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2014 Position Previews: Offensive Line

BY JACOB SHEYKO | AUGUST 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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Year after year, it’s a strength. Iowa’s offensive line has become so consistent, the last year it would have been considered a liability has become a distant memory.

But before has it had this much hype.

Here’s a serious question: When was the last time a team’s most-talked about player was an offensive lineman? That’s been the case with Iowa in the form of left tackle Brandon Scherff.

All the praise for Scherff has been warranted. But it’s overshadowed one thing: Iowa’s offensive line is the strongest unit on the entire team.

“We can be as good as we want to be,” Scherff said at Iowa’s media day. “We have to come in every day and focus on improving. We have to focus on the smaller details, because that’s what hurt us last year. We have to all be on the same page and we have to work on improving each day.”

First, Scherff was dubbed a “freak” and a “mauler” by numerous publications.

Then, the famous lifting video, where the 6-5, 320 pound Denison native hang-cleaned 443 pounds three times — Scherff said he was going for just one rep but “three popped out.”

And finally, in early August, video surfaced of Scherff playing quarterback in his high-school days.

Yes, quarterback.

Scherff hasn’t faced these questions all by himself. His teammates, coaches, strength coaches, and pretty much everyone involved with the program have been flooded with questions about him.

“He’s already awfully good, but I think he’s got a chance to be one of the best players to ever play here,” Ferentz said. “I don’t think that’s what’s driving him.  He’s just trying to be the best player he can be, and that’s what he’s focused on.”

However talented Scherff is, the attention directed at him it has overshadowed how complete the offensive line likely is a whole.

They return three starters — Scherff, junior center Austin Blythe, and junior right guard Jordan Walsh. Filling out the final two spots are senior Andrew Donnal — who saw action at both guard and tackle last season — and redshirt freshman Sean Welsh.

“I feel really good about the four guys who have played up front,” Ferentz said, before he had officially named Welsh as the fifth starter. 

The offensive linemen have done everything in their power to block the noise. In typical Hawkeye fashion, every question about how good they can be, or whether they give any thought to the attention they’re receiving, is usually cliché and team-oriented.

“It’s something that we don’t focus on,” Blythe said. “I think we just focus on keeping our heads on, focus on what the task at hand is.”

It’s says something about Iowa football, and Ferentz’s coaching methods, when an offensive lineman is the team’s most widely recognized and talented player.

They’re not flashy, and they’re going to beat you on the ground and in the trenches. That’s the way they were when they were consistently earning bids to prestigious bowl games, and that’s the way they appear to be this season.

At the front of it all — figuratively and literally — is the offensive line.

“I think we can be as good as we want to be,” Blythe said. “I don’t expect any shortcomings as far as the offensive line goes.”

Follow @JacobSheyko on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.


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