If Bryan Bulaga Leaves Green Bay, Other Iowa Offensive Linemen Are Available

Brandon Scherff is the next elite offensive lineman produced by Kirk Ferentz's program at Iowa.

Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff—Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports.

Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff—Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports.

INDIANAPOLIS—Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga might be one of the team's highest priorities as a free agent this offseason, but in the world of the NFL, there are no 100 percent guarantees he'll return.

"Definitely, I want him back," said head coach Mike McCarthy on Thursday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. "I know Bryan wants to be back, but we're now in that business phase of our game. That happens each and every year."

Should Bulaga depart if and when he hits the open market, the Packers might not have far to look to find his replacement, across state borders at Bulaga's alma mater in Iowa.

The Hawkeyes have two offensive linemen invited to the Combine, which probably shouldn't come as a surprise given the university's reputation for developing linemen. They're both tackles too. At least that's where they played in college.

But there is some discrepancy. Brandon Scherff, who played left tackle at Iowa, is considered by some to be a guard in the NFL.

Not that it matters to Scherff. He'll play wherever he's needed and told NFL teams as much when he interviewed with them.

"They’ve asked me what I think, but I said I’m pretty versatile," said Scherff. "I feel like I can play guard and tackle—whatever they need."

If the Packers want to select Scherff, however, they'd probably have to trade up to do so. Arguably the top offensive lineman in the draft, he's a potential Top 10 pick.

The reputation among Iowa offensive linemen precedes Scherff, but it certainly doesn't hurt his cause.

By and large, the stature that comes with being an offensive lineman at Iowa comes from Kirk Ferentz, who coached the position in the NFL before being named head coach at Iowa. Beyond Bulaga, Ferentz has also tutored other NFL products such as Riley Reiff, Marshal Yanda, Robert Gallery and Eric Steinbach.

"Not only just football but I think Coach Ferentz he is always stressing character, being a better man and academics," said Scherff. "You get punished, obviously disciplined if you’re not the kind of character guy he’s looking for. If you get in trouble, he’s going to solve that problem and make you pay for it."

If the name Ferentz is becoming more renowned, it's because it extends beyond just Kirk. His son Brian is the offensive line coach at Iowa while another son James is currently a center with the Houston Texans.

"It seems like the Ferentz name is a popular one among everyone that I've talked to, all of the coaches and scouts here at the Combine," said Andrew Donnal, the other Iowa offensive lineman in Indianapolis. "It seems like a lot of people know who they are and have a lot of good things to say about them."

While Scherff lined up at left tackle at Iowa, Donnal was the bookend on the right side. 

Donnal isn't as highly regarded as Scherff, but the Hawkeye connection can't be discounted. He's regarded as a potential late-round selection, but he also fits the mold as true right tackle, not unlike Bulaga.

"He's another guy—a lot like Riley—I look up to his style of play, how he plays football," said Donnal of Bulaga. "He left Iowa before I got there so as the recruiting process was going on, he was a guy I watched. He was definitely a role model for me."

Even if the Packers re-sign Bulaga, they have to consider adding depth at tackle regardless. Concerns exist about the backups.

Don Barclay is coming off a torn ACL and also happens to be a restricted free agent. And J.C. Tretter might be better suited as an interior offensive lineman than tackle.

So when the draft rolls around in the spring, it wouldn't be surprising if the Packers take yet another look at the offensive line factory at Iowa.

"Coach Ferentz considers Iowa's program a developmental program," said Donnal, "and so a lot of the time Iowa doesn't get the big four or five star recruits. But what they do a really good job of is developing players and making sure they're fundamentally sound. Just solid technicians and students of the game. A lot of the guys that are at Iowa where they don't have the tangibles, the height, weight, the strength, a lot of them are really good, sound technicians and really well know the game well inside and out."

 

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Comments (4)

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 20, 2015 at 08:38 am

Perhaps Andrew Donnal could be the next Mark Tauscher?

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4thand1's picture

February 20, 2015 at 09:46 am

Sign Bulaga dammit. I for one want to see a rookie at RT and I'm sure Rodgers doesn't either. Tretter and Barclay don't do much to instill confidence either.

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Ibleedgreenmore's picture

February 20, 2015 at 10:38 am

Would like to see the big B back but if not TT will have a plan. Its not like we do not have talent on the roster and can not pick a good lineman up.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 20, 2015 at 12:44 pm

GB has as much of a chance at drafting Scherff as they drafting Mariotta.

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