Iowa football's Kyler Schott is finally healthy. What does that mean for the offensive line?
IOWA CITY — The game plan for Iowa offensive lineman Kyler Schott against Kent State last Saturday was to "take it easy." The 30-7 win was his first game back since an unexpected and untimely foot injury in August. He expected to see a low snap count.
Then … the 8:57 mark in the second quarter arrived.
Schott was thrust into what he can only describe as a "barn-burner" of a possession — Iowa's 20-play, 95-yard drive to close the first half. Schott logged the first 11 plays before Cody Ince relieved him for the final eight. But he looked fine. Looked healthy.
If there were any lingering questions about health, Schott answered them Saturday. Most importantly, he came out of the game without any setbacks.
"It was fun. That's what Iowa football is all about, those long drives," Schott said. "Just knowing I was back out there competing was the best thing.
"(The foot) is pretty good right now. Sometimes it gets a little sore, which is expected. Other than that it's great."
Schott's return was a welcomed sight for one of the youngest, most inexperienced Hawkeye offensive lines in recent memory. Iowa totaled over 400 yards of total offense and running back Tyler Goodson reached career highs in rushing yards (153) and rushing touchdowns (three).
This week, Schott appeared on the depth chart for a second consecutive week as the second-string right guard. He's still out of the starting lineup for now as he works to get fully back into game shape. That's only a matter of time.
The bigger question is: When he does return, how will rotations be affected on the offensive line?
One silver lining to missing a multi-year starter to start the season was it allowed for other players, mainly sophomore Justin Britt and true freshman Connor Colby, to gain valuable experience. With Schott's return, it only strengthens the interior of the line and offers possibilities that head coach Kirk Ferentz couldn't see one month ago.
"If you got seven or eight guys you can put in a game and feel confident," Ferentz said, "boy, you're in good shape. And, yeah, we're approaching that way. We're not there yet, but we're approaching. I think it's realistic to think that's a possibility, and maybe we can get to nine. That would be pretty good."
Including Schott, it looks like the players Ferentz is referring to is Britt, Colby, Nick DeJong, Cody Ince, Tyler Linderbaum, Mason Richman and Jack Plumb. The first seven played throughout last Saturday's game and Plumb for the final three series.
Can we expect Iowa's offensive line rotation (especially at guard) to continue? When asked, Schott replied, "Absolutely." He said that rotation is advantageous.
"It keeps people's legs fresh," Schott said. "Going up against guys on defense who will be more tired than us because we're subbing every series or every two series. So (it's) something to our advantage. We have the depth so might as well use it."
A fifth-year senior, Schott is partly responsible for the development along the line. He's been present at every practice and game including, at Iowa State, serving as an unofficial player-coach.
"I kind of just tell them, 'Don't look back,'" Schott said. "'One play at a time, you can't look back because that'll ruin the next play.' Experience for these young guys is huge. We've played two very good teams and Kent State played very hard. So playing against teams like is what really helps young guys."
The continuously evolving offensive line has another chance to gel and improve this Saturday against Colorado State, the last game before the rest of Big Ten play begins.
On the heels of Iowa's best rushing performance of the season, Schott says there's still work to be done. One of those points of improvement is making sure that all five linemen understand assignments at all times.
"We can't have one guy screw up," Schott said. "If one guy screws up, the other four could be doing the best job in the world but it doesn't matter. All five guys need to be on the same page.
"We had a great game up front and we still have more to do."
Kennington Smith is the new Iowa Hawkeyes beat writer for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org