Hawkeyes O-line sees some separation

For the first time since spring practice began at Iowa, we got to hear from head coach Kirk Ferentz, who Tuesday participated in the Big Ten coaches' teleconference.

Not surprisingly, I asked Ferentz about Iowa's offensive line, which has been and will be the team's biggest question mark between now and the season opener Sept. 4 against Eastern Illinois. The Hawkeyes lose four players with starting experience up front -- Bryan Bulaga, Kyle Calloway, Dace Richardson and Rafael Eubanks -- and need to fill three starting spots and build depth.

Ferentz has seen some separation this spring, as six linemen are creating some distance from the pack. Along with tackle Riley Reiff and guard Julian Vandervelde, who have combined for 35 career starts, Ferentz signaled out guard Adam Gettis, tackle Markus Zusevics and center Josh Koeppel and James Ferentz, who are in a tight race this spring.

"Gettis and Zusevics, both of those guys have been in the program," Ferentz said. "Gettis played more than Markus did last year. He played an awful lot of football because Julian was coming off his [pectoral] tear. He really played pretty well last year, and both those guys have potential to be good Big Ten linemen. And then at the center position, it's kind of a dead heat right now.

"Those six guys have operated pretty well, and they're going against good competition, so we're getting a fair evaluation."

After the top six, there are some question marks as Iowa tries to build depth. Ferentz identified guard Cody Hundertmark, a converted defensive linemen, as the closest to being game ready. Hundertmark has showed good ability but is still trying to bring it all together to fit with the scheme.

"We've got some ground to make up in terms of depth," Ferentz said. "I go back to my time here [as offensive line coach] in the '80s, maybe outside of one year, it's always been an issue. We're not uncommon there with any program in the country.

"Our first-line guys are progressing, doing a pretty good job. We've got to keep bringing them along."