It's about that time. For the next month week, BHGP will be previewing this year's Iowa Hawkeyes, position-by-position. Naturally, as the earth revolves around the sun, things will change. Therefore, we're starting with the position we are most certain of, and ending with running back offensive line the position of which we are least certain. To date:
Today: Offensive Line
Well, this is it. We've finally reached the end of Assume the Position. And honestly, if it weren't for this week's final depth chart, we still wouldn't have an idea of what's happening on the offensive line. Our best guesses:
The Starters, For Now
Reminder: We previously chronicled the center position individually.
RT: Kyle Calloway (6'7", 315, Jr.) - Calloway had an interesting first season as a starter. Despite never having played significant minutes, he was named the starting tackle in August and held that spot throughout, playing virtually every down in the process. He didn't start well; if you need any proof, look back at the Wisconsin game:
Leave it to Kenny Boy to go high-risk low-reward once we sneak into field goal range. The initial blocking is pretty solid to the right, but Calloway (-1) completely whiffs on Shaugnessy, forcing Cleveland to slow up and cut further into the backfield. Calloway (-1 more) compounds the error by pushing Shaugnessy further into the backfield (a missed clip, to tell you the truth). Christensen does a better job of blocking than his lineman and temporarily stops the carnage, but the damage is done. Levy comes from the LB spot to clean up. Just an awful, atrocious, idiotic, certifiable playcall.
Followed by the worst-executed run of the night. Wisconsin rushes THREE. Calloway (-1) and Blum (-1) decide it would be best to block each other, As DeCremer wraps up AY. And, even if Calloway and Blum hadn’t gone all Brokeback Mountain, Chapman and Levy were there to clean up. This play sucked so much, it should be put on a loop and used to save little children who fall in wells.
That being said, by mid-October he didn't look horrible. In fact, he was downright competent against Michigan State and Northwestern. He also proved to be incredibly durable, playing every down of offense in the last 10 games of the season. It's more than you can say for his colleagues. If you told me last September he would be the starter on the weak side, I'd be terrified. Now? I can live with it.
RG: Seth Olsen (6'5", 305, Sr.) - The only absolute lock as a starter on this offensive line. Olsen started the 2006 Illinois game, and has started every game since. There's not much you can say about Olsen that hasn't already beed said. He was unquestionably the best lineman on the ragtag group that couldn't stop even the most incompetent of defenses. He is, by all accounts, the glue that holds this unit together. He is the only senior starter on the line, and he'll be the centerpiece of the line again this year.
LG: Rafael Eubanks (6'3", 285, Jr.) - Chronicled as a center, where Bruggeman has won the starting job. Eubanks is undersized for a guard, but he's also a two-year starter and honorable mention All-Big XI selection with incredible agility. As much as I like Kuempel (who may well start this week, but will likely lose out eventually), he's the obvious choice.
LT: Bryan Bulaga (6'6", 300, Soph.) - This is where I finally get excited. Bulaga could be the next Robert Gallery, and that's not hyperbole. Bulaga entered Iowa last season as one of the most-hyped recruits in the 2007 class, and he did not disappoint. Bulaga was a top-rated offensive lineman (4 stars and top 20 position ratings from both sites), mostly because he was a 6'6", 275 lb. tight end in school who could run a 4.78 40 and bench 380. He was injured after limited action in the Northern Illinois game, returned against Team Redacted, and was starting by the following week. Given the abject failure of the players beore him, it was not a moment too soon. He spent most of the spring nursing injuries, but he's back, he's healthy, he's bigger, he's agile as hell, and he's got a year of experience under his belt. It's players like Bulaga that keep me on the season ticket rolls.
Should See the Field
Andy Kuempel (6'7", 300, Jr.) - Listed as co-starter at left guard this weekend, Kuempel might be the odd man out. Kuempel was one of the better recruits in Iowa when he came out of Linn-Marr High in 2004, and that potential looked realized when he left last spring as the starting left guard. However, he lost his starting spot by the end of preseason camp and played occasionally throughout last season. In fact, by Northwestern, he was buried on the depth chart and didn't see action in the last three games of the season. We're repeating history; Kuempel was the starting left tackle after spring, was moved to guard, and now looks like he might get beaten again.
Julian Vandervelde (6'3", 300, Soph.) - Vandervelde played in about three different positions last season, none of them particularly well. That being said, he was a freshman, and he played like one. We know he has athletic ability; he was the star of the Davenport teams that made repeat Little League World Series earlier in the decade (he was 6'2, 231 as a 12-year-old). Still, it takes a certain amount of time for someone who left high school looking like this to mature into a Big Ten-caliber lineman. Hopefully he's there now, because he'll likely be starting next season.
Wes Aeschliman (6'8", 320, Sr.) - He has the size to play tackle. He has the experience to play now. Yet the former walk-on has never taken the big leap forward into the lineup. He's finally firmly entrenched in the two-deep this season (though stuck behind Calloway, who never misses a play), and it's his final chance to make it happen. Here's to hoping he gets a shot; you would have a difficult time finding a nicer guy, football player or not.
Kyle Haganman (6'5", 275, Soph.) - Haganman came out of nowhere. He was a walk-on in 2006, didn't see the field in 2007, and was barely registering on the depth chart after spring practice. Now he's listed as Olsen's backup ahead of players with more games and seasons under their belt. Obviously he's doing something right; with a gun to my head, I couldn't tell you what it is.
Travis Meade (6'2", 285, Jr.) - Here's one of the players Haganman passed. Meade walked on from Iowa City West High and made his way up the depth chart, starting last season's opening seven games and playing virtually every down. When Ferentz went to work on the line in the second half of the season, however, Meade went from starter to supporting role to waterboy in three short weeks. He did not play in the last four games, and is not on the opening depth chart this year. It's not to say he can't make it back into the rotation, but things aren't looking great.
The good news? He's one hell of an acrobatic lover.
Tyrel Detweiler (6'4", 300, Fr. (RS)) - Won't play, but looks like this:
And that is fucking awesome.
Dan Doering (6'7", 305, Jr.) - And that brings us to Dan Doering, one of the most confusing stories on this team. Doering was the centerpiece of the vaunted 2005 class, a 5-star recruit and U.S. Army All-American with unlimited potential. Since then, he's been listless. He barely played as a freshman, and he started his sophomore year as a backup before moving into the starting lineup in place of Travis Meade (the fact that Meade was ahead of his is absurd enough). Still, there were glaring errors in his play. Spring was little better.
This should be Doering's time; he's a junior, he's been in the program for three years, and the coaching staff seems to be losing its patience. Of course, on the eve of what could be a breakout season, he suffered a hand injury and will miss the opener. I'd normally expect him to start upon his return, but I can't imagine exactly where he fits in; he can't pass any of the players ahead of him if he plays as he did last season. Doering is a player to watch this year, for good or for bad.
And, with that, we come to an end of Assume the Position 2008. It's been a wild ride. You might have noticed a lack of pregame material this week, and there is a reason for that: We don't know shit about Maine. We'll have a quick look at the depth chart and what to watch for tomorrow afternoon, but true week-to-week coverage will start with FIU in week two.