IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa freshman offensive lineman James Daniels appears to be as good as advertised.
The former 4-star recruit from Warren, Ohio, who turned down Ohio State and Alabama to play for Iowa, worked at times with the first unit at left guard during Saturday’s Kids Day practice at Kinnick Stadium.
It might be a reach to say that the 6-foot-4, 285-pound Daniels is pushing for a starting position this soon, but he is proving to be a quick study.
“Having him on campus for just a week you could really see he operates at a good level,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Daniels, who is the younger brother of Iowa junior running back LeShun Daniels. “We’ll see how it goes. That’s an open book right now, and we’ll let him continue to compete. He’s doing a good job.”
James Daniels was without question the most heavily recruited player in Iowa’s 2015 recruiting class. He enrolled at Iowa for the spring semester and was a quick study in the classroom as well.
“He was on the Dean’s List in the spring, too,” Ferentz said of James Daniels. “He’s a tremendous young guy. He’s really handled it well.
“I always worry a little bit about a guy leaving high school early. But I think having LeShun here helped a great deal.”
James Daniels played mostly center in high school and was recruited to play that position in college. However, with senior Austin Blythe expected to play center for Iowa after earning second-team all-Big Ten accolades at that position last season, switching to guard could get Daniels on the field sooner.
“There are some things that he has to learn,” Ferentz said of Daniels. “That’s probably true with most of our players. You talk about the (offensive) line, little technique things that you’re battling.”
Ferentz then told a story about when former Iowa all-Big Ten offensive lineman Eric Steinbach finally started doing something correct technique-wise in practice. It proved to be a breakthrough moment for Steinbach, who also played in the NFL after leaving Iowa in 2002.
“I was thinking about that on the field today,” said Ferentz, who coached the Iowa offensive line under Hayden Fry from 1981 to 1989 and for six seasons in the NFL. “I’ll never forget when Eric Steinbach had his breakthrough moment. It was the fall of 2001. It was a Tuesday. I can’t remember which week it was.
“But he had this little hitch or little deficiency that we were having a hard time getting him corrected on. And once he got through, he broke the ice, I’ll never forget, I just looked at (offensive line coach) Joe Philbin and he looked at me. We both saw the same thing. And he took off after that. So I think that’s where we’re at with some of the linemen.”
Ferentz stopped short of comparing James Daniels to Steinbach.
“I won’t put James quite in that category,” Ferentz said. “But I think once he gets his technique cleaned up a little bit, he might be in the mix.”
INJURY REPORT: Senior guard Jordan Walsh and senior free safety Jordan Lomax head the list of players who didn’t participate in Saturday’s practice because of injuries.
"Nothing serious, we have a bone bruise and a soft-tissue issue," Ferentz said of Walsh and Lomax without being specific. "So hopefully, by next week, early in the week, we’ll have both of them back. But the tissue thing is a little harder to predict, but nothing serious."
Other players who didn’t practice on Saturday because of injuries were senior defensive lineman Darian Cooper, freshmen defensive ends Michael Slater and Brady Reiff and redshirt freshman defensive back Jalen Embry.
Cooper missed all of last season after having surgery on both knees. He still is waiting for medical clearance to practice.