IOWA CITY, Iowa - Kirk Ferentz knew his offensive line would be a work in progress, especially early in the season.
The Iowa coach said on Tuesday he appreciates that there is progress.
“We expected some bumps, at least I did,” Ferentz said. “Thought that was going to be part of the process.
“I'm really kind of pleased actually with the way the guys have held up.”
It is a young group outside of center Tyler Linderbaum, a preseason Associated Press All-American. Left tackle Mason Richman is a redshirt freshman, right tackle Nick DeJong is a sophomore, right guard Justin Britt is a sophomore and left guard Cody Ince is a junior. The expected return of senior right guard Kyler Schott, who broke his foot in a farm accident before preseason practice began, for Saturday’s game against Kent State will help.
“I look at our football team coming out of August, we’re young at both lines, from an experience standpoint,” Ferentz said. “What I would be concerned about is if we didn’t see continual growth.”
That’s coming, Richman said.
“I certainly think there are plays to build off of, good and bad,” Richman said. “There’s a base — good starts, good finishes. Sometimes it’s just fundamentals. But we can correct that.”
Ferentz pointed to Richman as how the line has progressed. He talked about a rough outing Richman had against defensive end Zach VanValkenburg during camp in August.
“VanValkenburg worked him, Monday (of the) second week or whatever,” Ferentz said. “The next day (Richman) came back, he stood right up to it and did a really nice job. He had some scar tissue, but he didn't carry it with him.
“That's what you're looking for in players, a guy to come back and take the challenge, try to learn from what might have gone wrong. That's kind of how he's wired, does a lot of really good things out there. He's coming along.”
Richman has found a home after playing at different positions on the line last year.
“They had their eyes set on me at tackle,” said Richman, who is from Leawood, Kan. “I think last year, we were down a couple of guys inside, I know, early in the year and into camp. And then during the year, I got a few more reps at guard. They liked what they saw.
“Whatever spot they want me at, I’ll be ready to go.”
That kind of versatility has worked for the Hawkeyes on the line in the past.
The youth on the line extends into the second string on the depth chart. Backup left guard Tyler Elsbury is a redshirt freshman, and backup right tackle Connor Colby is a true freshman.
That’s a lot of youth, and it’s why there are the issues that Ferentz expected.
But there is growth, he said, and that’s the important thing.
“I've pretty much seen improvement in all these guys,” Ferentz said. “I think all of us have seen that improvement. We've got a lot of room to grow right now.”