IOWA CITY, Ia. - It might be unfair to pin a team’s fate for success or failure on any one unit. However, it seems likely that Iowa might go as far as its offensive line takes it in 2010.
The Hawkeyes will seek replacements for starters Bryan Bulaga, Kyle Calloway, Dace Richardson and Rafael Eubanks. Guard Julian Vandervelde and Riley Reiff return as the only guys up front with significant experience.
Vandervelde has started off and on for the last three seasons. Reiff stepped in for Bulaga and Richardson as a starter in ’09. Coach Kirk Ferentz said the redshirt freshman was as good as any offensive lineman on the team last fall.
Iowa could experience some growing pains up front. With a zone blocking scheme, there’s usually an adjustment period to build continuity. This year’s process will include participants with little previous game action.
Hawkeye Insider takes a “Sneak Peek” at 2010 with its projected two-deep on the offensive line:
Riley Reiff, RS Sophomore - The South Dakota native showed he’s on track to be Iowa’s next standout on the offensive line. He started at right tackle during the Orange Bowl after continuing his meteoric rise. He’s versatile enough to play guard or tackle on either side of the line, but the Hawkeyes will put their best blocker at left tackle.
Markus Zusevics, RS Junior - Coach Ferentz has mentioned his name a few times in the last year as being someone making progress. He doesn’t do that with most players. So, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Illinois native push for time at tackle or guard.
Adam Gettis, RS Junior - Gettis started the season opener against Northern Iowa last fall and looked overmatched. He saw some reps later in the season and looked much better. He needs to take the next step forward this spring and summer, but he’s on the brink of becoming a solid lineman.
Kyle Haganman, RS Senior - The former walk-on from Osage, Iowa has made himself into a contender for playing time. He needs to continue his progress to hold off some talented players coming up behind him.
James Ferentz, RS Sophomore - This probably will be the most watched competition on the offensive line during the next eight months as it’s the linchpin to the Iowa offense. Ferentz would have had a chance to challenge for this spot last season if off-field transgressions hadn’t held him back. Now, he has a chance to be a three-year starter like his brother Brian.
Josh Koeppel, RS Senior - The former walk-on that proceeded James Ferentz at City High will push the coach’s son for this spot. And, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he won the job because he’s put in his time and worked hard to get to this point.
Julian Vandervelde, RS Senior - The Quad Cities native never really got his feet under him last year after missing most of the summer with an injury. Vandervelde has enjoyed some good moments during his career, but the inconsistency from last season must be eliminated in his senior campaign.
Cody Hundertmark, RS Junior - Iowa switched from defense at the end of last season. The coaches probably wouldn’t have followed through in it at this stage of Hundertmark’s career unless they saw him having a shot at moving into the two-deep. The Humbolt, Iowa native will be in the picture for playing time.
Nolan MacMillan, RS Freshman - The newcomer from Canada hit the ground running, working into the two-deep last summer. He then stood out in bowl prep before an injury sent him to the sidelines. He’s not a lock here, but he’s got a leg up heading into the spring.
Casey McMillan, RS Sophomore - The Montana native made strong strides last season and should push for playing time this fall. He’ll probably get a look on the inside as well.
Other installments in Sneak Peek Series: