March 28, 2009
- 2009 Spring Camp Central
- New and renewal season ticket customers: Purchase yours online!
- Outback Bowl Central
- Iowa and the Big Ten Network
- Iowa Football wallpaper
IOWA CITY, Iowa — As a sophomore starter on the offensive line, University of Iowa left tackle Bryan Bulaga collected his share of postseason awards. The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder from Crystal Lake, Ill., received an equal amount of satisfaction by opening holes for Shonn Greene, winner of the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back.
“We definitely have confidence in ourselves,” Bulaga said of the UI offensive line. “Shonn did a lot of the work last year. We made mistakes as a unit and he corrected some of our mistakes by breaking tackles.”
There is a similarity between spring practices at the UI last season and the one that began Wednesday, March 25. A year ago, the running back position was up for grabs and Bulaga had no idea who he would be dashing behind his blocks. That is true to some extent this season as well, where sophomore Jewel Hampton returns as the leading ground-gainer with 463 yards and seven touchdowns. He is expected to be pushed by junior Paki O’Meara and redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson.
It didn’t take long to solve Iowa’s backfield mystery once the 2008 season began.
“We weren’t sure coming into last season what to expect of Shonn, but the minute he walked out there against Maine and started running the ball, we knew what we had,” Bulaga said. “He did great things for us all year.
“We know a little but more about Jewel. He had some pretty good touches last year and he did a good job for us. He’s a guy we can rely on. Jewel, Paki and Jeff are all guys that we saw in camp last year and saw during the season, so we’re confident with what we have this year.”
Last season the Hawkeyes also allowed 28 fewer sacks than they did in 2007. In six of the 13 games, Iowa gained more than 200 rushing yards. The Hawkeyes ran the ball 47 times for 181 yards and three touchdowns in the Outback Bowl.
“It’s very up-tempo. Everyone’s pretty excited about the spring and everyone’s ready to go. We ended last season on a good note, so everything’s a little more up-tempo this spring and everyone’s trying to get better and trying to improve on what we did last year.”
UI left tackle Bryan Bulaga
Iowa finished the 2008 season with a record of 9-4 with four consecutive victories, including a 31-10 win over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes rushed for 2,453 yards and 30 touchdowns, highlighted by Greene, who gained 1,850 yards with 20 scores.
“We’re hoping for a repeat performance, but we have to get together as a group, gel together and get ready for spring and see what we can do in the summer and get ready for the season.”
Bulaga was named first team all-Big Ten Conference by Phil Steele’s College Football, second team all-Big Ten by league coaches, honorable mention all-Big Ten by league media and second team sophomore All-America by CollegeFootballNews.com. He received the team’s offensive hustle award.
It has been an upbeat spring for Bulaga and the Hawkeyes, who devastated South Carolina by three touchdowns nearly three months ago.
“It’s very up-tempo,” Bulaga said. “Everyone’s pretty excited about the spring and everyone’s ready to go. We ended last season on a good note, so everything’s a little more up-tempo this spring and everyone’s trying to get better and trying to improve on what we did last year.”
The left side of Iowa’s offensive line returns intact with Bulaga and junior Julian Vandervelde. Senior Kyle Calloway is a returning starter at right tackle. Gone are center Rob Bruggeman and left guard Seth Olsen, both of whom should be in NFL camps in August.
“It’s going to be difficult losing two seniors like Bruggy and Seth — two anchor guys that really helped along the young guys like myself,” Bulaga said. “Julian, Kyle and I are all older now with a little more experience, so it should be all right. The guys who could be stepping in could be older guys like Andy Kuempel, Rafael Eubanks and Dan Doering — all older guys who have played. We’re definitely going to have experience along the line.”
The Hawkeyes will participate in the fourth of 15 practices Sunday afternoon. The final day of spring practice is Saturday, April 18, and Iowa’s season-opener will be Saturday, Sept. 5, against Northern Iowa.