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Hawkeye Football Position Previews: Offensive line

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | AUGUST 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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Brandon Scherff knows he has “some huge shoes to fill.”

It should help, then, that he’s 6-5 and weighs 310 pounds.

The last two Hawkeye left tackles, Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff, anchored Iowa’s offensive line for numerous seasons and went on to be first-round NFL draft picks in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Scherff is a sophomore who entered last season’s starting lineup as a redshirt freshman but lost his spot after just three starts.

“Riley was a heck of a player, and he taught me a lot last year,” Scherff said. “But that is a lot to follow up. I got some reps last year, but I sort of just got my feet wet.”

Scherff got those reps at guard, when he took over for Matt Tobin before Iowa’s game against Minnesota. But he struggled, and coaches eventually gave Tobin back the starting job.

Now Scherff moves from the interior of the line out to left tackle. Head coach Kirk Ferentz said Scherff is a better fit there.

“I think we all feel he’s probably a little bit more comfortable on the outside,” he said. “He’s got things to learn, things to clean up and get better at, but I think he’s got an opportunity to be a really good football player.”

He’ll have to be in order to protect quarterback James Vandenberg’s blind side from the Big Ten’s scariest pass-rushers. The Hawkeyes have been encouraged by his impressive size and strength. Ferentz called him “a big, strong, mature guy.”

The Denison native was a state champion shot-putter in high school and still holds his school’s record in the event. Strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle tweeted a picture of Scherff holding a barbell with four heavy plates on each side in May. The caption read “Scherff getting set to break a record.”

Scherff isn’t the only lineman charged with replacing an NFL-bound player. Last season’s right guard and right tackle, Adam Gettis and Markus Zusevics, are also on NFL rosters. A crew of untested lineman is hoping to replace them by committee, and new offensive lineman Brian Ferentz said as many as eight or nine had a chance to see playing time.

“We lost a lot of guys who are in the NFL, but we’ve got guys who are hungry here,” Tobin said. “We’re meshing together pretty well.”

A poor performance at left tackle could be disastrous for Iowa’s offense, not to mention Vandenberg’s health. ┬áSo all that meshing might not mean much if Scherff isn’t up to his new task.

With a confident shrug of his huge shoulders, the sophomore said he is.

“You don’t have as much help [at tackle] as you do at guard,” he said. “It’s just up to you to keep [the defender] to the outside. I’m ready to go.”


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