IOWA CITY | While the objective is admittedly unobtainable, members of the Iowa offensive line find the challenge irresistible.
“It’s the pursuit of perfection. We hear about it all the time, almost every day from the coaches, and it’s the goal every single day to take another step in that direction,’’ Hawkeye center James Ferentz said.
Collectively, the Iowa offensive line is making strides.
From an opener which saw quarterback James Vandenberg sacked six times by Northern Illinois to the execution which led to the first 400-yard offensive performance of the season last weekend against Northern Iowa, the Hawkeyes are making progress.
“Everything we do is a collaborative effort and it has to work that way or it isn’t going to work,’’ left guard Matt Tobin said. “It’s coming together.’’
It needed to after an opening-game performance left tackle Brandon Scherff called “embarrassing.’’
“To have a quarterback get sacked six times, that’s not what we’re about,’’ Scherff said. “It told us all we had a lot of work to do and I think that helped us all start to focus on the details.’’
One play, one practice, one game at a time, the work continues.
Three returning starters are among Iowa’s front five, but Ferentz and Tobin are the only seniors across a line which starts a junior in Brett Van Sloten at right tackle, a sophomore in Scherff and a redshirt freshman in Austin Blythe at right guard.
“It’s still a pretty young line overall and we’ve played that way at times, but we’re out there to execute,’’ Ferentz said. “We can’t have the breakdowns we had earlier this season. We have one more game before the start of the Big Ten and we need to play that way. It’s not going to get any easier.’’
As the Hawkeyes work toward Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against Central Michigan, Vandenberg sees progress from his view behind center.
“Those guys are working well together. They blew open some incredible holes in the UNI game to help get our running game going and that just opens things up for the passing game,’’ Vandenberg said. “It’s all related.’’
Running back Mark Weisman, who spent time blocking from the fullback position before injuries prompted his move to tailback during last week’s game, has watched the line develop more cohesion each week.
“The holes I had out there on Saturday were incredible. Anybody could have run through them and that’s a testament to how hard those guys are working,’’ Weisman said. “Good offensive lines work together and have that bond where they can sort of sense where each other is at. These guys have that.’’
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said the development up front mirrors the development he sees taking place throughout the youngest Hawkeye team he has coached.
Most importantly, he senses progress.
“I think we grew a little bit Saturday, so that’s encouraging,’’ he said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I thought we did some things better and you could see some things that were going on in practice show up on Saturday, which is good.’’
That progress was even more evident on tape.
“You see guys working on things that they maybe had not done well or proficiently and those areas show up better Saturday,’’ the Iowa coach said. “When you see those things, when you see guys doing things they maybe hadn’t done before, that’s encouraging.’’
That’s the pursuit of perfection and the day-to-day improvement that the Hawkeyes’ first-year offensive line coach, Brian Ferentz, encourages.
“It starts with doing a better job of communicating up front, making sure that we are all on the same page,’’ James Ferentz said.
“Once that happened, we started to take some steps forward. The hope is that people don’t notice us. That means it’s all working. We’re not there yet, but we’re working on it. The talent is there. We just have to keep chasing perfection and not lose sight of that.’’