No. 6 -- OT Markus Zusevics
As far as rookies go, junior Markus Zusevics might fit the definition better than any.
Remember how we defined "rookie" a few days ago here?
1) No starts.
That's a big check for Zusevics, a 6-foot-5, 285-pounder.
2) No major contributions, resume.
It's a contribution just being on the team, I believe, but as far as on-field resume? Zusevics doesn't have one.
3) Perhaps counted on for some sort of contribution in 2010.
Um yeah. The Arlington Heights, Ill., native is going from mop-up to starting right tackle. That's as "counted on" as it gets.
Zusevics received some positive reviews during spring. Here's one from fellow tackle Riley Reiff.
You can argue that this might be the biggest leap for anyone on the team this season -- from near anonymity to starting offensive tackle. But then you look at the rest of the O-line and you see that Zusevics has some company.
Iowa's O-line might be the rudder to wherever this season goes, and one thing it might show us is the overall "health" of the program.
Does Iowa need to rebuild or reload here after losing five OLs to the NFL in the last two offseasons? It is "the" question in Iowa City and, maybe, around the Big Ten. No pressure here, right?
Coach Kirk Ferentz said six players have settled in -- Reiff and fellow returning starter Julian Vandervelde (left guard) and then Zusevics, dueling centers James Ferentz and Josh Koeppel and guard Adam Gettis.
“Those six guys have made good progress and I think some of the other guys are coming along,” coach Ferentz said. “But that’s clearly an area where we really have to keep our foot on the gas.”
Unless he weighs in holding 45-pound barbells and a large pepperoni pizza, Zusevics will not be a 320-pound blaster at right tackle, which is what Iowa has had the last two seasons with Kyle Calloway (an NFL seventh rounder last month).
Let's focus on what Zusevics might have:
1) Weightroom maturity -- He might not have the bulk, but Zusevics will be a fourth-year junior and that's four years with S&C coach Chris Doyle and his staff. When Zusevics signed from Prospect High School in 2007, everyone involved sort of knew this might be a project. He weighed in at 240 with "four-year letterwinner as an outside hitter" on his resume.
2) Athleticism -- The volleyball thing screams athletic. Alas, that was 40-plus pounds and four years ago. Does every O-line have to be 320-plus? The 2002 group had David Porter and Robert Gallery at 300, but Eric Steinbach and Bruce Nelson were more in the 280 range. Guard Andy Lightfoot was between 290 and 300.
Sure, that's an extreme example. That group was studded with high achievers -- two first-round NFL picks, a second-rounder and a future urologist -- but the point is, do we make too much of OL size?
Ferentz on Zusevics:
“He’s not going to be a 320-pound player, but that’s OK. He’s got the potential. He’s improved with each year.”
“He’s a volleyball player from Chicago (at Prospect, Ill., High School). It was an interesting recruitment and he played center initially, but we thought he was a pretty athletic guy and had growth potential."
“He’s worked extremely hard to mature physically. He’s in the 280 to 285 range. I think in the last year he has really started to get his feet on the ground a little bit. It’s going to be interesting to see how he does.”