Before we kick this bad boy off with my personal favorite year-by-year positional group to watch, I just want to say one thing: Don’t let anyone on the internet fool you; we’re all just guessing here. Things ALWAYS change. It’s a faction of Kirk Ferentz football. We’re all just taking the knowledge we have (previous seasons stats, experience, stories of weight room dominance) and making a justified call.
I could easily go out on a limb and lay out my fair share of “Hot Takes” about how I think that Alaric Jackson is already better than Boone Myers, but what’s that going to do besides make me sound like an incompetent idiot that apparently knows nothing about Iowa football? We all know that Kirk Ferentz isn’t starting a raw, redshirt freshman over a senior with starting experience to start the season if both are equally healthy. That’s blasphemous. Could Jackson eventually start on the offensive line? Of course he COULD; after all Myers has been bitten by the injury bug a time or two (and isn’t known for his pass blocking acumen either). But this is all fluid. And that goes double time for the offensive line.
Sure, there are three seniors and a trio of starters remaining on the roster, but Iowa had much of the same last season too and they STILL somehow utilized seven different combinations throughout the season. SEVEN! And even when it looked like the Iowa football season was coming off the rails, the offensive line still finished as one of the more dominating and effective run blocking lines in the country with an adjusted line yards line of 113.6 (over 100 is good), while also helping in the production of two 1,000 yard rushers for the first time ever.
Like the boys over at Shutdown Fullcast said, Iowa loves to make themselves a sturdy fence. It has to be the first and last thing Kirk thinks about when he wakes up in the morning and goes to bed at night.
The 2017-18 version of that fence? Well they can apparently shred through an entire pig and, like, 87 whole chickens:
We have eliminated STRESS / ANXIETY with great preparation. Can't Wait to have the Offensive Line over for dinner. #Brotherhood #Grilling pic.twitter.com/gVD1y3HAWW— Tim Polasek (@CoachTimIowa) June 29, 2017
I almost wish I had a meat feast like this for my bachelor party.
Anyways, the offensive line is easily Iowa’s most complete/best asset (especially when you throw in what Wadley can do behind it). This group of players are supremely versatile and experienced with a few others that SHOULD be ready to stake their claim if someone goes down (i.e. Jackson and his new weight, Levi Paulsen, Lucas LeGrand and Ross Reynolds to name a handful).
This is a fluid list. While I myself wrote all of these names in pen in my notebook before writing this 1,500 word piece, that doesn’t mean they will stay that way, because it probably won’t. But no matter the order or the names at the position... this is one DAMN sturdy fence.
So, with that all out of the way let’s go!
Offensive Lineman Scholarship Distrubtion
|POS||SR||JR||SO||RS FR||Incoming FR||Total|
|POS||SR||JR||SO||RS FR||Incoming FR||Total|
|OL||Ike Boettger; Boone Myers; Sean Welsh||James Daniels; Lucas LeGrand; Keegan Render; Ross Reynolds||Landon Paulsen; Logan Paulsen||Cole Banwart; Alaric Jackson; Spencer Williams||Mark Kallenberger; Coy Kirkpatrick; Tristan Wirfs||15|
See what I mean about the depth?
The “Projected” Starters
LT: Boone Myers, SR
Some might be a little concerned and/or skeptical with Myers at left tackle. I suppose I can understand why to a certain degree. As the probable starter at left tackle on a line that is going to have to protect a first time starting QB (whoever it ends up being), he’s got a bit of an uphill battle in front of him based on what he’s put on tape the past few years in pass protection.
But after two years of starting (one of which at the left tackle position) under his belt and another offseason playing tug-o-war and the “shirt game” in between Chris Doyle work outs, I’m willing to bet on Myers being better in pass protection (or at least be able to better use his athleticism and strength more often in those one-on-one situations with elite Big Ten defensive ends).
Honestly, I will openly look forward to leading the “Boone Myers is underrated” bus going into the season.
Let’s also not forget his most valuable trait: Iowa will once again be able to deploy him almost anywhere on the line in a pinch. For obvious reasons, I’m not hoping for that, but say my guy Alaric Jackson is ready and for some reason Keegan Render isn’t, Myers can move over one spot and be just as dominating of a force at LG as he can be at LT. He’s the Ferentz family’s swiss army knife. His unique ability to sumo wrestle his way in the run game, combined with his elite athleticism for the position group (Brian Ferentz has gloated about this in the past) on top of his ever valued experience, makes the former un-coveted walk-on Iowa’s most dependable lineman going into 2017-18.
You can’t overlook that.
LG: Keegan Render, JR
Keegan Render looks the part and will almost surely be a future NFL product if he stays the course and continues to build off of the successes he had last season. Sure there were some growing paints to start, but there was way more positive on film than some of the glaring negatives that we remember (most only remember the penalties that players rack up more so than the substantial stand ups or the uber athletic pull blocks that lead to wide open spaces into the second level of a defense):
1️⃣4️⃣-0️⃣@HawkeyeFootball is in control in Champaign. pic.twitter.com/wxkG9vLE1y— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) November 19, 2016
I mean that’s quite the stand by Render there... AND EVEN MORE IMPRESSIVE FROM SEAN WELSH. My god. That dude he had one on one would’ve been better off sitting on the sideline (more on Welsh coming up).
The proof was obviously in the Ferentz pudding (sounds gross, but I’m sure Kirk uses that saying a time or two every year). Once Render was on the field, he never came off; eventually sky rocketing from the first back up off the bench to full time stater.
This shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. The Hawkeyes coaching staff is all about what you put on film. You are who you are on the tape and that’s that.
Going into 2017, I don’t think anyone in that locker room expects anything different now that Render has taken a hold of the job. This dude is here to stay and could go down (you know, with his athleticism, size and NICEEEEEEE jersey number) as one of the best guards that Iowa has produced.
C: James Daniels, JR
I can’t believe that we get to watch James Daniels solidify the whole damn line again this season (and probably again next year too). The 2017 Rimington Trophy watchlist-er is easily one of the best times you can have watching offensive line play in college football.
IF you love pulling centers that can get out ahead of speedjabbers like Akrum Wadley while also being able to snap a ball and plummet right into an opposing defender in one perfect swoop, you won’t find too many better than Daniels:
I froze it for everyone so you can see it. Not only does Daniels pick up the blitzing linebacker, he makes sure that he stays out of the play completely as Wadley dances down the line and eventually down field.
I mean would you look at this:
He’s 20 yards down field at the end of this run. Unbelievable talent. Even better kid. And I hate that I just sounded like the almost 30-year old that I am by saying that.
RG: Sean Welsh, SR
Ahhhhh, the third member of what is surely going to be the most essential part of Brian Ferentz zone blocking scheme. Welsh is an absolute monster and as Iowa’s most experienced returning member on the offensive line, he’s going to be counted on to continue to do things like this:
Jim Harbaugh could not have been to happy after watching that play. Look at Welsh just completely stand up Matthew Godin (something I know the coaching staff must’ve watched a couple hundred times as they preach to their linemen to get an initial punch before lifting them onto their toes) while opening up an entire running lane with Drake Kulick.
He does it again here (poor Matthew Godin). If Wadley has an even better season this year, he needs to do something really nice for these guys up the middle for constantly communicating, keeping their elbows in and their eyes on their targets.
Also, don’t forget that last year Kirk Ferentz threw around comps to Marshall Yanda when talking about Grape Juice. That’s some high, HIGH praise for the All-American.
RT: Ike Boettger, SR
How well Iowa’s first-time quarterback does this year will have a lot to do with Ike Boettger and Myers being able to stand their ground in pass protection against one-on-one matchups with defensive ends. It’s paramount for these guys to not only have put the necessary work in to develop the proper technique in the offseason, but for it to carry over in hopes of cutting the last two season’s sack total down. Boettger already has the necessary size (he’s 6’6” and 300-so odd pounds) to be a dominating force on the outside, but can he keep it together when a speed rusher flashes tries turning the corner on him?
I’m guessing Nathan Stanley sure as hell hopes so.
Honestly, I believe that Boettger can get there. He’s got the perfect storm brewing behind him in terms of experience, a solidified spot as the unquestioned guy going into his senior season and an NFL future that’s glistening in the distance. If the footwork that sometimes ailed him is there (probably the most important thing still lacking in his zone blocking technique), Boettger could easily escalate his importance in Iowa’s passing game and inevitably, his own draft stock.
The sixth man: Alaric Jackson, RS FR
He was the backup LT in the spring. He added on 35 pounds in a year. By all reports coming out of spring is that the offense is clicking for him and the coaching staff can’t stop raving about the work he’s put in.
Don’t be shocked if Jackson pushes both Myers and Boett’s in training camp... or at least makes them better by lighting a fire under their feet.