulsen. True freshman guard Justin Britt (6-5, 290) showed up on the depth chart this week. Ferentz said expect to see him at some point. The Indianapolis, Ind., native is not redshirting.
Is there disappointment? Pass protection? Can you protect a QB if you can’t run the ball? Physical issues? Does Ferentz spend time with the O-line in practice? Does Iowa have too many O-linemen in development and not enough ready to play?
It was the kind of day you’d expect after 26 offensive drives of Big Ten football without a touchdown.
“If we don’t protect, that’s going to be a problem any week of the season,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “It can happen this week, then be fine for a couple weeks. That’s how football is sometimes. Your opponent, whatever it may be, schemes.
“If we’re not protecting the quarterback, it’s going to be tough to operate the way we want to operate. That’s certainly paramount. Just like running the football better, that’s paramount on the list.”
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The No. 23 Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) do get a week off from Big Ten blue bloods. After suffering one-score losses to Michigan and Penn State, Iowa plays host to Purdue (2-4, 1-2) Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
Ferentz is right, though. It can happen this week. After two weeks that included 10 sacks, six QB hits and 15 QB hurries, the Iowa O-line is going to have to show the Big Ten and beyond that it can do this.
“It’s on all of us pretty much,” offensive tackle Alaric Jackson said. “It’s not all one guy’s fault. We’re not hanging heads on anyone. We’re together as a group.”
Let’s check the oil.
— Personnel-wise, Britt’s move is the news.
During recruitment, Britt caught Ferentz’s attention with his eye for detail and depth of knowledge about offensive line. His football IQ has gotten him into three games this fall. When — and it’s likely “when” — Britt plays two more games, the redshirt will go away.
“He was saying some things that I don’t think some of our third-year guys could spit at me,” Ferentz said when Britt signed last December. “That was impressive, and he clearly has been well-coached and thinks about it a little bit, which anything you do you’ve got to think about and give it thought.”
Kallenberger’s entry might be permanent. This is his second start at right guard. Left guard was a trouble spot last week. Maybe senior Levi Paulsen gets a look after being withheld from O-line play last week. Ferentz announced officially Tuesday that guard Cole Banwart will miss the season with a knee injury.
“I think we’re keeping an open mind for everybody,” Ferentz said. “ ... It’s an open door right now. Opportunity for any one of the guys to jump up there, practice well this week. We’ll base it off what we see this week in practice.”
— You had to notice quarterback Nate Stanley’s demeanor on Saturday night. What you saw was a face of calm. He took a ton of hits, including a helmet to the face mask/jaw area. He never freaked out, never pointed fingers.
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He took it like a batter getting hit in the ribs by a fastball. Can’t rub it, that’s an unwritten rule.
“I know what every single one of my teammates has invested,” said Stanley, who had four picks and one TD pass the last two weeks. “I know in those moments my teammates are counting on me. I have to do everything in my power to perform on the field.”
In addition to being asked how much extra time he would spend with the O-line this week, Ferentz was asked about how Stanley kept his composure while enduring the punishment. A snapshot of that was Stanley jogging to the locker room at halftime while trying to hold a bandage on his elbow.
“I’ve never been around a good quarterback who wasn’t physically tough and mentally tough, no matter what kind of style you are, what your skill set may be,” Ferentz said. “Those two characteristics, to be a good quarterback, you have to have that. He certainly possesses that. He has since he’s been here.”
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