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Spring football 2018

Offensive line and tight ends
Iowa tight end Noah Fant readies to haul in a touchdown pass from quarterback Nathan Stanley during the Hawkeyes’ 55-24 upset of No. 3 Ohio State Saturday, Nov. 4, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (photo by Brian Fleck)

Last week, I looked at the linebackers and defensive backs.
This week, I’ll talk about the offensive line and tight ends.

Iowa lost two starters; they were good ones.
Sean Welsh and James Daniels have a shot to play in the NFL.
Welsh was named All-Big Ten last fall after lettering four years for the Hawkeyes.
As a freshman, he was named First Team Freshman All-Big Ten, starting seven games.
Welsh started every game his last three years and had a couple of starts at tackle.

I have to give him a lot of credit for coming forward to talk about his depression issues.
It has to help other people who have the same problem, especially young people who feel they are the only ones dealing with it.
Welsh was on the leadership group as a redshirt freshman, his junior and senior seasons.
I was a little surprised James Daniels decided to go pro having one year of eligibility left.
Not that Daniels isn’t good enough, as coach Kirk Ferentz said, James is the most athletic center he’s ever coached.
It’s just Daniels is only 20 and has been nicked up the last couple of years. It would be fun to see what he could do if he was healthy all season.
Both are good pro prospects and Daniels could get drafted in the first round in the NFL draft.

The first thing that jumped out of the two-deeps depth chart was the right guard position.
Two of my homeboys from Moville were listed as the number one and two right guards.
Levi Paulsen (6-5, 305) was listed number one and his twin brother Landon (6-5, 305) was listed number two.
I hope you don’t mind me talking about two of Woodbury Central’s finest athletes, but I have talked to many Moville people, and we believe the Paulsen twins are the first to be on scholarship with the University of Iowa football team.
Moville has a population of 1,621 and hooked up with Climbing Hill (population 97) in 1962 to form Woodbury Central.
Levi has two starts, including at right tackle in the bowl win over Boston College.
He played in 17 games the last two seasons and was Academic All-Big Ten the last two years.
In his press conference to open spring ball, Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said he thought Levi was “ready to take the next step.”
Levi was injured in spring practice and might be held out, said line coach Tim Polasek at his press conference on April 2.
Landon, Academic All-Big Ten last year, played on special teams in the bowl win.
Sophomore Cole Banwart (6-4, 296) stepped up this spring and was running with the first unit.
“I’m super excited about his future because he has continuously gotten better,” said coach Polasek. “His grit, his toughness, he’s a Hawkeye.”
The top two left guards are senior Ross Reynolds (6-4, 295) and redshirt freshman Coy Kirkpatrick (6-4, 290).
Reynolds played in nine games last fall, with one start.
He also played four games as a sophomore and one as a freshman.
Kirkpatrick redshirted last year after being named first team all-state as a senior at Madrid. He was a four-year letterman in football, three-year lettermen in baseball and track, and lettered one year in baseball.
Senior Keegan Render (6-4, 307) is listed as the number one center.
Render is a three-year letterman who has played in 36 games the last three seasons, starting at center in the season-opener last fall.
“He’s our vocal leader and I’m not sure that toward the end of last year that wasn’t the same,” said coach Tim. “It really feels that he can lead best from the center position.”
Cole Banwart is listed as the number two center, along with playing right guard.
“I’m super excited about his future because he has continuously gotten better,” said Polasek.
The Hawkeyes should be set at tackle the next three years with Alaric Jackson (6-7, 320) and Tristan Wirfs (6-5, 320). Both are sophomores.
Jackson started 12 games at left tackle, was Academic All-Big Ten and first team Freshman All-American. He was also freshman first team All-Big Ten.
Wirfs, who was first team all-state, from Mount Vernon, played in eight games at right tackle and was named Next Man In award on offense. He is the first true freshman to start at offensive tackle in the Kirk Ferentz era.
Wirfs was listed the top left tackle and Jackson right tackle when spring ball started… now they have been switched.
“Both are doing a great job at both spots,” said coach Polasek.
Redshirt freshman Mark Kallenberger (6-6, 282) stepped up this spring and is backing up both sides, while senior Dalton Ferguson (6-4, 308), from Solon, is in the mix.
Last year was Tim Polasek’s first year coaching the offensive line and year two should be a little smoother.
Remember, Iowa lost its top two tackles Boone Myers and Ike Boettger for almost all of the season last year.
Plus, Polasek has two of the best offensive line coaches with Kirk and Brian Ferentz working with him everyday.

Tight ends

The Hawkeyes might have the most depth and talent in the tight end position they’ve ever had.
Start with junior Noah Fant (6-5, 241) and sophomore T.J. Hockenson (6-5, 250) and you have two All-Big Ten candidates.
Fant led the nation’s tight ends with 16.5 yards per catch and 11 touchdowns. He was named third team All-Big Ten after catching 30 passes. He has the ability to stretch the field; he showed it against Nebraska turning a 10-yard reception into a 68-yard score.
“He’s a tremendous player,” said quarterback Nate Stanley after the Nebraska game, where Noah caught two touchdown passes. “He can make explosive plays. When he does it, it makes the defense respect almost another wide receiver that can go out and make plays like he can.”
Hockenson, who played wide receiver in high school, caught 24 passes for 320 yards and three scores.
Look for sophomore Shaun Beyer (6-5, 240), junior Nate Wieting (6-4, 250) and junior Drew Cook (6-5, 250) to get some playing time.
Beyer played in six games last season, mostly on special teams.
Wieting was Academic All-Big Ten the last two years and came to Iowa as a walk-on.
Cook moved from quarterback to tight end during the 2017 spring practice and, with the added weight (he came to Iowa at 220 pounds), should help him blocking.
Next week, I’ll talk about Nate Stanley, who could become one of the best quarterbacks to play at Iowa.
Also, I’ll look at the wide receivers, fullbacks and running backs.