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Gone Baby Gone: Riley Reiff Leaves Early for the NFL

No surprises here: Riley Reiff, a three-year starter at left tackle, has decided to forego his fifth-year senior season and enter the pros. Reiff has already completed four years of school, will turn 24 before next season begins, and is projected as a potential top 10 draft pick. The decision's kind of a no-brainer.

The Plankton from Yankton was arguably the best player signed to the Class of 2008, a three-star defensive end who had previously given a verbal commitment to Nebraska but left when Bill Callahan was fired. He was notorious before even starting practice his redshirt season, picking up an arrest for public intox and interference with official acts after being caught half-naked behind the downtown Pita Pit and making a run for it. Reiff responded as we hoped: He shut up, kept his head down, and turned into a wildebeest in the weight room. He emerged in 2009 at 285 pounds and converted to the offensive line. On a line with Bryan Bulaga, Kyle Calloway, and a veritable cornucopia of upperclassmen in the interior line, Reiff forced himself into the starting lineup. First, he replaced an injured Bulaga at left tackle. Then, he replaced incumbent left guard Julian Vandervelde. By the time Iowa played Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, he had usurped a three-year senior starter at right tackle and staked his claim as the best offensive lineman on a team with five experienced starters and a first round draft pick-to-be at left tackle.

When Bulaga left, Reiff moved to the coveted left tackle position and never left again. The 2009 offensive line, where Reiff was a Swiss Army Knife, was one of the best of the Ferentz era; Iowa's 2010 and 2011 lines have been nowhere near as solid, and Reiff's stature has suffered slightly as a result. He was a second-team all-conference selection in 2010, and a first-team selection this year, but the on-field results didn't look as impressive. It obviously hasn't changed the opinions of the NFL scouts, though, and in the end, their opinion is what matters.

We'll get to the implications of Reiff's departure later this offseason. For now, our thanks and best wishes go to Riley Reiff, the next great Iowa offensive lineman in the League.