Iowa football trying to find right combination along offensive line

At a Wednesday press conference, Iowa offensive line coach George Barnett said his group is starting to gel.


Isabella Cervantes

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras communicates to the team during a football game between Iowa and South Dakota at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Jackrabbits 7-3.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

Iowa football entered the 2022 season with an inexperienced offensive line. On the Hawkeyes’ most recent depth chart, junior guard Nick DeJong is the oldest listed starter.

The Hawkeyes rank 13th in the 14-team Big Ten Conference in sacks allowed with nine. Despite Iowa’s early season struggles, offensive line coach George Barnett said he’s excited about the direction his unit is headed.

“There’s no courage like young courage,” Barnett said. “These kids show up every day and they respond. We talked a lot about response and how to handle adversity and handle a tough day and going through things the first and second time. This group has been impressive that way.”

The Hawkeyes lost Rimington Trophy-winner Tyler Linderbaum during the offseason. The Baltimore Ravens selected him with the 25th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Sophomore Logan Jones replaced Linderbaum at center this season. Like Linderbaum, Jones is a defensive lineman turned center.

Jones and left tackle Mason Richman were the only linemen that played all 57 snaps at the same position in the Hawkeyes’ 27-10 win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights last week.

Redshirt freshman Gennings Dunker and sophomore Tyler Elsbury played more snaps than any of Iowa’s other reserve offensive linemen. Dunker played 10 snaps in place of DeJong, and Elsbury filled in for redshirt freshman Beau Stephens on 24 plays.

“I think we’re starting to figure out thresholds of how many plays they can handle in a game,” Barnett said. “How many and still be really effective? So, it’s learning on both sides. I’d love to tell you we had five vets in there starting the whole time and no one came in, but that’s not where we’re at right now, and that’s OK. As long as you understand the process and where we’re at in the process and with our personnel, I think this can be a very positive situation moving forward.”

Barnett noted that game scenarios also play a role in determining the Hawkeyes’ offensive line rotation. He said two-minute situations and exotic blitzes often force the Hawkeyes to play their more experienced offensive linemen, rather than give their younger players reps.

Iowa will welcome No. 4 Michigan to Kinnick Stadium at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Hawkeyes’ offensive line will try to protect senior quarterback Spencer Petras from a Wolverine pass rush that ranks fifth in the conference with 11 sacks. Michigan has also racked up 23 tackles for loss this season.

When Iowa lost, 42-3, to Michigan in the 2021 Big Ten Championship Game, the Wolverines notched one sack, four tackles for loss, and nine quarterback hurries.

“The last thing you want to do right now is squeeze the bat too tight,” Barnett said. “You want to stay in your routine, stay in your rhythm. Again, we’re dealing with kids with a little bit of a lack of experience and some young age. So, it’s just a daily building process. The game really doesn’t change that process.

“With that being said, they know the challenges are very high.”

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