Football faces replaces Blythe

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Replacing Austin Blythe, a center who ended his career with 45-straight starts, is not going to be an easy task for the Iowa football team.

The prevailing thought last year was that sophomore James Daniels — senior running back LeShun Daniels Jr.’s brother — would take over the spot after seeing significant playing time as a true freshman, something that rarely happens under head coach Kirk Ferentz.

However, the younger Daniels is recovering from an injury and is expected to miss spring practice. With the injury, junior Sean Welsh has taken over center — something he hasn’t done since high school.

“I met with Coach Brian [Ferentz] before spring break — we have one-on-one meetings — and he told me to start snapping the ball,” Welsh said. “So here we are.”

While nothing is set in stone at this point, Welsh as the Day 1 starter wouldn’t be a terrible bet. He is (relatively) small at 6-3, 288 pounds, but center is a position where historically a player doesn’t have to be particularly large.

Once the 6-4, 295 pound Daniels comes back, things should get interesting. Boone Myers, who played tackle last season, is now in competition for a guard spot, as are Ryan Ward and Keagan Render, among others.

Daniels can probably play guard, center, or tackle, which gives Iowa a bit of flexibility. That being said, Cole Croston and Ike Boettger were good last year at tackle, likely pushing Daniels for time.

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Regardless, developing significant depth during spring football is important and was part of the reason the Hawkeyes were able to overcome a rash of injuries last season.

“We all trust each other, and that’s a big thing,” Welsh said. “You talk about camaraderie and chemistry and all that, but I think a big part of that is trust. We’re all on the same page — we usually know what we’re all thinking.”

Ott update

Iowa defensive line coach Reese Morgan shed a bit of light on Drew Ott’s medical hardship waiver, which has apparently been denied at least once.

“He has an appeal in again, and the process just seems to be extremely frustrating because no one from the NCAA has talked to anybody in this building about it or him, which seems to be unusual,” Morgan said.

NCAA guidelines state that players cannot play in more than 30 percent of the team’s games during the season of eligibility they are trying to get back.

Because Ott played in six games (around 43 percent of the season), he misses the cutoff by a slim margin. He also played several games with an injured elbow, which is a major part of his argument.

“He’s written appeals. He has communicated. Our compliance people are going back and forth trying to help out,” Morgan said. “It’s hard, and you feel for him, because he just wants to know. He just wants to know, can I get an agent, can I continue to play, do I — what am I able to do?”

Talking tight ends

Iowa has long been known for producing high-quality tight ends, and with Henry Krieger Coble headed to the NFL, that trend seems to continue.

George Kittle is listed as the first-stringer at tight end this season after a solid 2015 campaign that saw him score 6 touchdowns.

“I’m responsible for my group now and gotta keep the backyard clean,” Kittle said. “It’s on me now, and that’s a good feeling.”

Woods was full of praise for Kittle, but also noted that his run blocking needs work. One of the more critical aspects of Iowa’s offense is a tight end who can catch as well as block.

Kittle said he put on 10 pounds during the off-season and looks every bit the part of a Big Ten tight end.

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