TAMPA, Fla. — Austin Blythe is established. He is in his second season as a starter with the Hawkeyes, his first at center.
Corbin Blythe is a newbie. The first-year freshman, who also happens to be Austin’s brother, spent this fall as a scout-team defensive tackle, where, you guessed it, he lined up across his older brother.
Austin Blythe is a scholarship player, 6-3 and 300 pounds. He earned honorable mention all-Big Ten this season. Corbin Blythe is 6-2, 230, so there are more walk-through, teaching-type moments than collisions between the brothers.
“When we’re doing individual pass drills, he can tell me what I’m doing well,” Blythe said from Outback Bowl practice on Saturday. “He’s against me in drills sometimes.”
Does it get heated?
“Not really,” Austin Blythe said.
Wide receivers galore
Next season, four true freshman wide receivers (A.J. Jones, Derrick Willies, Andre Harris and Derrick Mitchell) will shed their redshirts and join a group that will include senior Kevonte Martin-Manley (who leads Iowa in receptions (39) and receiving yards (384), junior Tevaun Smith (24 catches, 310 yards), senior Damond Powell (12 catches, 291 yards) and Jacob Hillyer, Matt VandeBerg and Riley McCarron.
It’s a crowded group. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis was asked Saturday how that might sort it next season.
“There should be a lot of competition and we hope that spring practice will help sort them out,” Davis said. “The thing about wide receivers is if they’re playing at the tempo you want them to, it’s really hard for them to play more than about 50 snaps. Run and pass, if they’re doing what you really want them to do, it’s hard to push them because they run so far.”
Smith made one of the plays of the season for Iowa, grabbing a 55-yard TD pass to help Iowa erase a 21-7 halftime deficit in a victory against Michigan. Iowa has been inconsistent in big plays this season. It will need some against LSU on Wednesday.
“It’ll be very important,” Smith said. “It’s LSU, it’s a big-name school.”
Number of plays
Davis brought a no-huddle offense with him last season. Iowa wasn’t able to find that gear often during a 4-8 year. This season, the Hawkeyes huddled about as many times as they ran the jet sweep. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but Davis did have Iowa closer to a no-huddle, which isn’t the same as a hurry-up offense.
Iowa adjusted its tempo to the game. It never quite hit the hyper-speed hurry-up mode, but it did go from 66 plays a game in 2012 to 72 this season.
“I think for us in our style, the high 70s, 78 or 79, is where we would like to shoot for,” Davis said.
It’s a good thing on a couple of levels that Brandon Scherff has decided to return to Iowa for his senior season next year.
First, Scherff is really good, a first-team all-Big Ten pick by league coaches. Second, Iowa doesn’t have a lot of offensive tackles. This depth chart this spring at tackle likely will go Scherff and Andrew Donnal. They’ll both be seniors. Sophomores Ryan Ward and Cole Croston would be next. Redshirt freshman Ike Boettger (6-6, 240) moved from tight end to tackle during the season.
In the current recruting class, Lucas LeGrand (6-5, 260) could be a tackle prospect. Cedar Rapids Xavier defensive end Matt Nelson (6-7, 245) also could end up there. Iowa has 18 commitments with up to three more spots to fill. It’s likely still looking for an offensive tackle.
“Offensive tackles, we’re still not where we need to be there,” Davis said. “I feel like we’re pretty solid inside with guys who could play multiple positions, but those tackles are hard. I don’t know that you ever have enough of them.”
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