Hawkeye Football: Offensive line makes some progress


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James Ferentz and his teammates are beginning to find out just who they are.

The offensive line struggled to provide solid pass protection and open up running lanes in the first two weeks of the season. But Ferentz and the rest of the offensive line put together an all-round performance he said they could build off in a 27-16 victory over Northern Iowa on Sept. 15.

“We’re a young team,” he said. “And as an offensive line, we don’t have a whole lot of returning experience. But with each game, we’re developing more of an identity and gelling as a unit, which is important. You’re not going to have good line play without it.”

Ferentz said he wants the group to strive for consistency and physicality. He said the offensive line pushes to be the most consistent unit on the team, and that means performing well in any situation.

“When you turn on the film week to week, there is no drop in performance, no matter what the situation is,” he said. “Different defenses, different looks, different blitzes, any situation; we just want to be a crisp unit that, when you turn on the tape, you say, ‘All right, these guys know what they’re doing.’ ”

A rededication to fundamentals was critical in opening holes for Hawkeye running backs, and they rushed for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns. Ferentz said the unit needed to focus on such things as checking knees and staying hip-to-hip, and it’s done a better job of that lately.

The improvement and consistency in the run game also showed through the air. Quarterback James Vandenberg didn’t get his first touchdown pass of the year, but he had more time find open receivers and to throw. He took advantage of the opportunity to the tune of 228 yards on 18-for-28 passing.

“I thought a lot of the stuff in the passing game was open because of how well we were able to run the ball and get eight or nine guys down around the line of scrimmage,” Vandenberg said. “That makes it a lot easier on the receivers out wide.”

Head coach Kirk Ferentz said he liked the line’s progress against the Panthers but stressed that there is still a lot of work to do for the unit to reach its potential.

James Ferentz said the offensive line draws some motivation from the strides the defensive line has made thus far and tries to match that improvement. He credited the palyers’ mental toughness, but defensive end Joe Gaglione said that Ferentz’s intensity boosts his teammates.

“He’s a very hard-nosed player,” Gaglione said. “He brings a lot of intensity, and I think that’s definitely a good thing. We’ve got a couple young guys on the offensive line, first-year starters there. And I think it shows them ‘If this is our leader and this is the intensity he’s playing at, then why don’t we play with that intensity, too?’ So I definitely think it’s a positive example.”

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