Big Ten Network analysts Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith left Iowa City impressed with Iowa’s offensive line after last week’s visit.
Griffith, a former Illinois fullback who won a pair of Super Bowl titles with Denver in the late 1990s, said the offensive line’s daily competition against Iowa’s highly touted defensive line has paid dividends.
“For me having played in a zone blocking scheme, whether it’s full pads or no pads, I know what it should look like,” Griffith said. “And what I saw (Thursday) night showed me there’s no question that they are on the right track. Are they where want to be ultimately? Maybe not at this point in the season. But I think what helps them is the fact they get to go against (Adrian) Clayborn every day. (Karl) Klug every day. Christian Ballard. When you get to practice against these guys on a consistent basis, you’re going to get a whole lot better. Because you’re not going to see many guys that are better. Arguably you won’t as a unit. I think that really speeds up the progress of this offensive line.”
Griffith said the offensive line has held its own in many of the battles he saw.
“I see the offensive line as one unit and getting better,” Griffith said. “It’s tough to practice against these guys every day. Would you want to practice against the best or would you want to practice against somebody where you really have no gauge? The beauty of it is they have a gauge of how good they are, where they are as an offensive line as a group going against these guys every day in practice. Are you going to lose some? Absolutely. That’s the nature of competition. I think it’s the best of both worlds.”
Iowa lost several key starters along the offensive line from last season, including Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year Bryan Bulaga, mid-season All-American Dace Richardson, second-team all-Big Ten performer Kyle Calloway and long-time starter Rafael Eubanks.
“Maybe there are questions on offensive line. I don’t necessarily see them,” Griffith said. “When you look at their system and what they do, I think they’re going to be just fine at that position. (Adam) Gettis, the right guard, I think is going to be an outstanding player for them. I think they’ve got everything in place to make some things happen for them this year.
(Tackle) Riley Reiff looked outstanding. (James) Ferentz, if he eventually wins the job, which I think he will, looks good at the center position.”
DiNardo, a former head coach at LSU, Indiana and Vanderbilt, said the unit’s consistency is built upon repetition in practice.
“I saw a lot of talent. I see them run a lot of plays over and over again. That’s a good thing,” said DiNardo, a former All-American lineman at Notre Dame. “Their skill set is constantly worked over and over. Kirk (Ferentz) is obviously involved because of his offensive line background.
“I think it’s all relative. You lose some draft picks, but I think the more important thing is I’ve seen no defensive line that they can’t compete with.”
The Big Ten Network will air footage from last Thursday’s practice at 7 p.m. Aug. 26.