IOWA CITY - James Ferentz wouldn't want to make the call.

Neither would his longtime friend and former teammate at Iowa City High, Josh Koeppel.

The pair is competing for the starting center position on the Iowa offensive line. As the Hawkeyes complete the first week of fall camp, the duo remains entangled in one of the tightest battles for a starting assignment on the team.

"At some point, the coaches are going to have to make a decision, and it's our job to make it as difficult of a decision as we can," Ferentz said. "I'm hoping it is my time, but that's not in my hands."

Ultimately, Iowa offensive line coach Reese Morgan knows a decision will have to be made.

"It's been an interesting battle. It is unique that at this level you have two guys from the same high school competing for the same starting job," Morgan said. "They won't leave us with an easy decision because they are both quality guys and both great competitors."

That's nothing new.

Ferentz and Koeppel competed together on the football field and trained together in the wrestling room in high school.

"It seems like we've grown up around each other," Koeppel said. "In high school, we wrestled every day and helped each other out and we still do. We both want this starting job, but at the end of the day we help each other out and we both want what is best for the team."

Physically, the two are similar.

Both are listed as 6-foot-2. Ferentz weighs 275 pounds while Koeppel is at 273.

About the only difference is that Koeppel, who walked on at Iowa, is a senior. Ferentz has redshirted and is preparing for his sophomore year.

Ferentz even points out that his best friend in high school dates Koeppel's younger sister.

"No matter how this plays out, we're still going to be friends and be there to for each other," Ferentz said. "Coming here as a walk-on, Josh has worked hard to get to this point. That's not easy. I admire what he's done. I've done what I can to improve and compete. We're both Hawkeyes."

Ferentz's journey to this point has not been easy.

The son of coach Kirk Ferentz has been suspended twice by his father for violating team rules.

"I've put him in a difficult position at times with my actions, and I feel bad about that," James said. "His job is tough enough without me making it tougher. I've made mistakes. I just want to be part of the team, and I appreciate that I still have that chance."

He said his older brother, Brian, a three-year starter on the Iowa offensive line who works as an assistant coach with the NFL's New England Patriots, has helped him move forward.

"Brian pushes me in the right direction and says the things I need to hear," James said. "He's been through this and he handled everything well. I'm just hoping for the same."

Kirk Ferentz attempts to separate family and football and has left football decisions involving his two oldest sons to others.

"I didn't make the scholarship decision for either one of them," he said. "I try to insulate myself a bit and let the guys on the offensive staff do their job."

James Ferentz likes it that way.

"I just want to be one of the guys. I'm out there trying to prove myself just like the rest of the guys on the team," he said.

"I'll compete hard and push Josh and Josh will compete hard and push me. In the end, whatever happens will be what's best for Iowa, and that's what we both want."

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