Croot Loops: OL Keegan Render

Iowa taps the state for greatest football asset: workaholic O-linemen

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March 29, 2014 | 3:51 am

Iowa grabbed three offensive linemen in this recruiting class. It faces a deficit at offensive tackle, but just one of the three projects to that spot.

And, yes, we are counting Waukee offensive lineman Ross Reynolds, who will grayshirt or even perhaps come on scholarship after spring practice. So, if you're keeping count, you have Reynolds and Keegan Render coming in as inside O-lineman and Lucas Legrand as the possible tackle prospect.

Take a quick bigger picture look and notice that Iowa has just 10 scholarship O-linemen going into next season. There's no telling how the defection of Cedar Falls' O-lineman Ross Pierschbacher affected Iowa's O-line recruiting for '14, but the Hawkeyes needed bodies and found a few promising ones in its backyard.

Render is a 6-4, 315-pounder. He had offers from Iowa State and Northern Illinois, so he automatically starts more coveted than a lot of Iowa prep linemen who the Hawkeyes have basically banked on during Kirk Ferentz's 15 seasons.

Here's the recipe: 1) Requisite body, and here it's height probably more than weight. Iowa will find the weight; 2) Multi-sports don't hurt. Render plays hoops (he also recently had foot surgery); 3) Competitive spirit; 4) The mile-wide chip on the shoulder that comes with being an underscouted Iowa prep athlete.

"It's always kind of like we're under-recruited," Render said. "I think it gives us an extra chip on our shoulders to come in and work even harder. That usually pays off for guys."

There's a five element that doesn't reveal itself for a few years on campus, the workaholic plugger factor. In this regard, Render is a head-down, low-maintenance cog. He'll also be seriously tested in the weightroom, where inside blockers work the power factor that really is the baseline between two-year starter and depth guy.

"I'm not the type of guy to go out and want to be the main attraction," Render said. "I like doing my stuff under the radar and proving people wrong. It was nice getting offers, but it wasn't the biggest deal for me."

Render's mind is ready. Let's see how the highs and lows of training go.

Basics: Indianola High School, 6-4, 315, guard

Dent the depth chart in ’14? — Iowa has had one true freshman do anything in the starting lineup during the Ferentz era and that was Bryan Bulaga. In recent years, only Riley Reiff and Austin Blythe played sustained minutes as redshirt freshman. So, probably a safe bet that Render spends 2014 as a redshirt.

Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison — Seth Olsen (If you remember, it took Olsen a few tries before he really stuck in the lineup, became a two-year starter and an NFL draftee. He came in listed at 6-5, 305. Iowa doesn't bring in many 300-plus O-linemen, at least not as many as you probably think. There's always the chance that the strength staff will want to rearrange that 300-plus. That takes time.)

ESPN.com scouting snippet — Although Render is an efficient offensive tackle at his present level of competition, we feel his size, strength and athleticism are better suited for the guard spot at the BCS level of play. It appears his frame and physical stature is capable of redefining while adding bulk over time. This prospect displays the upper body and hand strength needed to dominate defenders once contact is made. Playing out of a three-point stance we see the flexibility, balance and agility required to play on his feet and adjust to movement in tight spaces. . . . Although Render is productive as a defensive tackle, we feel his future is as an offensive guard at the BCS level of competition. Some time and most likely a redshirt year will be needed to acquire and polish the pass protection skills to compete for starting time.

What Iowa said . . .

Iowa recruiting coach Kirk Ferentz on OL in this class: “Yeah, both guys that are committed are signed right now, we feel great about. Saw Lucas on TV, he hit a 3 ball. Talked to Matt Nelson, he said it was the only one he had. So, it might be a lucky shot, that type of deal. But we think he's a really good football player. And Keegan is another one we've been following for a couple of years. Same thing with him. We think he'll fit well in with that group. Hopefully, we'll add another player when camp starts, and we'll keep our fingers crossed there. [That's Ross Reynolds, I'm pretty sure.]”

Iowa recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson: “He's an inside guy, no question. We didn't necessarily need inside guys, but he was a guy we evaluated and offered early. We felt very strong about him as a football player. Even though we didn't really need inside guys, we felt so strongly about him as a football player that we wanted him on our team.”

Starting as a frosh at Indianola helped put Render on the radar: "I watched him play against Valley as a junior. He did very well against another Division I player. He's a good football player. Tough, smart, everything you look for."

What Rivals.com said . . .

Midwest recruiting coordinator Josh Helmholdt: “He's another one of these guys who needs a fire lit under his backside to play up to his potential. When I saw him live, I was underwhelmed because he wasn't factoring into the game the way you'd expect a Division I-caliber player to do. He's very strong, but not an outstanding athlete."

What I think (FWIW, obviously) . . .

Render has great feet. He bursts out of his stance and gets in on defenders. Blocking on the CFP level is so often all about getting your hands into a defender before he gets them in on you. Render understands this and seems to have reach to make that part of the game work for him. On this YouTube, Render keeps his feet moving, but lost track of a few smaller defenders with better feet. One thing he'll learn at Iowa is where his targets are. That will make it easier for him to take advantage of his horsepower, this best asset.

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