Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff has declared for the NFL draft, he confirmed to The Gazette on Tuesday night.
Reiff, 23, was a first-team all-Big Ten pick this fall and second-team as a junior. He is the sixth Kirk Ferentz-era player to leave Iowa with eligibility remaining for the NFL draft, joining tight end Dallas Clark, running back Shonn Greene, offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, defensive back Amari Spievey and safety Tyler Sash.
Reiff turned 23 on Dec. 1 and would’ve been 24 heading into the NFL after next season.
During Insight Bowl practices, Reiff said he was uncertain of his decision. If you go over the names he’s gone one-on-one with left offensive tackle vs. defensive end — Derrick Morgan, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed, Cameron Heyward, Frank Alexander and Adrian Clayborn — you can make an argument that he had little left to prove.
“I guess I never really think about what I’d have to prove,” said Reiff, a native of Parkston, S.D. “I want to be the best player I can be. We have great coaches here.”
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper had Reiff No. 10 on his “big board” going into the draft. Dan Shonka, of Ourlads Scouting Services, has Reiff, 6-6, 300, listed as his No. 2 offensive tackle, behind USC’s Ryan Kalil.
“Reiff is a fundamentally sound technician who gives consistent effort week after week,” Shonka said. “A physical player who uses his hands effectively and plays with a good base.”
This leaves the Hawkeyes looking for a pair of new tackles for the 2012 season. Senior Markus Zusevics likely will be a second-day draft pick.
Zusevics left the Insight Bowl because of the effects of the flu. When he was out, junior Brett Van Sloten, 6-7, 292, replaced him. So, he could have an in at right tackle.
Left tackle is likely between sophomores Brandon Scherff (6-5, 310) and Andrew Donnal (6-7, 302). Scherff started three games at left guard in ’11.
Scherff (6-5, 310) has eyed Reiff’s left tackle spot.
“Yes,” Scherff said when asked if he’d want the job. “Absolutely.”
“I’m just working at it and Riley helps me out a lot,” said Scherff, who’s from Denison. “It’s different from left guard to left tackle, because you have to work more on the outside. But Riley tells me who to focus on and what to watch out for.”
Ferentz had positives on Scherff during the 2011 season.
“We’re really high on Brandon,” Ferentz said. “I think he’s going to be a good player here. He’s done a lot of good things, but he’s moving up on that progression right now. He needs more time.”
Ferentz mentioned that Scherff missed a lot of time in camp this fall and that hindered his development.
Senior Matt Tobin, who started at right guard this season, played left tackle this year when Reiff left with an injury at Penn State. He also played the position some during Iowa’s Insight practices.
Junior cornerback Micah Hyde said before the Insight Bowl that he would return for his senior season next year. He could’ve submitted his name to the NFL draft advisory board, but he did say during the Insight Bowl postgame that he will return for 2012.
The deadline to declare for the draft is Jan. 15.
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