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Notebook: The Black and Gold Lines of Hawkeye football

BY BEN ROSS | APRIL 18, 2013 5:00 AM

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O-Line

The 2013 Iowa football team will feature a reshuffled and largely unproven offensive line. The position group is tasked with replacing center James Ferentz, who was seen as the strong and unflinching captain of the offensive line for three-straight seasons.

But as one Ferentz was getting ready to graduate, another joined the coaching staff. Brian Ferentz was hired in February 2012 to coach the offensive line. He left the New England Patriots in favor of joining his family in Iowa City.

During his brief time at Iowa, Brian Ferentz has been credited with making a program — one that is often criticized for its curmudgeonry — more tailored toward youth, seemingly helping the team become more accessible and relatable to incoming recruits. Last year was the first time Iowa has ever donned “Pro Combat Jerseys,” — flashy(ier) uniforms that are appealing to youthful football players. He has also established himself on Twitter, which he says makes himself more readily available to potential recruits.

“That’s how kids communicate. So yes. Facebook I think is still pretty prevalent with high school‑age guys.  But Twitter and Instagram and these — that’s where these guys communicate with each other.”

The prospective offensive line for 2013 features Brandon Scherff at left tackle, Conor Boffeli at left guard, Austin Blythe at center, and Andrew Donnal and Brett Van Sloten filling out the right side. All five sporadically saw starts and significant playing time last year, but position changes and shuffling of the line is going to force the group to gel together.

“That’s always the thought is, ‘who are our five best players, what are their five best positions,’ but sometimes those two things don’t always marry,” Brian Ferentz said.

And even though Iowa hasn’t quite yet decided on a quarterback, whoever is tasked with protecting him should be ready to do so.

“We have to trust the coaches to do what’s right in determining the No. 1 quarterback,” offensive tackle Brett Van Sloten told The Daily Iowanon April 3. “We’ll block for whoever it is.”

D-Line

Reese Morgan is entering his 14th year as a coach at Iowa and his second straight as the defensive line coach. The good thing about the defensive line is it has two returning starters, and a handful of players coming back who saw significant playing time in 2012. The bad thing is Iowa’s defensive line was largely ineffective for the majority of last season.

Iowa placed dead last in sacks in the Big Ten last year, recording just 13 all season. Joe Gaglione led the team with 5 sacks, but he’s lost to graduation.

That makes defensive end Dominic Alvis the squad’s returning sack artist, with 3 in 2012.

Morgan said developing some semblance of a pass rush will be important in 2013 and Alvis is an important piece to solving that puzzle.

“[Alvis] is having a very good spring now,” Morgan said. “He and Brandon [Scherff] are going head‑to‑head, two very good players … [Pass rush] is really important, and I think that’s going to be a big focus for us.  When you’re playing the defense that we play, there are certain liabilities in a pass rush because we are playing heavy techniques and so forth. When we get the green light to go ahead with pass rush, we have to get there, and there’s an area statistically we have to improve upon.”


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