Brown: Iowa needs to replace a portrait (and three other tackles)

Rick Brown

IOWA CITY, Ia. – All Boone Myers has to do is replace a portrait.

The redshirt sophomore was listed as Iowa's starting left offensive tackle on the two-deep released Tuesday when spring practice kicked off. That's the position vacated by Outland Trophy winner and future first-round NFL Draft pick Brandon Scherff.

Scherff's portrait now hangs with the program's other 21 consensus all-Americans on a wall inside Iowa's new football operations center.

"By no means do we want him to try and fill those shoes," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Myers. "He just needs to play well."

The quarterback position has dominated conversation since last season ended, but tackle is a spot to keep a close eye on this spring. Right offensive tackle Andrew Donnal is also gone. So are defensive tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat.

All four were invited to the NFL Combine. Davis is projected as a first-round pick by some analysts. Trinca-Pasat and Donnal also have draft potential. And Ferentz is left with four vacancies at what he calls "premium positions on both sides of the football."

Myers and Ike Boettger are currently the starting offensive tackles. Don't discount Cole Croston, Ferentz said. The junior's dad, Dave, played on the offensive line for Iowa in the mid-1980s with Ferentz as his position coach. Keegan Render, a redshirt freshman from Indianola, is listed No. 2 behind Boettger on the right side.

Myers was a tight end at Webster City who received no scholarship offers from BCS schools. Iowa assistant coach Reese Morgan watched Myers play basketball and saw an offensive lineman running up and down the floor. Myers accepted the Hawkeyes' preferred walk-on offer. He's now on scholarship.

Boettger, also a redshirt sophomore, was a quarterback at Cedar Falls. He attended Iowa's football camp the summer before his senior year. The coaches saw a tight end, maybe an offensive lineman. One day, they asked Boettger to catch a few balls. A few days later they asked him to don shoulder pads and try blocking.

Ferentz said Boettger "basically got splattered, but the thing is he had never blocked anybody in his life but he tried to block. He had a really good attitude."

Boettger signed with Iowa as a 235-pound tight end, but was quickly moved to the line.

"We tried to help him out as much as we could," Scherff said. "Now he's over 300 pounds. He's going to be good. He's athletic. He wants to finish, like (offensive line coach Brian Ferentz) teaches. Boone, he's a hard-nosed football player who always wants to get better. They have a bright future ahead of them."

Myers, listed at 255 pounds as a senior at Webster City, is also listed at 300 pounds on the depth chart.

"They're smart football players, and they want to improve each day," Scherff said.

Jaleel Johnson, a junior, and Nathan Bazata, a sophomore, are listed as the starting defensive tackles. Ferentz said Bazata is more physically ready to play than Trinca-Pasat was when he was thrown to the wolves in 2012. He feels good about Johnson's progress as well. And if Darian Cooper can bounce back from surgery that sidelined him last season, that would be a plus.

"The cupboard is not bare," Ferentz said. "We just have to bring those guys along, and it's going to be fun."

So it's four new tackles, potential … and one portrait to replace.