"You never want to break in a new center," Ferentz said.
The good news is, with redshirt junior Austin Blythe and his experience at the position -- the Hawkeyes won't have too.
"It's a good thing that we have a center with experience, that's started games, that's played in big games, and also happens to be a pretty good player. Those are all good things. Those are all positive things," Ferentz said.
Thinking ahead, Ferentz isn't worried about what Blythe can do -- he's worried about the depth chart behind him.
"I think the issue for us right now is trying to find somebody to play center if he can't because that's a very real possibility. You never know what's going to happen on every snap, and I don't think -- I think we feel good about our depth on the inside, not necessarily at the center position, though," Ferentz said.
"We've had some guys snapping the football a little bit that maybe haven't been on the depth chart yet trying to figure out if they can do it, and then you have young guys coming in, too: James Daniels, Jake Newborg, and we just have to find somebody that can go in there and be Johnny-on-the-spot the way that Tommy was last year because I think one of the things that got overshadowed," Ferentz said.
He added, "there's a lot of things that get overshadowed when you have the Outland Trophy winner playing left tackle, but what Tommy Gaul did for the football team last year, really hard to measure, hard to put into words."
That doesn't rule out the true freshman lineman, two of which are already on campus: Daniels and Brett Waechter. Weachter is rehabbing from an injury so isn't practicing with the team -- but Daniels is and has had a good spring.
"It's been very difficult historically to get on the field as a true freshman here at that position, and there's a reason for that. Basically the closer you are to the football, the least ready you are physically to play the game, or mentally for that matter because it's really all the same," Ferentz said. "But James has done a nice job, and he's gotten a lot of reps, so right now he leads the race but it's kind of by default, waiting for some other guys to jump in and join the race."
Where would the young gun fit on the field? Ferentz sees him as a versatile interior option.
"I think he's interior player for us right now. He's not the tallest guy in the world. He has long arms. He's a good athlete, and he would fill any of the criteria you're looking for at any of the three inside positions, so I think that's where his future will be on our football team, like an Austin Blythe, or an Eric Simmons or a Jordan Walsh," Ferentz said.