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Hawk Talk

Basketball and wrestling seasons are over so it’s time for some spring football.
Kirk Ferentz had his first press conference for spring football last week and he talked about the energy the new football coaches brought to the program.
The next couple of weeks I’ll break down the offense, defense and special teams.
This week I’ll talk about the offensive line, tight ends and fullbacks.
I like to start with the O-line because for most programs, including Iowa, the line is a big reason you win or lose.
I don’t care if you have Eddie Phillips, Ronnie Harmon, Shonn Greene or Jordan Canzeri running the ball. If you can’t open up holes, you’re not going to get any yards.
Plus, if the Hawks can control the line of scrimmage they can produce long drives and keep the defense off the field.
Brian Ferentz takes over as offensive line coach and after starting three years at center and guard for the Hawks from 2003-2005, he should know the system and be a successful coach.
His dad, head coach Kirk, said there will be nine or 10 players in the mix for the starting five next fall.
Key losses include Reilly Reif, Adam Gettis and Marcus Zusevics. All three started every game last fall and all three have a good chance to get drafted, Reilly in the first round.
James Ferentz (6-2, 284), Brian’s younger brother, will hold down the line at center. The senior from City High has started 26 straight games and was honorable mention All-Big Ten last fall.
Conner Boffeli (6-5, 290) is listed as the number two center. Conner also checks in as the starting right guard.
Junior college transfer Eric Simmons (6-3, 300) is already on campus and will get some looks at either center or guard.
The other right guards are redshirt freshman.
Austin Blyth (6-3, 275) and Jordan Walsh (6-4, 270) came in as top recruits and should give some solid competition.
The left guard has senior Matt Tobin (6-6, 290) and junior Drew Clark (6-4, 288) listed one and two.
Matt started 10 games last year and hopefully will step up and have a solid senior season.
Right tackles include Brett Van Sloten (6-7, 292) and Nolan MacMillan (6-6, 290). Brett did a good job playing in the second half of the Insight Bowl last December.
Nolan, who missed all of last season with injuries, started six games as a redshirt freshman. Both Brett and Nolan are juniors.
Left tackle is the key position because they will protect James Vandenberg’s blindside.
Brandon Scherff (6-5, 310), a sophomore, has the size and footwork to be the next great tackle for the Hawks. He started three games last fall as a redshirt freshman at guard.
Andrew Donnal (6-7, 302) is also a sophomore and was a top recruit out of Ohio where he was named first team All Ohio Division 1 offensive lineman by the associated press.
Kirk Ferentz said Andrew looked good in bowl preparation. He saw action in four games last fall.
There is good competition at all five positions, so don’t be surprised if a couple of linemen change positions.
The Hawkeyes always try to get the best five on the field.
Iowa basically has the first four games to get the line worked out before the Big Ten season starts at home against Minnesota, Sept. 29.
If the Hawks aren’t motivated to play the Gophers, who have beaten them two times in a row…
The tight end production was down last year for the Hawks, but it should get better this season.
Gone is Brad Herman who started the first three games last fall.
Junior C.J. Fiedorowicz (6-7, 265) and senior Zach Derby (6-3, 240) are back. Each started five games last fall.
C.J caught 16 passes last fall, three for touchdowns.
I look for C.J. to have a breakout season with at least 30 catches. C.J. was a top recruit out of high school and admitted he didn’t work hard as a true freshman when he played in all 13 games.
C.J. has worked hard at becoming a better blocker and at 6-7, 265, is a big target to throw to.
Zach Derby played in every game last year and had 12 receptions for 117 yards. He started five games because he is a good blocker and since the Hawks like to go with two tight ends, he should see a lot of playing time if he doesn‘t start.
Ray Hamilton, 6-5, 248, played as a true freshman in 10 games and had one catch for 15 yards. Look for Ray to get 10 or 11 catches this fall.
Can you imagine a front line in basketball with Ray Hamilton and Aaron White? Ray was all conference in football and basketball and was a teammate of Aaron‘s in high school.
Look for Jake Duzey (6-4, 235) and Henry Krieger-Coble (6-4, 210) to get some snaps on special teams. Both will be redshirt freshman.
Junior Brad Rogers (5-10, 230) is back at fullback. Brad had only three rushing attempts and one reception but is so valuable in the running game and for pass blocking.
Brad was voted the Comeback Player of the Year for the Hawks after missing the first four games last fall because of a heart condition.
Senior Jonathan Gimm (6-3, 240) is listed behind Brad. Jonathan started out at tight end, switch to fullback, started a couple of games last fall and does a good job on special teams.
Sophomore Matt Meyers (6-2, 225) also started two games last fall and will provide depth and experience at fullback.
Next week I’ll look at quarterbacks, wide receivers and running back.