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Point/Counterpoint: Which early departure is the biggest loss for Iowa?

BY DI STAFF | JANUARY 19, 2010 7:30 AM

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Bryan Bulaga

He was a first team All-Big Ten selection in 2009, and he has been a member of the all-conference team in each of his three seasons. He also earned 2009 Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors.

He ranks as the No. 20 overall prospect on Mel Kiper’s NFL Draft Big Board — projected as the first Big Ten lineman to go in the draft.

I think you see where I’m going with this.

The early departure of junior left tackle Bryan Bulaga will hurt the 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl champion Iowa Hawkeyes. And with his offensive-line coaching background, Kirk Ferentz might back me up on this as well.

Though many casual fans get caught up in skill position players because of their more obvious impact in the open field, football begins and ends with the big bruisers on the O-line — especially for a team that focus on running the ball.

When he was healthy, the 6-6, 315-pound native of Crystal Lake, Ill., impacted games more than any other Hawkeye. He helped lead Iowa to a historical 9-0 winning streak to begin the season, and he was a big part in the squad’s impressive 11-2 record.

With all due respect to Iowa’s other early departure — junior shutdown cornerback Amari Spievey — the No. 7-ranked Hawkeyes will return junior Jordan Bernstine from injury to replace him.

The question of who will replace Bulaga on the line is much more of a concern since there is no obvious understudy. It’s possible several linemen will have to change positions to fill the large gap left by the Bulaga.

His presence will undoubtedly missed more.

— by Robbie Lehman

Amari Spievey

Bryan Bulaga should be a dominating force in the NFL. But Amari Spievey’s departure is a bigger hit to the Iowa football team.

If it’s possible to make safe bet on a Kirk Ferentz-coached team, it’s this: Don’t worry about the offensive line.

Captain Kirk has churned out enough top-notch buffet busters to ransack every McDonalds in the country. Bulaga is just the latest.

After all, entering this season, who honestly anticipated Riley Reiff would be as refined as he was?
Before this past season, the redshirt freshman was simply a message-board punch line.

But in 2009, Reiff was one of the best examples of the “Next Man In” philosophy that Hawkeye football is predicated upon. When Bulaga went down, Reiff got the call — and dominated.

I’ll be the first to sarcastically “go out on a limb” and guess that at least one previously unproven offensive lineman steps up next season.

But does Iowa have a player on the current roster who can come in and replace Spievey? Probably. But can they dominate at corner like Spievey?

Extremely doubtful.

After stealing what was presumed to be Jordan Bernstine’s job before the 2008 season, Spievey’s greatness didn’t end with position thievery. The former “two-star” recruit went on to not only start in Iowa’s next 26 games but thrive.

Making things formidable for the few quarterbacks with the cajones to throw the ball to his side of the field, Spievey’s impeccable shading of receivers established him as the closest thing to a shutdown corner in the Big Ten last season.

I’m hoping “Next Man In” allows the Hawkeyes to get the job done at both positions next season, but Spievey has left some large cleats to fill.

— by Jordan Garrettson


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