Assume the Position: Center

It's about that time.  For the next two months, BHGP will be previewing this year's Iowa Hawkeyes, position-by-position.  Naturally, as the earth rotates around the sun, things will change.  Therefore, we're starting with the position we are most certain of, and ending with running back the position of which we are least certain.  To date:

1. Defensive Tackle
2. Tight End
3. Safety

Tonight: Center

Rafaeleubanks_medium
Just another reason to post this picture

You might think center should have been higher on the list.  After all, Iowa returns a two-year starter who made about 97% of last year's snaps.  Initially, we thought that too, but the coaching staff clearly thinks Rafael Eubanks has some serious competition this season.

The Possible Starters

Rafael Eubanks (6'3", 285, Jr.) - Eubanks was a can't miss recruit who turned down offers from Oklahoma, Miami, Notre Dame, and Minnesota to play for the Hawkeyes.  Needless to say, he hasn't disappointed.  After a redshirt year, Eubanks entered 2006 at the top of the depth chart.  Except for a three-week stretch in 2006 where he was injured, he has snapped the ball on every relevant down of the last two years.  He was anywhere from first-team (Scout.com) to second-team (Rivals.com) to third-team (TSN) freshman All-American.  He was on the 2007 Rimington Trophy watch list, and he will be again this season.  He's incredibly quick (and, as we'll discuss later, agility is the key to zone running), and he's experienced.  Translation: he's probably the best lineman on the team, and might be the best center in the conference.

Yet, by the end of spring practice, he was the co-starter.  Go figure.

Rob Bruggeman (6'3", 290, Sr.) - Rob Bruggeman is the bizzaro Rafael Eubanks.  He walked on, ostensibly as a defensive tackle, and was quickly moved to center.  In the past two seasons, Bruggeman has played sparingly in 4 games.  He missed time in 2006 with injuries.  He missed the first 9 games of last year with a torn ACL.  What I'm trying to say is he's a little injury prone.

That being said, he's earned heaps of praise from the coaching staff; this spring, Ferentz called him, "a veteran guy, extremely smart, extremely hard working."  He was named academic all-Big Ten as a finance major, so there's no doubting his intelligence.  And, when healthy, he's been effective.  Obviously, the fact that he's listed as a co-starter with Eubanks is a testament to his ability.

In the end, we think Eubanks will be the starter.  When dealing with a young team, continuity is key.  Given Jake Christensen's problems last season, knowing he'll be touching the same taint for three years should be comforting.  That being said, if Bruggeman manages to stay healthy, he'll likely find a spot at guard.

Should See the Field

Josh Koeppel (6'1", 260, So.) - Listed as second-team center on the spring depth chart, Koeppel will likely be the starting long snapper.  For the sake of the team, we hope he doesn't follow in the footsteps of former long snapper Clint Huntrods.  For the sake of BHGP, we hope he does.

Andrew Schulze (6'6", 255, So.) - Handled PAT snaps last year.  Probably will do more of the same this year.

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