No. 10 ... It’s taken awhile, but it’s finally Andrew Donnal’s turn at tackle. The 6-7, 305-pounder came into Iowa City as a U.S. Army all-American and a four-star offensive tackle. It looked as though 2012 would be his break through at guard, but he suffered a torn ACL against Penn State and missed the final five weeks of the season. Last year, he played in 13 games, seeing time at guard and right tackle. He played a lot, but more so on the inside, rotating in with junior Jordan Walsh.
This year, Donnal is the guy at right tackle. No rotations. No real competitive pressure. He’s Iowa’s No. 1 right tackle, lock it away. Offensive line coach Brian Ferentz is totally comfortable with this notion.
“I know Andrew Donnal hasn’t started a game at tackle,” he said. “He’s played a lot of games at tackle for us during the course of the game, and he’s obviously worked a lot in practice. We’re fortunate last year he didn’t have to play very much tackle, so we feel like we have two experienced tackles.”
Wolverine hoops bro ... Last year, Andrew Donnal wore a Michigan shirt to a basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in mid-February.
Donnal’s younger brother, Mark, was a red-shirt that season as a post player with the Wolverines’ basketball team. But that didn’t stop Iowa’s incoming senior starting tackle from supporting his brother materially.
For most siblings of opposing basketball players at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, that’s usually met by fans with a shrug. But for an Iowa football player to wear the opponent’s gear, that rose more than a few eyebrows.
“I got a little bit of garbage,” Andrew Donnal said. “But blood’s thicker than water, and that’s fine with me. It was for my little brother.”
The brothers grew up in Monclova, Ohio. Mark Donnal stands 6-foot-9 and weighs 230 pounds, about two inches taller but 75 pounds lighter than his older brother.
The right tackle run ... A lot has been made on the run of terrific left tackles Iowa has had throughout the Kirk Ferentz years. Robert Gallery, Riley Reiff, Bryan Bulaga and Brandon Scherff, just off the top of my head.
What about right tackle? Well, that’s been pretty good, too. Marshal Yanda spent some time there before moving to left tackle in 2006. Brent Van Sloten will get a shot with the Ravens after a solid two-year run. Markus Zusevics still is on the edges of NFL rosters after a two-year run (2010-11). Kyle Calloway (2007-09) was drafted by the Buffalo Bills. Seth Olsen saw some time there before having success on the inside. Pete McMahon had a great run at right tackle in 2003-04 and had some run in the NFL.
Kirk Ferentz believes Donnal will take his place with that group.
“We have all the confidence in the world he’ll play well for us,” he said. “I don’t think he’s overwhelmed at all. He’s excited about it, and I think he’s totally comfortable out in that position.”
Outlook ... Last season was sort of a developmental year for Donnal. Maybe “developmental” isn’t the right work. It was a year for him to get his legs back, literally. Donnal did suffer a torn ACL in October 2012. It’s not like a running back, but it’s a significant injury and it does shape offseason training.
“Ge and Brandon, when they got hurt a year ago, I think it was October, I’m pretty sure it was October, that was tough on both those guys,” Ferentz said. “Obviously, they had to go through the rehab and all that stuff. And Andrew’s lingered a little bit longer. It impedes development. And all of us felt in November things started happening for him.”
That’s the good news — Iowa coaches thought Donnal was playing his best football later in the 2013 season, farther away from when he suffered his injury.
Also good news for Iowa, coaches believe Donnal is better suited for tackle than guard. He’s a legit 6-7. Concentrating solely on tackle should play to his strengths.
“There are a million things I could improve, but the main difference from inside to outside is a lot with the passing game,” Donnal said. ““At tackle, you have a lot more time than you do on the inside. I’m trying to work on my punch. That’s just one thing. I could name a million of them.”
Donnal is taking a modest approach into this. It’s the sensible approach. He’s a fifth-year senior, but this is his first crack at a starting gig. He has the Iowa offensive line brain trust in his corner (Kirk and Brian Ferentz) and that’s a tremendous resource. There might not be a better finishing school for O-linemen in the country.
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