Seniors anchor developing O-line


The Daily Iowan

Iowa center Austin Blythe celebrates quarterback Jake Rudock's touchdown during the second quarter in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014. Iowa State defeated Iowa, 20-17. (The Daily Iowan/Valerie Burke)

Austin Blythe, the center and leader of the offensive line, will need to take charge this season.

By Jordan Hansen
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Flanked by seniors at both guard positions, senior center Austin Blythe is part of an interior line that has spent a good bit of time at Iowa.

Blythe, left guard Eric Simmons, and right guard Jordan Walsh have appeared in a combined 83 games for Iowa, with 59 starts. More than half of those starts are by Blythe, who has not missed a game in two years.

“It’s their turn. There’s pressure on them to lead, to step out in front and especially in the case of Austin,” offensive-line coach Brian Ferentz said at Iowa’s media day. “Typically around here, the center has been the bell cow. But I’m excited from what I’ve seen.”

They likely will need to exert every bit of their leadership skills this season, considering the Hawkeyes are breaking in two brand-new tackles. The void after losing seniors Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal is massive and has been a major talking point of the off-season.

Sophomores Ike Boettger and Boone Myers will likely step in at tackle, though junior Cole Croston may also see some playing time.

Boettger and Croston have been seeing time at both tackle positions, and Myers has concentrated at left tackle. More than likely, Boettger will slot into right tackle,with Croston becoming a “swing” type tackle with enough experience to play either side of the ball.

“We’re still playing with some combinations of players,” offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. “We’re still evaluating and trying to decide who’s ready and who’s not ready.”

Breaking in players to a position is rarely easy, and the spotlight that has seemingly been put on the program has only magnified the growing pains.

“I’m just going to work and trying to be the best that I can be,” Myers said. “You have to put a chip on your shoulder and use it as motivation.”

Getting the tackles to where they need to be is certainly a top priority for Ferentz and his staff. After all, Iowa’s offense will crash and burn this season if C.J. Beathard isn’t protected or the running backs are stuffed every time they even look at the ball.

The staff understands this, the players understand this, and the fans understand this.

Almost overnight, the Iowa line has become less of a position group and more of a soap opera with drama following even the slightest of changes. With all that “noise” (to use a football buzzword) in mind, the offensive line is more than aware work still needs to be done.

“It’s our job to help them improve,” Blythe said. “Here I am, a fifth-year senior, oldest guy on the line … it falls on my shoulders, Eric’s shoulders, and Jordan’s shoulders, just being the older guys, having played some football and having that experience.”

Follow @JordyHansen for news, updates and analysis of the Iowa football team.

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