|ESPN.com: Big Ten||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Iowa's offensive line allowed countless defenders to penetrate the backfield last season, leading to a Big Ten-worst 46 sacks surrendered.
The Hawkeyes also allowed a major part of their program's identity to disappear.
They've spent this fall getting it back.
"Upholding a tradition that's been here, with guys like Robert Gallery and Marshal Yanda and other guys we're trying to follow," senior center Rob Bruggeman said, "we're trying to make sure we don't let the legacy drop off like that. We're making sure we follow in that tradition."
Despite some youth and injury losses, Iowa regained its trademark edge on the offensive line this fall. The Hawkeyes reduced their sacks allowed total by 20 and finished second in the Big Ten in both scoring (30.2 points per game) and yards per rush (4.9).
Four Iowa offensive linemen earned All-Big Ten honors, including Bruggeman and sophomore left tackle Bryan Bulaga, both first-year starters at their respective positions (Bulaga started five games at guard in 2007). Bruggeman said the group, which features a mix of seniors and younger players, came together during the offseason and survived some instability at quarterback early on this fall.
"We've also got a pretty good running back who makes us look a little better," Bruggeman said. "That probably has something to do with how we block out there."
Gee, ya think?
Shonn Greene is the biggest reason why the Hawkeyes rebounded from three underwhelming seasons to reach Thursday's Outback Bowl, where they will take on South Carolina (ESPN, 11 a.m. ET). Greene set a single-season school rushing mark (1,729 yards), eclipsed 100 rushing yards in all 12 games and captured the Doak Walker Award.
With a downhill, no-nonsense running style, Greene is a lineman's dream.
"His physical running style gives us motivation and gives us the confidence to block," Bruggeman said. "We know if we're blocking for him, he'll do the rest for us. So we just try to give him a seam."
Creating seams in a solid South Carolina defense won't be easy. The Gamecocks rank 12th nationally in total defense, though they've been susceptible to the run at times.
"We're trying to do the best we can to match that SEC speed," Bruggeman said.