Recruits are paying notice, as many of them refer to Iowa as ‘O-Line University'.
Five Hawkeye offensive linemen have been drafted over the course of the past three years, and several others signed free agent contracts with NFL teams.
In spite of all that, 2004 was hardly a banner year for this group, as they battled injuries and inexperience across the board.
As the 2005 season quickly approaches, the group is more veteran than it was a year ago, as Iowa loses just one starter; Pete McMahon, from last year's team.
Here is a rundown of the unit as a whole as well as who we expect to see most of the snaps in 2005.
Brian Ferentz will slide back over to the center position having played right guard last year. Ferentz returned to Iowa's lineup for the fifth game of the season after suffering a dangerous staph infection that resulted from yet another knee surgery. Iowa went 8-0 in games that Ferentz was in the starting lineup. Mike Elgin moves over to right guard, swapping positions with Ferentz.
Mike Jones is listed as the starting right tackle on the media guide two deep with Ben Gates at left tackle. But it would not surprise us to see those two swap positions at some time during the season, if not during fall camp. Ben Cronin was listed as the starter at left guard.
David Walker is shaking off the rust from yet another injury he suffered in 2004, a torn triceps muscle some 18 plays into the Arizona State game, his first game of the year. He suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the winter of 2004 and had surgery about the same time in February of 2004 that Ferentz did. He did not return last season after his injury in Tempe.
Lee Gray started the majority of games at left tackle for Iowa last year, but he will miss the entire 2005 season due to knee surgery.
Juco transfer Marshal Yanda was listed as the #2 at right tackle while Seth Olsen, Nyere Aumaitre and Todd Plagman were listed as backups at right guard, left tackle and the center positions, respectively.
Little is known about Yanda, but Olsen showed enough in 2004 to be a presence in the two deeps all season long as a true freshman. If there had been just one more injury, he may have been pressed into action the way that Mike Jones was in 2003. Todd Plagman came out of nowhere last August and was seeing some early action before getting injured. The word that has come out regarding Aumaitre is that he is going to have to kick it into another gear this year, or face the possibility of getting buried on the depth chart behind a stellar incoming freshman class.
THE TRUE FROSH
Iowa landed what some experts felt was the best offensive line recruiting class in America last year, including Scout.com who gave Iowa's blockers top billing.
Dan Doering and Dace Richardson were US Army All Americans last year, while Kyle Calloway and Andy Kuempel both go over 6-feet-7. Center Rafael Eubanks was arguably worthy of All American status as well.
None of them figures to be in the mix this year, as that is just a rare occurrence with true frosh along the line. Doering may be the most likely to be ready to play; Richardson and the rest seem a couple of years away, some in part due to developmental needs and some in part due to the depth chart.
It's likely that Ferentz, Jones, Gates and Elgin will be starters for the opening game and all season, health permitting. The one position that seems most open right now would be left guard, as David Walker will have to continue to get back into the mix after having missed five games due to injury during the 2003 season.
In fact, Walker has played in just nine college football games as he enters the 2005 season, his fifth in college. He redshirted in 2001 at Auburn, and sat out the 2002 season after transferring to Iowa. That is a lot of rust to shake off.
One might wonder if Seth Olsen might not be up for the challenge this fall, as he is listed as the backup at right guard. Senior Ben Cronin played some last year at center when Mike Elgin was nicked up in a few contests, and he will challenge for minutes at left guard, too.
Plagman is a good utility player, capable of playing at least two positions, if not three. I will go with Ben Cronin to start with at left guard.
However, it seems that if Seth Olsen continues to improve, he is going to get some minutes this year. Iowa may be able to have a bit of a rotation on the interior, which might be the best thing for Walker, at least early on in the season.