Biggest Shoes to Fill in '15

HI Publisher Rob Howe takes a look at the biggest shoes needing to be filled on the Hawkeyes roster with spring football in full swing.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - Two enormous posters of Brandon Scherff hang on the east side of Kinnick Stadium. The new signs honor his many awards and honors won in 2014.

Iowa's consensus all-American/Outland Trophy winning left tackle authored one of the most decorated seasons in school history. He won't soon be forgotten among Hawkeye fans.

Despite Scherff using up his eligibility in January's bowl, his name likely will be discussed a lot this off-season. That's based on needing to replace him.

Here's a look at the biggest shoes to fill for Iowa football in 2015 with spring ball now underway:

1. Brandon Scherff - We discussed why above. The Denison (IA) product grated the road for the running game and improved in pass protection. Plus, he played with an edge contagious for his teammates that intimidated opponents.

The Iowa faithful should find solace in Scherff not being an aberration. From Robert Gallery to Marshal Yanda to Bryan Bulaga to Riley Reiff, the school boasts quite a legacy at left tackle during the last 15 years.

Boone Myers (6-5, 300) receives the first chance to be the next in line. The former walk-on, a redshirt sophomore, sits atop the depth chart this spring.

There will be a drop off from Scherff to Myers. A precipitous one could spell disaster.

The buzz surrounding Myers is positive. The Webster City (IA) appears to be in the mold of his predecessors but growing pains can be expected.

Cole Croston, who also arrived at Iowa as a walk-on, shows up as the second-team left tackle this spring. The redshirt junior from Sergeant Bluff (IA) is listed at 6-5, 295. Like Myers, he's yet to see meaningful game reps.

2. Louis Trinca-Pasat - Iowa's "other" exiting defensive tackle anchored the line last year. LTP put together the most consistent season of anybody on that side of the ball. That's not a knock on Carl Davis but a tribute to his running mate.

Jaleel Johnson is listed in Trinca-Pasat's replacement this spring. The redshirt junior has quality reps behind him and an excellent pedigree as a highly-recruited prospect.

Faith Ekakitie shows up as Johnson's back-up. Darian Cooper, recovering from August knee surgery, also figures into the DT picture if healthy.

3. Jake Rudock - Plenty of folks feel good about C.J. Beathard replacing Rudock, the starter in 25 of the team's last 26 contests. Now we'll find out if the people calling for the back-up last season were on target.

The Iowa quarterback position is the most scrutinized in the state already. That will be ratcheted up a few notches with how things went down this offseason.

The Rudock-Beathard debate ruled last season's story lines. It continued into last week's spring football kick-off press conference and wasn't likely to go anywhere anytime soon.

Rudock's exit also cripples depth at the position. Redshirt freshman Tyler Wiegers is the back-up with incoming freshmen Ryan Boyle and Drew Cook the only other scholarship players expected to be on the '15 roster.

4. Christian Kirksey, James Morris, Anthony Hitchens - What? Iowa needed to fill the shoes of this tremendous trio last year. They'll try again in '15.

Nobody could have known how much Kirksey, Morris and Hitchens would be missed. UNI running back David Johnson exposed the second level in the '14 opener and it continued until season's end.

Bo Bower returns after starting 13 games at LEO. He's moving to the WIL. Fellow redshirt sophomore, Josey Jewell, shows up as the top middle linebacker while true sophomore Ben Niemann is listed as the No. 1 LEO.

It's reasonable to expect advances from this group. It's a talented, athletic group that should be better at playing sideline to sideline, something the unit struggled with last year. It's unlikely to be close to the Kirksey-Morris-Hitchens' level, however.

Seniors Travis Perry and Cole Fisher represent a lot of experience, although much of it has come on special teams. Still, they're the only other guys at the position to play a college down.

5. Johnny Lowdermilk - I know what you're thinking. Replacing a grinder like Lowdermilk won't be difficult. Certainly, Miles Taylor and Brandon Snyder offer higher ceilings than the outgoing strong safety.

Lowdermilk was under-appreciated. What he lacked in natural ability, he made up for with football intelligence and intense study. He was hurt by having to do too much last season with the ineffectiveness at linebacker.

That said, Lowdermilk couldn't cover the deficiencies. Time will tell if his replacement(s) can bridge the gap between the secondary and the linebackers and improve the back seven enough to build a better defense. It's imperative.

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