STARTER: COLE CROSTON, BOONE MYERS, JAMES DANIELS, SEAN WELSH, IKE BOETTGER
BACK-UPS: BOONE MYERS, RYAN WARD, STEVE FERENTZ, KEEGAN RENDER, DALTON FERGUSON
OTHERS: LUCAS LEGRAND, LEVI PAULSEN, LANDAN PAULSEN, BRETT WAECHTER, MITCH KEPPY, ROSS REYNOLDS, JACOB NEWBORG
INCOMING: ALARIC JACKSON, SPENCER WILLIAMS, COLE BANWART
2015 GRADE: B+
ANALYSIS: This unit gets a pretty good grade just because they were so effective and productive in the running game. They could have been better at pass protection, certainly, but that was to be expected. They were breaking in new offensive tackles and had to use a third. All three came into the program as walk-ons. So taking everything into consideration, they did more than well.
It just wasn't elite. They didn't pass protect very well at times. Teams with very good pass rushers got to them. It's the reason why quarterback C.J. Beathard was so banged up. The struggles came to life against Wisconsin where Cole Croston had to step in for the first time as a left tackle and block Joe Schobert, an All-Big Ten selection.
A lot can be said for the resiliency and depth of this group, too. Jordan Walsh missed a half, Ike Boettger missed several games, and Boone Myers missed several games. Despite missing those players, the level of play didn't really take a hit. Ok, it did for one or two games, but by and large the train kept rolling. Much credit should be given to Brian Ferentz for steering the ship that is the offensive line, and to true freshman James Daniels and also sophomore Cole Croston for being game-ready when their number was called.
OUTLOOK: The depth chart now says that Boone Myers has moved inside and will be the starting left guard. I believe it. I think it is a scenario where they do want to get the best five out there. And with Myers inside, the pass protection sets are probably going to be likely improved. Add him to the tackles, and Welsh inside, and there's a lot of experiene in this group and the expectations will be very high, even with James Daniels as a first-year starter at center.
I think it an interesting discussion is on whether Croston or Boettger man C.J. Beathard's blindside. It's listed as Croston but will it stay that way? I think so, actually. I've been told by some smart football folks and a few folks close to Iowa that he's probably the best pass protector out of their offensive tackles because of his footwork. He just grades out better in that area of the game. That probably makes him C.J.'s blindside guy.
Will Myers slide back out and possibly move Boettger to the inside? This is possible. It's something to keep an eye on. But I do think the depth chart now is a good reflection of what the coaching staff is kind of thinking at this point. Myers missed a lot of time last year and it allowed Boettger and Croston to flourish.
The other two inside spots will be no debate. It'll be James Daniels and Sean Welsh.
But what's the future past 2016 look like? Who are the likely guys to provide the depth in 2016? I think some names to remember are the Paulsen twins, Waechter, and Keegan Render. And maybe further down the line, Alaric Jackson and Spencer Williams, their two incoming freshmen.
"My guess is (James Daniels) will be out for spring football. I guess we're lucky he was here last spring so we picked up a bonus spring there. He's done a lot of good things in practice. Naturally would love to have him out there for those 15 days, but if he's not out there, he'll be able to overcome it. That's how it's going to work." - Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
"All three (Cole Croston, Ike Boettger, Boone Myers) of those guys, the good news is we have three guys that can play tackle right now and seen them do it pretty well. All of them have a tremendous amoung of room for improvement and they will improve because they are guys. It's a flip of last year, for sure, total flip." - Head Coach Kirk Ferentz