IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa has reshuffled its offensive line six different times, but it has a chance to suit up its preferred lineup for only the second time this season.
In its depth chart unveiled Monday for Saturday’s game at Penn State, Iowa’s five regular starting offensive linemen all were listed on the first team. That unit in its usual spots hasn’t played together since Oct. 8 at Minnesota.
After a rough couple of performances early in the season, offensive line coach Brian Ferentz installed Boone Myers as the left tackle, Ike Boettger at left guard, James Daniels at center, Sean Welsh at right guard and Cole Croston at right tackle. That lineup seemed to mesh in a road win at Minnesota. But in the Hawkeyes’ most recent two games, starters Croston (Purdue) and Myers (Wisconsin) were unable to play because of lower-leg injuries, which led to a shuffle at multiple positions.
Myers had played left guard for the season’s first five games and was thriving before moving back to left tackle, where he opened 10 times last year. Croston struggled at left tackle against better pass rushers but is both tough enough and athletic enough to stay on the field as a right tackle. Boettger has started six games at right tackle, one game at left tackle and one at left guard. He has the versatility and girth to play any position.
The juggling routine is nothing new for Iowa’s offensive line. In 2015, the line had four different lineups because of injury.
“Last year, too, was a year of a lot of moving parts with our football team,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said last week. “We got through it and navigated through it. This year’s been similar that way. And it makes it a challenge.”
Iowa added a third wide receiver slot to its depth chart, and sophomore Jay Scheel is listed as the starter. It makes sense. Iowa ran 48 plays out of its three-receiver grouping, compared with just 13 of the others. In the second half alone, 27 of Iowa’s 29 plays were out of three-receiver personnel.
True freshman Devonte Young is listed as the backup to both Scheel and split end Jerminic Smith. Young also is the No. 2 kickoff and punt returner, officially replacing Riley McCarron at both slots. Young lines up alongside Desmond King in kickoff coverage and plays on other special teams units.
Tight end George Kittle started against Wisconsin on Oct. 22 but was ineffective because of a foot injury suffered the previous week against Purdue. He’s listed as the starter this week.