Newcomers key for Hawks
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
IOWA CITY — Coach Kirk Ferentz will go for his record-breaking 144th win at Iowa this weekend.
To get it, he will have to rely on a bunch of players making their first significant appearances for the Hawkeyes.
Ferentz’s quest to pass Hayden Fry as the program’s winningest coach might not be all that easy, either. In addition to the usual concerns about depth-chart turnover ahead of Saturday’s opener against Northern Illinois, Iowa will be without three starters — most notably tackles Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson — because of one-game suspensions.
“We knew a while back that we were going to have this dilemma, so I think we’ve been working … to try and get (the backups) reps and get everybody on the same page,” center Keegan Render said.
In Wirfs and Jackson, Iowa appears to have a pair of prospects set to continue Ferentz’s tradition of producing NFL-level starters at offensive tackle. Nobody seems to know what to expect out of their one-week replacements, Dalton Ferguson and Mark Kallenberger.
Ferguson, a 6-foot-4, 308-pound senior, is a former walk-on who will be making his first career start after being largely playing on special teams. Kallenberger, at 6-foot-6 and just 282 pounds, is a redshirt freshman who has never taken a snap for the Hawkeyes. Kallenberger played in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl after a strong career at nearby Bettendorf High, but left tackle is a tough place to make a first career start at any school.
Junior tackle Levi Paulsen will also be in rotation for opening day.
“They’ve been working in with the (starters) all throughout camp. They’ve done a pretty good job, so I feel comfortable with where they’re at. They’ve been working extremely hard,” quarterback Nathan Stanley said.
The third starter suspended for the opener is defensive lineman Cedrick Lattimore. But the Hawkeyes are so deep there that losing Lattimore and backup lineman Brady Reiff, also out for one game, isn’t expected to be a big issue.
In fact, Paulsen said Iowa’s offensive line is “blessed” to have such a strong unit to face in practice — especially given their depth concerns for Saturday.