This is the second part of a three-part story on Hawkeye football.
Last week I looked at the special teams, the quarterbacks and fullbacks.
This week I’ll look at the offensive line, tight ends, wide receivers and running backs.
The offensive line should be one of the strengths of the team, especially when you have Brandon Scherff back for his senior year.
Brandon checks in at 6-5, 320 pounds and is on everybody’s preseason All-American teams.
It was the best news of the of season last year when he said, “I’ll be back.”
Throw in junior Austin Blythe (6-3, 290) at center, junior Jordan Walsh (6-4, 290) at right guard, senior Andrew Donnal (6-7, 305) at right tackle and redshirt freshman Sean Welsh (6-3, 285) and you have a solid front five.
Austin started all 13 games last year and was named honorable mention All-Big Ten. He’s is turning into a good leader and anchors the line.
Jordan started every game last year and is a great run blocker. He needs to get better at pass protection to get to the next level.
Andrew played both guard and tackle last fall, but tackle might be his best position. “Those 15 practices last spring helped me feel real comfortable at tackle,” he said. “I never really stopped playing tackle, but getting to take reps, strictly at tackle has helped a lot.”
Andrew also enjoys blocking for Mark Weisman.
“That’s an offensive lineman’s dream,” said Andrew. “First of all we absolutely love running the ball, then when you have a guy like Mark that will fight for every inch, there’s nothing better than that.”
The most important thing this fall is for Brian Ferentz, the offensive line coach, to develop backups.
Ike Boettger (6-6, 270), a redshirt freshman, is listed as second team left tackle. Ike played tight end, wide receiver, quarterback and defensive back at Cedar Falls.
Boone Meyers (6-5, 285) is also a redshirt freshman and walked on the team from Webster City.
Senior Tommy Gaul (6-3, 280) and junior Eric Simmons (6-2, 295) are the number two and three centers.
Mitch Keppy (6-5, 298) and Cole Croston (6-5, 270) are backups at right guard and right tackle. Both are sophomores.
The Hawkeyes have four solid and talented tight ends.
I really think senior Ray Hamilton (6-5, 252) is ready for a breakout year.
Ray has totaled only 11 receptions for 130 yards and no touchdowns in his three seasons at Iowa. I believe Ray could come up with at least 20 catches and five touchdowns before the season is over. He could get more catches, but with four players in the rotation, the touches should be spread out.
Jake Duzey (6-4, 245) had a breakout game against Ohio State last fall.
He caught a pass on the right sideline and wasn’t touched on an 85-yard touchdown catch... talk about good speed.
Jake caught 19 passes last year for 270 yards and two scores.
Henry Krieger-Coble played in all 13 games last fall, catching only one pass for 8 yards. He should get more touches this year.
George Kittle saw action in 12 games last year and caught five passes for 108 yards.
George is looking forward to help fill the void with C.J. Fiedorowicz gone.
“We’re all excited about filling that big hole he left,” said George, who was Academic All-Big Ten last year. “We’re all ready to make contributions to help the team.”
Peter Pekar (6-4, 235) and Jon Wisnieski (6-5, 235) are both redshirt freshman who could see time on special teams.
The Hawkeyes have a lot of talent at wide receiver with a nice blend of experience and newcomers.
You start out with Kevonte Martin-Manley (6-0, 205), Tevaun Smith (6-2, 200) and Jacob Hillyer (6-4, 208).
Kevonte is a senior, Tevaun and Jacob are juniors.
Kevonte has 122 catches for 1,282 yards in his career.
Marvin McNutt had 170 receptions, which is the most ever for the Hawkeyes, and Kevonte ranks 10th.
Tevaun had that great touchdown reception in the second half of the Michigan game which was a key play in the Hawkeyes’ 24-21 comeback win.
Jacob also caught a big 26-yard touchdown pass against Iowa State in the third quarter, which helped the Hawks beat the ‘Clones, 27-21.
Those three should be solid and since Iowa likes to have a six-man rotation, depth will be a big part of the Hawkeye’s success.
You start with Damond Powell, who played in all 13 games, caught 12 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns.
Damond showed his great speed in a 74-yard touchdown reception against Minnesota which helped Iowa beat the Gophers, 23-7.
“It felt real good,” said Damond on the score against Minnesota. “Not just for myself but to be able to contribute to the game. That’s what it’s all about, to be a team player.”
Damond will miss the first couple of games recovering from surgery.
That will open up some playing time for redshirt freshman Derrick Willies (6-4, 210), sophomore Matt VandeBerg (6-1, 175), Andre Harris (6-0, 180) and Derrick Mitchell, Jr. (6-1, 205). Both Andre and Derrick are redshirt freshman.
Derrick Willies made some big plays last spring and it will be interesting to see his development.
The good news about Iowa’s running backs is that there are four players that have talent and have proven they can play in the Big Ten.
The bad news... actually it’s not that bad. How are you going to get each of them the football?
You start with Mark Weisman (6-0, 240), who came out of nowhere as a walk-on, rushed for 815 yards as a sophomore, 975 as a junior and has scored 16 touchdowns, eight each season.
Throw in Jordan Canzeri (5-9, 190), who rushed for 165 yards against Purdue, the top single-game rushing performance in 2013.
Jordan finished with 481 yards, two touchdowns and has that break-away speed to go the distance.
Damon Bullock (6-0, 205) is the perfect third down back. He is a good blocker, can catch a pass in the flat and has enough speed to break it outside.
LeShun Daniels, Jr. (6-0, 230) is a combination of all three. He has speed, power and can block.
“I try to emulate all their styles,” said LeShun. “I like the way Mark runs nice and physical, I like how Jordan can make people miss. Obviously Damon does great in the passing game. I like to emulate all that so I can be a complete running back.”
First of all, the weather seemed like an overcast late September day at Kinnick Stadium Saturday.
It was cloudy with a little wind, and a decent crowd to watch the Hawkeyes practice. I saw some young, excited Hawk fans after they got an autograph from many of the Hawkeyes.
The defense usually has the advantage at these practice games since they know all of the plays, especially the running plays.
Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock didn’t even scrimmage.
The sad news out of camp is that Adam Cox, starting fullback, is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Macon Plewa, who played in every game last year, should be able to step in as the lead blocker.
Both Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard made some nice throws.
Kevonte Martin-Manley caught a pass in the flat and turned it into a 52-yard score.
Tight end George Kittle caught five passes for 98 yards and LeShun Daniels had 10 carries, 32 yards and two short touchdown runs.
The two red shirt freshmen running backs, Akrum Wadley and Jonathan Parker, showed some good quickness and speed.
On defense, Josey Jewell continues to push for playing time and true freshman Ben Niemann made some good plays, both played linebacker.
It might be hard to red shirt defensive end Matt Nelson (6-8, 255).
Matt was making plays and was tough to block.
True freshman Miles Taylor could be in the mix at safety.
The kicking game was a little shaky, but Kirk Ferentz said the kickers have had a good fall so far.
A couple of Hawks were nicked up. They should be ready for the University of Northern Iowa Aug. 30.