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Bulaga headlines trio looking to join NFL fraternity of Hawkeye offensive linemen


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In Kirk Ferentz’s 11 seasons as Iowa’s head coach, he has seen eight offensive linemen get drafted by NFL teams.

One more will add his name to that list tonight, and two others could potentially follow suit over this weekend.

The premier Hawkeye this year is left tackle Bryan Bulaga, who decided to forgo his senior season the day after Iowa defeated Georgia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl.

Most prognosticators have the Crystal Lake, Ill., native being chosen somewhere in the draft’s top 10 tonight. If that happens, Bulaga would become the first Hawkeye chosen in the top 10 since Robert Gallery, also a Hawkeye left tackle when the Oakland Raiders selected him second overall in 2004.

Given Ferentz’s connection to some members of the Kansas City Chief organization, including general manager Scott Pioli, Kansas City could be a landing spot for Bulaga. The Chiefs have the fifth pick in the first round.

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“The Chiefs have a clear need for an offensive tackle,” said Pro Football Weekly Associate Editor and former Daily Iowan reporter Dan Parr. “They might move Branden Albert to another spot on the interior line at guard, and that would clear up a spot for Bulaga to come in.

“I think that’s a team to keep your eye on if you’re an Iowa fan wondering where Bulaga is going to go. I think there’s a very good chance that he becomes a member of the Chiefs.”

Should Kansas City go a different route, as Wes Bunting of the National Football Post believes it will by selecting Tennessee safety Eric Berry, he among others believes Bulaga could be taken with the following pick (sixth overall) by the Seattle Seahawks, who saw longtime tackle Walter Jones retire during the off-season.

While Bulaga is in New York City awaiting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to call his name this evening, two other linemen have a chance to be a part of potentially the biggest draft class produced by Iowa since the NFL draft went to seven rounds.

Like Bulaga, they both came to Iowa by way of Illinois. In fact, both linemen — Kyle Calloway and Dace Richardson — were members of the Hawkeyes’ well-known 2005 recruiting class.

Richardson said one of the biggest reasons he chose Iowa over other schools had to do with Ferentz’s reputation of working with offensive linemen, having been an offensive line coach for six seasons in the NFL, and before that, with the Hawkeyes.

“At the next level, everyone regards Coach Ferentz with high regard, and they know he can really develop offensive linemen,” Richardson said. “He really has a knowledge of developing guys when they’re young, and then at the end of their careers, they’re really good linemen.”

Calloway and Richardson won’t be selected in the first round. But neither were Eric Steinbach, Bruce Nelson, Ben Sobieski, Pete McMahon, Marshal Yanda, Mike Elgin, or Seth Olsen, all of whom have been drafted since 2003.

Whether those two are drafted, they, along with Bulaga, follow in the footsteps of these linemen. And that’s something that could eventually pay off.

“They come in, and they’re technically sound bodies, and that’s all you really need in the NFL,” Bunting said of Ferentz’s products up front. “You can maximize your strength and maximize your athleticism if you’re technically sound, and that’s something you know you’re getting from Iowa offensive linemen.”

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