The Iowa offensive line is a unit that is known throughout college football, especially the Big Ten. You can bet Kirk Ferentz is proud of the fact that the unit has sent Bryan Bulaga, Casey Wiegmann, Robert Gallery, and many others in the NFL. Expect Riley Rieff to be the next Iowa offensive lineman to hear his name called in the NFL Draft.
Iowa’s starting tackles both weigh in at 300 lbs. Riley Rieff is the name that everyone has heard of. He’s come in at NFL draft guru Mel Kiper’s “Big Board” at #9. Markus Zusevics mans the right side of the line. James Ferentz is in his second year at center, and Matt Tobin and Adam Gettis have manned the spots at guard.
Of all the units that you have on a football team, the offensive line ids probably the one that must be the most cohesive. There’s different calls, snap counts, and blocking assignments on every play. The notion that the offensive line never gets any publicity isn’t true. It should state “the offensive line never gets and good publicity.” When you hear an offensive lineman’s name at a football game, it isn’t a good thing. A receiver can run a wrong route and a fan will never know. A running back can hit the wrong hole and it’s “just another play.” When you hear an offensive lineman’s name, that isn’t good. That goes noticed.
Let’s just say Iowa’s offensive line has a done a good job of going unnoticed so far. Every offensive line will have their false starts and their holds, but how many? Iowa has done a good job staying low on penalties. You don’t see the dumb holds or the false starts, and that’s a credit to Kirk Ferentz and Reese Morgan, the Iowa offensive line coach. The strength of this unit is its pass blocking. While you saw some pressure during the first 3 quarters of the Pittsburgh game, the unit has been pretty clean through the non-conference schedule. There will be times when the defense brings more than the offense has blockers, that’s on the quarterback.
Iowa has given up 5 sacks this season, totaling a loss of 32 yards. It isn’t the sacks that’s the problem, it’s the run blocking. Marcus Coker’s inconsistencies aren’t all on his shoulders. The run blocking isn’t there. Iowa’s trademark zone blocking off the tackle’s butt isn’t working this year. That’s the play that got Shonn Greene so many yards in 2008, and why Adam Robinson was successful the last 2 years. That’s the play that set’s up Iowa’s trademark playaction rollout. For some reason, it won’t be the play of 2011.
As Iowa enters Big Ten play, the run blocking must improve. It’s what has made Iowa so successful in years past. The line is great at doing their jobs and opening running lanes. Coker isn’t the only one to blame in running the ball. As much as I love seeing Iowa sling the ball 35 times a game, I hope they used the bye week to figure out the holes in their running game.
Grade – B
I figured a “B” would be an appropriate grade for their overall play. The running game hasn’t been all that bad. Coker has had 2 good games out of the 4. However, their failure to adjust to Pittsburgh’s blitzes and lack of any fire off the ball made it hard for Iowa to have any offense through the first 42 minutes. Overall, this group is pretty talented, a lot better than last year. However, there comes a time when your best unit must step up, and that time is now as we enter Big Ten play.