Posted by: marcmwm | January 7, 2009

Vandervelde last man standing, on the inside

Still cleaning out the Outback notebook. I posted a lot of this as a comment, but might as well make it a bona fide post.

I’ve been saying all year long that I thought the inside trio of blockers on Iowa’s O-line this season was among the best three in the Ferentz era. I’d go 2002′s Eric Steinbach, Bruce Nelson, Andy Lightfoot No. 1 and then it’s this year’s Seth Olsen, Rob Bruggeman and Julian Vandervelde right there with Mike Jones, Brian Ferentz and Mike Elgin.

Olsen and Bruggeman were fully aged fifth-year seniors who completely bought into the weightroom mentality. Bruggeman leaves as Iowa’s strongest center and on of the strongest O-linemen in the Ferentz era. So, their bodies were matured and that matters a lot on the line of scrimmage. Also, they knew the plays. Five years in the system, I’m sure that bought coaches some flexibility. I’m sure they could do more complex schemes, like the one that sprung Shonn Greene for his second long run against Wisconsin, sort of a delayed block thingie on Bruggeman’s part.

I  think the inside trio was critical this season and that’s why I believe Olsen and Bruggeman might be harder to replace than four-year starters at DT, Mitch King and Matt Kroul.

I don’t see anyone with the same power on the inside (though, I think Vandervelde — 6-3, 300 — will be there next year), BUT that’s not a bad thing. You have power guys and you have Steinbach guys, 6-foot-7 guys who don’t miss blocks on the second level because they have such great footwork. (BTW, Steinbach is a former Iowa all-American and now a Cleveland Brown and pretty wealthy).

Does Iowa even have that guy?

After splitting time with Dan Doering last season, Vandervelde was the left guard for the majority this year, starting the last nine games. He’s a lockdown at one of the guard spots. (Tackles Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Calloway aren’t going anywhere, either.)

Can he predict the other two spots, center and right guard?

“We don’t pick starters before the year starts,” he said. “We’ll go into spring ball and probably all the way through summer and into camp with everybody battling for the starting spots.

“I may be here. I may be on the right. I may be a center. They might throw me out at tackle if they really feel like it. Whoever the five are who come out next year, I know we’re going to step up to the challenge.”

Bruggeman talked about some of the competition at center.

“Maybe Josh Koeppel (a 265-pound sophomore walk-on center), he needs to gain some weight and I give him crap about that everyday,” Bruggeman said. “(Redshirt freshman) James Ferentz is actually a pretty good player coming up. There’s (Kyle, 6-5, 277-pound junior) Haganman. Of course, there’s Raf and Kuempel and Dan. There are guys who are going to step in and do well.”

I think this was the first season in a while that competition made Iowa’s offensive line not only better but way better. I think some of the races were close. The guys who won their spots fought to keep them.

Here’s my early call for ’09:

LT — Bulaga, jr., 6-6, 301 (No brainer, I didn’t even use my brain for that.)

LG — Dan Doering, sr., 6-6, 300 (If he can be Steinbach-esque, not Steinbach, but esque. Could be a key player next year. Remember, a broken wrist at the end of camp pretty much cost him this season.)

C — Julian Vandervelde, jr., 6-3, 300 (Shocked, right? He kinda mentioned it after the game. I like the idea. He’s one of the most cerebral players around. Plus, there’s this: http://www.littleleague.org/media/newsarchive/2007stories/07vandevelde_julian.htm)

– OR –

C — Rafael Eubanks, sr., 6-3, 285 (Started just five games this year. Didn’t see meaningful minutes after Illinois. He can grab his senior season by the horns or not. Ball’s in his court.)

RG — Andy Kuempel, sr., 6-7, 300 (I think he has a big fifth year and gets on the NFL radar, pending the shoulder. He did something pretty bad to it at Illinois and shut it down for the season. He spent all of bowl practice in a sling. This will keep him out of upper body workouts, I imagine, for some time this winter. Coach Ferentz didn’t mention anything about surgery, but Kuempel was ruled out of the bowl game pretty quickly after the end of the season.)

RT — Kyle Calloway, sr., 6-7, 317 (He has positioned himself to be a dominant Big Ten player next season. He drew a lot of tough assignments this year, including Aaron Maybin and held his own.)

Second unit (This was tougher)

LT — Riley Reiff, fr., 6-6, 270 (This kid looks like a baller. Maybe he breaks in at guard, similar to Bulaga.)

LG — Adam Gettis, so., 6-4, 270 (He’s 10 to 15 pounds away. Coaches like his progress.)

C — James Ferentz, fr.,  6-2, 260 (I can’t believe how much he’s filled out. I’m guessing he’ll be pushing a legit 280 before next season.)

RG — Casey McMillan, fr., 6-4, 295 (I hope he develops the punch to be a mauler, in the same way Olsen was. Sometimes, when a freshman comes in at or near 300, there’s some re-making of the body. I don’t know if that’s the case with McMillan.)

RT — Kyle Haganman, jr., 6-5, 277 (I can’t tell you how many times bowl week I saw Iowa players coming off the field and I asked myself, who’s No. 69? Haganman, a walk-on, might have a say in this.)

Another guy who might have a say is Dace Richardson, who’s been out two seasons with knee problems. He gave a very positive update from Tampa. I posted that here, http://marcmwm.wordpress.com/2008/12/30/richardson-targets-spring/.

outback_bowl_more_10 by hawkeyebowlgame.

Iowa’s Shonn Greene flips into the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Fla., Jan. 1, 2009. That’s guard Julian Vandervelde face first on the left. (Jonathan D. Woods/The Gazette) 

Responses

  1. I would venture a guess that yes, McMillan will undergo some “remaking”: http://assets.sbnation.com:/assets/21815/caseymacinaction_medium.jpg

  2. Hopefull, we’re not talking “Extreme Makeover,” just maybe an ab launcher. Do you remember Nyere Aumaitre? He came to Iowa as a fairly decorated O-lineman, weighing in at 300 or so. The “Makeover” never took and he never played a meaningful down.

  3. I remember the first pic. I saw of Calloway in HS. You could tell by looking at him he had the frame to become what he has. We’re set at the T position barring injury.

    Vandevelde at C? Intriguing, and he is a bright kid so who knows.

    Steinbach was such a stud it’s insane.

  4. Thanks for taking time to discuss O-linemen. There’s a lot there that determines games, but is never watercooler talk – because the average fan doesn’t understand it.

    Could you think about doing an analysis going into the draft? What the heck is a “good bubble” anyway?

  5. Is Reiff playing offensive line now? I know he came in as a DE; I hadn’t heard that he switched over the other side of the ball. He’s definitely got a great frame for a tackle.

  6. The pictures of Vandervelde at the Little (ha freakin’ ha!) League site are going to forever haunt my dreams. I thought the top one was a picture of him NOW, but it’s him at 12? Yipes.

  7. Vandervelde really reminds me of the Counting Crows (not a fan) lead guy. ‘Cept bigger. Plus, I think Vandervelde is a fantastic singer.

    Adam — I think Reiff got the switch before camp. I know it was early. He’s No. 77 now and looks like a starter kit for a pretty good OT. Long way to go, but I think with the wrestling background it’ll happen.

  8. Good bubble? I’m going to guess that it means the gut/butt area, but I’m only guessing.

    I’ve got “punch” down, but after that my scout-ese drifts.

  9. Steinbach is my all-time favorite player that I’ve covered.

  10. Why? Was he as good an interview as he was at destroying DL’s?

    Also, I don’t think the ’04 line was as good as this year mainly due to Brian F. That kid was good but his leg(s) were so screwed up he got pummeled sometimes. Tough break but he played through it to his credit.

  11. My first day on the beat, I went to KF’s office for a visit. Steinbach was there, too. It was the day he changed positions. We had a conversation.

    He was just a laid back guy with a healthy perspective, good sense of humor and absolutely no ego.

  12. What a fateful day, for him.

  13. I saw James Ferentz last night at the Iowa City High vs. Iowa City West meet. He looked like he’s gotten bigger – solid, not loose weight – another year and I can see him a key component.

  14. [...] Guard Julian Vandervelde is the last remaining member of Iowa's rock-slid interior on the offensive line, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. [...]

  15. [...] Guard Julian Vandervelde is the last remaining member of Iowa's rock-slid interior on the offensive line, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. [...]

  16. I heard James has filled out nicely. Also heard he has done well in bowl practice. Too bad he got suspended, I am sure that set him back. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at Center.

    Although I talked to Raf at the Beach Bash after he signed a football for my kid. I was very surprised how cool the kid was and no ego whatsoever. He thanked me for coming all the way from Cali to support the team. I told him my kids and I would go anywhere to support them. We are diehard fans. He said he is going to work hard this off-season to take over where Brugg left off. I hope he does!!!

  17. I hope he does too, Cali. Raf is a rock-solid kid. I’ve always enjoyed talking to him. I hope he takes this by the horns.

  18. [...] Guard Julian Vandervelde is the last remaining member of Iowa's rock-slid interior on the offensive line, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. [...]

  19. [...] http://marcmwm.wordpress.com/2009/01/07/vandervelde-last-man-standing/ [...]

  20. [...] guard — junior Julian Vandervelde 15 [...]


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