AMES – Iowa produces NFL-grade offensive linemen at a rate few other schools in the country can match.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has built his reputation on his offensive lines and 2019 is no different.
The Hawkeyes have two future sure-fire NFL Draft picks on its offensive line this season in Tristian Wirfs and Alaric Jackson.
Jackson hurt his knee in the Hawkeyes’ first game of the season and will be out against Iowa State.
Wirfs and Jackson were expected to bookend Iowa’s offensive line at each of the tackle spts. But since Jackson’s injury, Ferentz has been shuffling around with the offensive line trying to find the right fit for his players.
Last week in Iowa’s 30-0 drubbing of Rutgers, Wirfs split series at each of the tackle spots – he spent six series at left tackle and five series at right tackle.
In total, eight offensive linemen saw the field against Rutgers. Against Miami (OH) in week one, nine different offensive linemen saw the field. Ferentz has used six different offensive line combinations through the first two weeks.
With that much mixing and matching to find the right combination, and with Ferentz’s history at the offensive line position, it’d be naïve to expect anything less than an elite, cohesive offensive line against Iowa State’s defensive line, which is arguably the Cyclones’ best position group.
That battle in the trenches will be fun to watch for both sides.
Iowa State is in a rare situation where it returns all five of its starting offensive linemen.
Offensive line coach Jeff Myers said in camp that he’d feel comfortable playing any of the eight linemen from the starting five and the three up-and-comers.
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A.J. Epenesa has earned the right to have an entire section dedicated to him and his accomplishments.
He’s a project top-10 NFL Draft pick with the size, skills and stats to prove it.
In just 412 snaps last season, which is somewhat low for someone of Epenesa’s talent level. Last season, he led the Big 10 and was 12th nationally in sacks with 10.5, he was second in the Big 10 and 16th nationally with four forced fumbles and he was ranked fourth in the Big 10 in tackles for a loss with 16.5 even with the limited snap count.
This season, he’s seeing much more of the field and he’s just as much of a terror. Miami (OH) sent a double team his way whenever it could, and Rutgers tried their best to contain him.
Epenesa only has one sack so far this season, which was against Rutgers. But he was also terrorizing the Scarlet Knight backfield even when he wasn’t getting to the quarterback. On top of his one sack, he had four other quarterback hurries to go along with three tackles.
Iowa’s GameDay history
Iowa State has no history with hosting Game Day, but Iowa does.
Game Day went to Iowa City in 1996 and 2006 – in each game Iowa was playing Ohio State.
The Hawkeyes lost both games.
In 1996, No. 2 Ohio State beat No. 20 Iowa 38-26 and in 2006, No. 1 Ohio State beat No. 13 Iowa 38-17.
The Hawkeye’s are ranked No. 19 in this week’s AP Poll after two dominating wins and Iowa State is unranked after a close win against Northern Iowa and a bye week.