IOWA CITY– This is the second of a three-part series on spring football.
Last week I looked at the skill positions on offense: quarterback, running backs and receivers.
This week I’ll look at the offensive and defensive lines.
The Hawkeyes need to replace two All-Big Ten players on the offense and defensive lines in order to have a successful season.
Starting on the offense, gone are all-conference picks Seth Olsen and Rob Bruggeman.
Seth was one of those versatile linemen that could play guard or tackle. He played both from his freshman year to his junior season.
Last fall, Seth started every game at right guard and was named first team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media.
Rob took a different route to being named second team All-Big Ten last year. Rob was nicked up throughout his career after walking on but stayed healthy last season and was one of the leaders on the team.
Both of Iowa’s tackles return and both were All-Big Ten picks. That is a good place to start.
Bryan Bulaga (6-6, 312) will be a junior and has started since he was a true freshman. He will hold down the left tackle position and will be backed up by Markus Zusevics (6-5, 278). Marcus was a two time all-state player from Arlington Heights, Ill.
“Everybody is pretty excited about this spring and everybody is ready to go,” said Bryan. “We ended last season on a good note so everything’s a little more up-tempo this spring. Everyone is trying to get better and trying to improve on what we did last year.”
On the right side, second team All Big Ten pick Kyle Calloway (6-7, 315) returns for his senior year. Kyle has 25 straight starts and can also play guard.
Redshirt freshman Riley Reiff (6-6, 280), who started out on defense, backs up Kyle. Riley was South Dakota’s Gatorade Player of the Year in high school.
Iowa will have depth and experience at the guard position.
Sophomore Julian Vandervelde (6-3, 300) started the final nine games last season on the left side while senior Andy Kuempel (6-7, 300) started two games on the right side before being injured.
Seniors Dan Doering (6-6, 300) and Raf Eubanks (6-3, 280) are listed as the top backups.
I’m just hoping Dan can stay healthy for a full season. He came in as one of the top linemen in the nation straight out of high school but has been injured every year.
I think when the smoke clears, Raf, who has started 21 games in the past three years, will end up at center – which might give sophomore Adam Gettis (6-4, 280) some clock at right guard.
Dace Richardson, who has missed two years because of injury, is back at practice and is listed as second team left guard. He brings size (6-6, 310) and experience as he has started at left tackle and played as a true freshman.
Like I said before, Raf should get a good look at center. He has 25 starts at guard and center and you can’t teach experience. Backing him up is junior Josh Koeppel (6-2, 267), who has impressed line coach Reece Morgan.
Josh is a walk-on from City High who was first team all-state as a senior. He saw action in six games last year.
Before James Ferentz (6-2, 270) got his second alcohol offense, he was looking at playing time next fall.
I try not to come down very hard on players that make bad decisions since I made so many bad choices when I was their age.
If you read my book, “No Hands, No Feet, No Problem?” there’s a reason I put a question mark behind \Problem.\
I’m starting to feel bad for Kirk and Mary, James' parents.
My dad used to tell me what I did was a reflection of him and Mom.
I never ever did anything to make my parents look bad, but I understand what he meant.
Plus Kirk is not only his dad, but the head coach.
Anyway, Kirk and Reece have done a great job of getting the top five players on the field and I believe they will do that again next fall.
Ken O’Keefe, offensive coordinator for the Hawkeyes, made an interesting comment at the press conference April 14.
A coach told him Iowa is one of only 12 schools left in Division I that run a pro style offense. The “spread” offense has taken over, but Iowa won nine games last year– including a bowl game running the pro style.
On defense, you can’t replace the talent and leadership Matt Kroul and Mitch King brought to the table.
My goodness, Matt started 50 straight games– breaking Bruce Nelson's streak of 48. He was also second team All-Big Ten and Norm Parker, Iowa’s defensive coordinator, said Matt never missed practice or class in five years!
Norm said Mitch might be the best defensive lineman the Hawks have had since Kirk took over in 1999.
Mitch was voted the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year and made second team All-American.
Norm said in a news conference on April 14 the Hawkeyes would fill the tackle position by committee.
Junior Karl Klug (6-4, 260) and sophomore Mike Daniels (6-1, 270) are listed as the top two tackles this spring.
“Karl has Mitch King-like quickness,” said coach Parker. “He also has big play ability and could be something special.”
The coach also said Mike Daniels has been one of the pleasant surprises of the spring.
Backups include red shirt freshman Steve Bigach (6-3, 270), senior Travis Meade (6-0, 285) and junior Cody Hundertmark (6-4, 280).
Travis, a former West High Trojan who walked-on, started some games at offensive guard and Cody is recovering from a shoulder injury.
The Hawks have two All Big Ten players coming back at defensive end.
Juniors Adrian Clayborn (6-3, 282) and Christian Ballard (6-5, 285) will try to replace Mitch and Matt with talent and leadership.
Both have big motors and both can play inside if needed.
Backups include sophomores Lebron Daniel (6-2, 250) and Broderick Binns (6-2, 255).
Norm Parker says Binns, who made a couple of big plays last year, is a good player while Lebron is one of the “surprises of the spring.”
Coach Parker said the D-line could be deeper than last year but will miss the leadership of Mitch and Matt.
Next week I’ll look at the linebackers, defensive backs and special teams.
Has any Hawkeye had more pressure on a field goal than Daniel Murray’s game-winning kick against Penn State?