Left side of Iowa O-Line doing run-blocking right


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Brandon Scherff and Matt Tobin sat in hunting stands high in trees during Iowa's bye week and traded text messages.

They didn't have much to report to each other.

"I didn't take a shot at anything," Scherff said.

"We were in the stands texting each other what we were seeing," Tobin said. "But I didn't shoot, either. I had a nice buck at 20 yards, and I drew back. But I couldn't see it out of my peep sight, so I didn't shoot. I would rather not wound him."

The pair of hulking offensive lineman have had more success hunting linebackers on the field this season.

Scherff and Tobin are Iowa's starting left tackle and left guard. Scherff is 6-5, 310 pounds, and Tobin is 6-6, 290. They've paved the way for running back Mark Weisman's emergence into stardom, which has largely been made up of runs to the left side.

Weisman took a handoff in between the left guard and tackle late in the first quarter against Minnesota on Sept. 29. Crushing blocks from Scherff and Tobin allowed him to go untouched for 27 yards. He ran through the same hole on the very next play and burst through it for 44 yards.

Three plays later, Weisman scored an 8-yard touchdown. On the left side again. The sophomore back said he has never run through holes that big in his life, that they were big enough to "drive a truck through."

"They're making it easy for me out there," Weisman said. "It's a lot of fun to run behind guys like that."

The Hawkeyes insist it hasn't been part of the plan to hammer away at the right side of the defense. Weisman said it was "somewhat planned" but more the result of quarterback James Vandenberg recognizing something in the defense and calling the run to the left.

Vandenberg said it was all about "what the defense gives us and what we want to get into."

But nobody could deny that Scherff and Tobin have sealed off some huge lanes in the running game.

"Those guys have done a great job," Vandenberg said. "Not just from a blocking standpoint, but from a communication standpoint and seeing the defense so they can open those holes."

The huge size and physical strength help, and they have been evident for years. Scherff holds the shot-put record at Denison High School in Denison, Iowa. That upper body strength also made him an all-state baseball player, a tennis letter-winner, and even what he called "the biggest quarterback in the state of Iowa" — at least until he moved to the line as a junior.

But it didn't show on the Hawkeye field until this year. Last season, Tobin struggled at left guard and gave way to Scherff in the starting lineup midseason. But Scherff didn't perform much better, and eventually, Tobin to the job back.

All they are sharing this year is a few hunting texts and a domination of defenders who line up to the right of center James Ferentz.

Offensive coordinator Greg Davis said they're improving each week.

"They've worked extremely hard," eh said. "And they're just continuing to grow, and they're playing at a much higher level now than at any point in camp or in the opener, and I think that will continue to happen."

Scherff and Tobin, for their part, are quick to credit the other side of the line.

"Coaches are going to call the run where they think it should go," Scherff said. "We're going to do our best to block."

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