Iowa sophomore offensive lineman Mason Richman walked into the football facility on Sunday, eagerly anticipating the movie session. It wasn’t going to be good and he knew it.
Curiously, it’s the film reviews that he enjoys the most.
“You have to really like the bad ones because those are the ones we’re going to learn the most from,” Richman said. “And the good ones you must love just as much.”
There was a lot of learning in this session.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said after last Saturday’s win over South Dakota State there would be a lot of learning moments for the offensive line. It was an overall disappointing day. The Hawkeyes have gained just 166 total rushing yards and averaged 1.8 yards per carry.
After a thorough movie session and a few days of practice, Richman offered his takeout on Tuesday.
“We left stuff out there in the field,” Richman said. “I’m really excited to see how a lot of guys react because that’s what really good players do. The first game of the year is always very difficult… but that’s no excuse for the way which we played on Saturday. However, the biggest takeaway for me was that we need to play together more. We can’t have four guys doing the right thing and then one guy walking away or whatever, so that’s just the biggest plus for me.
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Richman and Ferentz said Tuesday that it wasn’t for lack of effort that Iowa’s offense failed to meet expectations. No, they said, the execution was not there. And there were a few factors that contributed to that.
For starters, four of their five starting linemen were either on their first career starts or in a new position for the first time. Then, according to Richman, there was anxiety with the first game of the season and playing against an opponent who is not your own defense.
This led to players overthinking, especially at the start and throughout the game it was difficult to find a rhythm.
The biggest illustration is with center Logan Jones. Iowa’s zone blocking system prevents offensive linemen from moving by mutual consent. Last season with Tyler Linderbaum, getting shots on time and getting the ball in the right spot was hardly a problem. Jones has been training since the spring, but it’s not the same as playing a live game.
“There’s no way to fake some of the things he had to do (Saturday),” Ferentz said. “Just give a quick example: We weren’t all there on pace the other day. Some guys are a little slow or the ball is a little slow to break. For me, it’s your first game. C That’s what it’s all about, and the sooner we can speed up this process, the better.”
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In addition to eliminating early jitters, Iowa’s offensive line will need cohesion to battle the Iowa State defensive line, led by All-American defensive end Will McDonald IV. The Cyclones’ 3-3-5 base defense is unlike anything Iowa usually sees throughout the year. They use their three defensive linemen in a two-spread pattern. This means they have to bridge between two offensive linemen, thereby filling two gaps (mainly in running play).
For Iowa, that means their guards and tackles have to be together; if the Hawkeyes are off, the tackles for loss will be abundant.
“In the three-try (line) front, they’re trying to break us up into blocks of men and everything,” Richman said. “So the biggest thing for us was trying to play together and block these guys the same way every game, even though they’re showing you a bunch of different things, and just being more physical. .”
Tomorrow:Iowa Football’s Kirk Ferentz on Spencer Petras, offensive line ahead of Iowa State
Ferentz also shed some light on play rotations along the line on Tuesday. Last Saturday, instead of (left to right) Mason Richman, Tyler Elsbury, Logan Jones, Connor Colby, Jack Plumb as listed in the Week 1 depth chart, Iowa’s starting unit s’ is as follows: Richman, Nick DeJong; Logan Jones; Handsome Stephens; Connor Colby.
And the Week 2 depth chart is the same as the original Week 1 depth chart. Ferentz said he anticipates a “smooth process” as they have between eight and 10 players competing. These players include: redshirt freshmen Tyler Elsbury; Gennings Dunker; Mike Myslinski; sophomores Connor Colby; Logan Jones; Mason Richman; junior Nick DeJong and senior redshirt Jack Plumb.
Injuries have taken a toll on the staff. Stephens and Gennings Dunker, both redshirt freshmen who played last Saturday, have pretty much missed all of last year and are playing for the first time. DeJong and Richman missed parts of fall camp and two players: Justin Britt and David Davidkov are out for the season.
As for Colby, Ferentz said the plan was to keep him on the outside at right tackle (despite being listed as the No. 1 guard). And two players who were on the starting roster but didn’t play last Saturday – guard Tyler Elsbury and tackle Jack Plumb are still in the game.
What does this mean for Saturday?
This most likely means there will be another game rotation between multiple players. The belief is that Jones will be more stable, Colby will feel more comfortable at the tackle, and inside cohesion will improve after overcoming the first bump of the game.
But how big could a jump from week 1 to week 2 be? Ferentz and his team will be looking for that answer all week.
Because it has to be big to beat Iowa State.
“That’s our challenge. That’s the race we’re running right now,” Ferentz said. “And you know the clocks are there at 3:05 p.m. for Saturday, so we don’t have a lot of time, so we need to speed up that process as much as possible.”
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men’s basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington at Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.