April 16, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Experience doesn’t equal comfort for University of Iowa defensive line coach Reese Morgan. Not during spring ball anyway.
Three of the five returning defensive starters for the Hawkeyes play on the defensive line: senior tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat, and junior end Drew Ott. Like all coaches this time of year, Morgan says there is work to do, although he admits that improvement has been made since 2012, his first year coaching the defensive line.
“That first spring (2012), we were Custer, and the offense was the Indians at Little Big Horn out there for the first 9-on-7 practice,” Morgan said. “We had a great group of guys that bought in and I think we’re at the point now where our guys understand the expectations. We’re trying to teach fundamentals over and over and over again.”
“That first spring (2012), we were Custer, and the offense was the Indians at Little Big Horn out there for the first 9-on-7 practice. We had a great group of guys that bought in and I think we’re at the point now where our guys understand the expectations. We’re trying to teach fundamentals over and over and over again.”
UI defensive line coach
Morgan and offensive line coach Brian Ferentz participated in a news conference Wednesday in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. Like the defensive line, there are three returning starters in the trenches on offense: junior center Austin Blythe, junior right guard Jordan Walsh, and senior left tackle Brandon Scherff. Senior right tackle Andrew Donnal is a two-time letterwinner who has plenty of experience, but no starts.
“We’re always looking for the best five,” Ferentz said. “I know that’s been discussed ad nauseam by myself, coach Morgan, (former UI assistant) coach (Joe) Philbin, my dad (UI head coach Kirk Ferentz). Sometimes it’s more apparent. Sometimes the pieces don’t have to move as much. I think maybe this year is one of those years, because we have some guys coming back that have experience.”
The Hawkeyes begin their fourth week — and 10th practice — of spring drills Wednesday in Kinnick Stadium. The outlook of the entire team, and especially the offensive line, received a boost after the 2013 season when Scherff announced he was bypassing the NFL Draft to return for his final season.
“A lot of guys will come back, and they’ll just kind of go through (the motions) and maybe worry about, hey, I don’t want to get hurt,” said Morgan, who recruited Scherff to become a Hawkeye when the 6-foot-5, 305-pounder played at Denison (Iowa) High school. “Every rep (Brandon is) trying to go 100 percent. He’s trying to punish guys.”
Ferentz doesn’t like to make comparisons, but it didn’t sound odd using Scherff’s name in the same breathe as former Hawkeye greats Marshal Yanda, Riley Reiff, Bryan Bullaga, Robert Gallery, Bruce Nelson, and Eric Steinbach.
“Now, he’s got to live up to all this,” Ferentz said of Scherff. “I would just throw that disclaimer out there. That’s part of the challenge that he has right now. He’s garnered a lot of attention, and rightfully so. He needs to continue to elevate his level of play.”
In Ferentz’s opinion, Scherff is the best offensive lineman in college football.
On the spring depth chart at defensive end, Ott is listed as a starter along with senior Mike Hardy. Morgan was asked if he is searching for a solid No. 3 end.
“(Junior) Nate (Meier) has earned the trust and confidence,” Morgan said. “We’ve got three guys right now that can play there. I think there’s other guys that are contestants. We have six practices to go. I think (junior Riley McMinn) and (junior Melvin Spears) are guys that are doing some stuff. (Junior Dean Tsopanides) is going in and out and so forth.”
Iowa’s spring game will be April 26 at 2 p.m. (CT) in Kinnick Stadium.