Wanted: 'Good Ole' Running Game'
July 29, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
"We need to take that in our own hands and make holes for those guys," said senior right tackle Brett Van Sloten. "We have great runners, we just have to provide them opportunities to get to the second level.
"We have to do our job. If we do that, their (the running backs') job is going to be easier. That's how I feel we get back to the good ole' running game and getting yards we need on every play."
The Hawkeyes have experience up front to make that happen. The group, which includes two seniors, one junior and two sophomores has combined for 35 career starts.
Van Sloten started all 12 games at right tackle a season ago, while junior Brandon Scherff has 10 career starts, including seven last season at left tackle before going down with an injury against Penn State. Sophomore Austin Blythe tallied nine starts at guard in 2012 en route to first team freshman All-America honors, but he is listed as the No. 1 center heading into fall camp.
"We have a lot of experience coming back, but we need to be a group that leads," said Van Sloten. "Coach (Kirk) Ferentz gives the analogy that there are five of us and no other position has five people out there. We need to take that into our own hands and get everything started whether it is pass protection or run blocking."
Van Sloten says the key is finishing blocks every series and down each game.
"That's something we need to focus on, and we will," he said. "Our goal is to finish every play, and we know every play won't go the way we want it to, but the goal is to win more than we lose."
Van Sloten says seeing his teammates "put the other guy in the second row" is motivating. Pancake blocks are like scoring a touchdown for offensive linemen.
"I remember a game when Ray Hamilton did that and we weren't expecting that out of him," said Van Sloten. "It is an easy way to earn respect. It fuels you and makes you want to give that much more the next game."
With a stable of running backs returning that includes a bull-dozer (Mark Weisman), a slasher (Damon Bullock), and a patient, wait-for-the-blocking to materialize before exploding-type back (Jordan Canzeri) returning, Van Sloten says the line's approach doesn't change.
"Most of the time, we don't know who is in until after the play," he said. "All the backs have different strengths and weaknesses. Mark is going to run right at you, he's not going to go around you.
"We need to make a hole for them, and they'll use their skill set to get those extra yards and get to the second level."
Single-game tickets for all seven Hawkeye home contests inside Kinnick Stadium are available on hawkeyesports.com. Iowa opens the season Aug. 31, hosting Northern Illinois at 2:30 p.m. (CT).