'Teamwork' nets Iowa's offensive line top national award

Chad Leistikow

How does college football’s No. 120-ranked offense win a national offensive award?

Teamwork and perseverance.

That was the message delivered Friday, as Iowa was chosen to win the Joe Moore Award — given to the nation’s Most Outstanding Offensive Line Unit.

The Hawkeyes certainly had their struggles up front. All five starters to begin the season missed at least one game due to injury.

Previously unknown linemen Keegan Render, Lucas LeGrand and Levi Paulsen stepped in to fill key roles.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz reacts to a moment in the Hawkeyes' 40-10 win against Nebraska.

LeGrand, a sophomore from Dubuque, started at center in Iowa’s 42-3 rout of Iowa State in Week 2, after starter James Daniels suffered a knee injury.

Paulsen, a freshman, was an emergency stop-gap late in Iowa’s 14-13 upset of then-No. 3 Michigan, then made his first career start the following week in a 28-0 shutout of Illinois.

And Render, the sophomore from Indianola, wound up starting seven games at guard because of injuries to Sean Welsh, Boone Myers, Cole Croston and Ike Boettger.

Welsh, a second-team all-America guard by USA TODAY, even started the Illinois game at right tackle. Boettger started at three different positions.

The Hawkeyes edged out the lines of College Football Playoff participants Alabama and Ohio State for the award.

The Hawkeyes offensive line (from left): right tackle Ike Boettger, right guard James Daniels, center Sean Welsh, left guard Boone Myers and left tackle Cole Croston.

“The voting was intensely close this year. And Iowa and Alabama were neck-and-neck until the very end of the voting period,” said Aaron Taylor, a CBS Sports analyst and Chairman of the Joe Moore Award Voting Committee. “Ultimately, while the other units may have had a few standout individual players, many of the voters felt Iowa personified the fundamental principle that drives this award: teamwork. Iowa excelled in that this season.”

The Hawkeyes compiled an 8-4 record this season, despite an anemic passing game. With 1,013 yards in 12 games, LeShun Daniels Jr. became the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Marcus Coker in 2011; and with 34 more yards in the Jan. 2 Outback Bowl against Florida, junior teammate Akrum Wadley (966) will join him. Iowa has never had a tandem each rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.

The Joe Moore Award is in its second year and views itself as having one of the most analytical award committees in the sport. According to the release announcing Iowa as the winner, the committee is “comprised solely of people who played or coached the offensive line position, including all of the current offensive line coaches at the Division I/FBS level as well as former players, coaches and colleagues of Coach Moore and select media.”

Moore was the coaching mentor of Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. Offensive line coach Brian Ferentz, Kirk's son, will return the five starters in 2017 that started in the season-ending 40-10 win against Nebraska: Myers, Render, Daniels, Welsh and Boettger.