Notebook: Hawkeye offensive line young, unsettled

BY SETH ROBERTS | APRIL 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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Thirteen starts. That's it.

Take away senior center James Ferentz, and the other first-team Iowa football offensive linemen who took the field during the Hawkeyes' open practice on April 14 have only a baker's dozen starts among them.

Ten of those come from left guard Matt Tobin. Brandon Scherff has the other three. Austin Blythe, Conor Boffeli, and Brett Van Sloten don't have any.

But the youth of the line doesn't seem to concern at least one player expected to be a major cog in Iowa's offense this season.

"Scherff's a huge man — very physical, he has the potential to be a very, very good player … he's killing guys at practice," tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz said about the 6-5, 310-pound left tackle. "Van Sloten's also a very physical player, disciplined. They're both very good."

They'll need to be.

Scherff is replacing Riley Reiff, who most expect will be taken in the first round of the NFL draft later this month. Van Sloten will take the right-tackle spot vacated by Markus Zusevics, who was slated as a late-round draft pick before he tore his left pectoral at the NFL scouting combine. Blythe and Boffeli are battling for the right to replace NFL-bound right guard Adam Gettis.

With the exception of Blythe, a redshirt freshman, most of the newcomers have seen game action. Boffeli played in three games last year and sporadically as a redshirt freshman in 2010. Scherff made 10 appearances in 2011, and Van Sloten played in all 13 contests.

But that doesn't mean their jobs are safe. It's still early — the team has three more practices to play with before hanging up the pads for the rest of the academic year — and an almost entirely new coaching staff means every Hawkeye has to fight to establish himself. Andrew Donnal, Drew Clark, and Nolan MacMillan aren't out of the picture yet; and that could be a good thing, Ferentz said.

"The more competition you have, I think that's healthy," the senior center said. "The longer the competition goes on, that makes us better as a unit — and that, in turn, makes us better as a team."

And while he admitted it would be nice to nail down the starters for the purposes of developing chemistry, Ferentz said the prolonged battles could benefit the team in a different way.

"When you have six or eight guys rotating in — through the course of the season, guys get hurt — so it's good to get that kind of rhythm going where you're used to guys hopping in right away," he said.

Hawkeyes get commitment from Detroit safety

The Iowa football team picked up its third recruit in as many weeks on April 14.

Safety Delano Hill gave an oral commitment after the Hawkeyes' open practice over the weekend, according to HawkeyeInsider.com.

Both Rivals and Scout rank Hill — a 6-1, 190-pounder from Detroit — as a three-star prospect; Scout lists him as the No. 25 safety in the nation for the class of 2013.

His 40-yard dash was clocked at 4.59 seconds, and he had scholarship offers from Illinois and Syracuse as well as Iowa. He had paid visits to Wisconsin and Illinois.

Hill is Kirk Ferentz's third recruit from Detroit's Cass Tech High in the past two years. Incoming freshmen Ruben Lile and Laron Taylor also played their prep football for the Technicians. Cass Tech rode its three future Hawkeyes to a state title, a 11-3 record, and a ranking as the No. 6 team in Michigan last fall, according to MaxPreps.com.

Iowa first offered Hill a scholarship in February, and he took an official visit to Iowa City last month. He was back in town for the open practice over the weekend.

"I felt comfortable with the players and the coaching staff and all; it's a family," Hill told HawkeyeInsider.com. "I sat in on a couple meetings, and I like how they run meetings and how they coach the players.

"I'm good at getting to the ball; getting interceptions is something I do well."

Hill joins David Kenney and Derrick Willies as Iowa's 2013 verbals.

Follow DI Sports Editor Seth Roberts on Twitter.

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