Oct. 31, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Matt Tobin doesn't care about the position or the play call. He just wants to do the job.
With 17 career starts at left guard under his belt, Tobin slid one spot to his left last week against Northwestern to fill the vacancy left by the injured Brandon Scherff. It marked Tobin's first career start at left tackle, a spotlight position on the offensive line that is akin to sitting first chair in an instrumental ensemble, but Tobin took it all in stride.
"Guard may feel a little more natural to me," said the fifth-year senior and former walk-on from Worthington, Iowa, "but I'll play either. I'll play anywhere coach needs me."
Tobin had previously worked out at left tackle early in his Hawkeye career, including lining up in practice against future NFL draft picks Adrian Clayborn and Karl Klug. But that experience alone isn't enough to have Kirk Ferentz ask you to make your first career start protecting the quarterback's blindside. Not on the road, in a Big Ten environment, halfway through your senior season.
"I think the thing that stood out about Matt most during the early years was he was a tough, competitive guy," said Ferentz. "He worked really hard. He had some work to do, but he was a tough competitive guy.
"For whatever reason he seems to be one of those guys that is pretty proficient and pretty productive. So I think that's what's allowed him to play at guard over the last two years, and then (last week) it just seemed like the most logical thing to do was get a more experienced guy out there for the long term."
Tobin wasn't the only new piece reconfigured to fit into the offensive line puzzle last week. Redshirt freshman Jordan Walsh made his first career start between Tobin and senior center James Ferentz, and redshirt freshman Austin Blythe returned to the starting lineup at right guard in place of the injured Andrew Donnal. They joined junior Brett Van Sloten, who anchored the right tackle position for the eighth straight week.
The new formula paved the way for Iowa's sixth 100-yard rushing performance of the season. Sophomore Damon Bullock returned to the lineup and earned 107 yards on 22 carries.
"Whoever is in there we're always trying to help them out, just communicate with them and let them know what they're doing," said Tobin. "We're confident with what they can do. It's nice to see guys get in there and play well."
The Hawkeyes had success this year running left behind Scherff and Tobin. After another successful week with new faces on the line, one may think the fifth-year senior might insist on continuing to pound the ball left, but Tobin isn't the lobbying type.
"I really don't recommend any plays," said Tobin. "I go out there and let them call whatever they want and I run it the best I can."