IOWA CITY, Iowa — Sometimes Iowa’s depth chart lingers in perpetuity from the second game through midseason. Names somehow end up on the list but aren’t really next in line.
That happens every year on the offensive line, where a guard flips to tackle rather than the listed second-teamer ends up on the chart. So consider this week’s depth chart an overcorrection. Let’s get into it.
ICYMI: Akrum Wadley is, like, really good at doing this for @HawkeyeFootball.
— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) October 15, 2016
Croston not listed …
Senior tackle Cole Croston was not listed on Iowa’s depth chart for Saturday’s game against Wisconsin, which means he’s unlikely to play for the second straight week. Croston opened the season’s first five games at left tackle before flipping to right tackle against Minnesota. He was out against Purdue with a lower leg sprain, coach Kirk Ferentz said on Saturday. His condition improved late in the week but not enough to play.
“We’ll play it day by day,” Ferentz said Saturday. “Hopefully.”
This is where I write that lineups are written in cyberspace on Monday but often change during the week. If Croston’s situation improves, he’ll start somewhere.
… but Kittle and Myers are
Both tight end George Kittle and left tackle Boone Myers are listed on Iowa’s depth chart this week. After Saturday, both players’ chances of competing this week seemed 50-50.
Kittle hauled in a 22-yard pass and nearly scored on Iowa’s first possession against Purdue. He stayed in the game to block for the ensuing touchdown run two plays but left later in the quarter with a foot sprain. He had X-rays, which were negative, but he wore a boot over his right foot for most of the game.
“He’s got a sprain, and I’m sure we’ll have more of those as the year goes along,” Ferentz said. “We’ll see. Take it day by day.”
Myers also left the game with an apparent sprain and had X-rays. Saturday, Ferentz seemed more encouraged by Myers’ potential to play this week.
Losing either player would significantly damage Iowa’s chances against the rival Wisconsin Badgers.
Other O-line flips
With Croston possibly out, Ike Boettger will stay at right tackle this week. Boettger moved to left guard against Minnesota but switched back last week. Keegan Render, who opened at left guard last week, is in line for another start.
Steve Ferentz now is the second-team left guard, replacing Ross Reynolds. We’re not sure if that’s based on performance or health. Ferentz, the youngest son of Iowa’s head coach, was the co-backup at center with Lucas LeGrand, who now is the sole backup.
When Myers left the game, Boettger moved to left tackle and redshirt freshman Levi Paulsen stepped in at right tackle. Paulsen played so well that he’s now the backup at both right guard and right tackle, or at least until Croston returns.
“You know three, four, five weeks ago I wouldn’t have said anything about Levi,” Ferentz said. “I wouldn’t have mentioned that he’d be the next guy in. But he’s just quietly ascending in practice. We’re really pleased with what we’re seeing. He’s working hard, and I’d be curious to see how he did today on the film. He’s been doing a good job and gaining momentum there.”
Movement at LB
Entering training camp, sophomore Aaron Mends was listed as the weak-side starter with former starting outside linebacker Bo Bower in reserve. True freshman Amani Jones entered that competition in August, but Bower beat out Mends late in camp and hasn’t relinquished that position.
Saturday, neither Mends nor Jones played a down at weak-side linebacker. For a few fourth-quarter drives, Bower and safety Brandon Snyder were the only starters remaining in the lineup. It was perplexing, which led me to ask Ferentz about the situation.
“We didn’t want to get (Bower) more work,” Ferentz said, “just trying to make all the pieces fit where at least somebody could kind of have command of things and be confident we were going to get the right calls in. It sure didn’t look like it, but that was the purpose behind it.”
During those two series, Bower lined up beside sophomore Jack Hockaday, who backs up Josey Jewell at middle linebacker. Hockaday played nearly the entire opener after Jewell was ejected for targeting and had 6 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
On the most recent depth chart, Hockaday now is listed as the top backup at both inside spots with Mends and Jones out. Both played against Purdue on special teams. So I guess this another market correction.
Josh Jackson and Michael Ojemudia were listed as co-backups at right cornerback behind Desmond King. On Monday’s release, Jackson is now the sole backup. When Iowa changes into nickel coverage, true freshman Manny Rugamba is the cornerback and King moves to the slot. When the Hawkeyes add a sixth defensive back, Jackson has filled that role.
With both King and Greg Mabin, the other starting cornerback, graduating after this season, expect Rugamba, Jackson and Ojemudia to compete fairly hard this offseason for next year’s starting roles. But Rugamba and Jackson have the edge.
— Chris White (@IowaCoachWhite) October 15, 2016