June 20, 2024

Iowa’s offensive line could be the key to them taking significant steps on offense. Looking back through Kirk Ferentz’s storied Hawkeye tenure– teams have been their best when the offensive line is at its most consistent.

DALLAS– Iowa’s offensive line could be the key to them taking significant steps on offense. Looking back through Kirk Ferentz’s storied Hawkeye tenure– teams have been their best when the offensive line is at its most consistent. Iowa has had several good individual prospects throughout the past few years, but there hasn’t been a group that has gelled together like past teams.

Perhaps a change in scheme will help spark them? That’s certainly the hope with bringing in Tim Lester as offensive coordinator. Fortunately for Iowa, they do have a veteran unit. They’ll return five of their top six offensive linemen from last season, only losing Rusty Feth, who ran out of eligibility this past season.

Past Hawkeye offense didn’t hide a lot. Teams knew what they were going to do, but Iowa believed that they wouldn’t be able to stop it. Lester is bringing in a plethora of new things to the Hawkeye offense including pre-snap motion and run/pass options. That can be a difficult thing for offensive linemen to adjust to, but Lester was pleased with what he saw during spring ball.

“They are a veteran — them and our tight ends, and really running backs, too. We have a couple really veteran groups and then we have a couple really young groups,” Lester said. “It’s an interesting dynamic. But the O-line has been great. We have I don’t know how many combinations. I don’t know how many combinations we’ve played. It’s moving everybody around. I can’t wait to get Jones and Dunker back and put them in the mix and Tyler has been playing center.”

Tyler Elsbury didn’t start for the majority of last season, but took significant snaps when center Logan Jones was battling a couple of different injuries. He showcased himself well and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get an uptick in snaps during his final season.

Despite all of the experience returning, Iowa isn’t going to be committed to playing any certain player at a position. They are going to put the five best guys on the field regardless of where they specialize in.

“We’ve been moving everybody around to see who can do what, and as we get everybody healthy, we’ll start solidifying roles and banking reps at certain roles. I think the biggest thing they need to learn is how to run off the ball. It’s a different pace of a run game that we’ve been trying to install, and really in the past week and a half I’d say — the front side of it at least is starting to — we still have some things to clean up on the backside, but the front side, they’re coming.”

“As we’ve been tinkering with different ways to block it, which some have worked, some haven’t, but those guys are — they’re the glue, man. We have to get them going. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of a great football team that doesn’t have a good one, and we have a huge number of guys that are veteran that have played a ton of ball. They’re excited about what we’re doing, and they show up and they work every day. It’s a physical practice. We get after it. You can’t not if you’re going against Phil. They’re coming. So you either take it or you have to come off the ball.”

Summer workouts are still a few weeks away and there’s no doubt that there will still be a lot of learning curves for the way Iowa wants to run its offense. From the early indications, it’s not going to be like anything that Iowa fans have seen in quite some time. The Hawkeyes know that they won’t be an offensive juggernaut, but they also know that they don’t have to.

One of the primary reasons Lester was hired over others was because of the way he respects Ferentz’s philosophy. Ferentz and Lester believe that they can still play Iowa’s brand of football, but give it a new school spin. Adaptability, aggression and taking care of the football– that’s what Iowa wants to do to win football games in 2024 and going forward.

“The only reason we’ve had some success this spring is those guys up front and those tight ends we’ve been able to move the ball a little bit, and we’re going to need them. We’re going to count on them. I’m not going to shy away from that. It makes playing quarterback easier, makes playing wide out easier, makes playing everything easier when you have guys up front like that.”

“It has been good for us because that was the plan going in, is we don’t have to make any decisions for a while, so let’s figure out who we have. Let’s give them some banked reps different places. We’ll solidify in the fall where guys are going to end up. It’s a good group and there’s a lot of them.”

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