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Individual Matchup to Watch: Iowa Football vs. Wyoming

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Can a true freshman at center keep Josh Allen upright?

Wyoming v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Maybe it’s because of the picture, but I bet you clicked on this link and thought the answer to “Individual Matchup to Watch” would be Josh Allen vs. Josey Jewell. Or Josh Allen vs. Michael Ojemudia. Or Josh Allen vs. Miles Taylor or Bo Bower or Jake Gervase.

Josh Allen will touch the ball every time Wyoming has it. But someone else also have a hand in every play. And that player is a true freshman. Meet:

Logan Harris, Center

via GoWyo.com

(Now that’s a head of hair)

A little over a year ago, the 2-star Torrington, WY native committed to his dream school, Wyoming. Since then, he:

  • Led his high school team in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and pass breakups, while also playing along the offensive line;
  • Was named Defensive Player of the Year for his conference;
  • Set a state record in the shot put (63’ 8.5”); and
  • Gained 33 pounds, if the difference between the info on his roster page and depth chart are to be believed.

Frankly, he possesses a lot of the traits we see out of Iowa linemen: lifelong fan, under the radar, multi-sport athlete, and scalable. But, is he ready to go against an Iowa Hawkeye line Phil Parker projects as the best in the last six years? In a potentially hostile setting – Allen commented on how important it is to keep Kinnick quiet – will Harris struggle with the minimum requirements of the position?

Communication along the line, with the quarterback, and even snapping the ball are traits regularly overlooked when assessing the position. If the freshman center can avoid any administrative errors, it gets the Cowboys offense off on the right foot.

Nathan Bazata, Defensive Tackle

It’s no secret Iowa returns a boatload of playing time along the defensive line but, Nathan Bazata is the most experienced of the bunch. As the only senior with 36 games and 24 starts under his belt, he’s well-equipped to clog up the middle of the field. In my position preview of the line, I remarked how it was imperative for him to enter this season at full strength.

Admittedly, it is difficult to find highlights of a defensive tackle, let alone Bazata. To understand the work, let’s take a look at what was arguably the biggest play of Iowa’s season last year, even though it does not include Bazata:

As you can see, Faith Ekakite’s presence at defensive tackle not only occupied two blockers, but forced the running back to break from his path, ultimately resulting in a Jaleel Johnson safety. Johnson gets credit for that play, but it doesn’t happen without the big guy in the middle doing the dirty work with no praise.

Though Wyoming touts the number one quarterback prospect in all the land of all time (who’s already talking about usurping CJ Beathard as QB of the future in San Francisco), their offense is built on the run. In fact, they averaged over 200 yards per game in both rushing and passing, including 500+ rushing yards from Josh Allen. If Bazata is at full strength and clogging the middle of the trenches like he can, it will mean danger for the Cowboys offense.

Not only does it allow Iowa’s line to attack Wyoming’s 1-on-1, it also frees up Iowa’s linebackers to swarm to the ball without having to worry about shirking linemen. It will greatly limit Wyoming’s run game. Should Craig Bohl adjust to a pass-happy attack, pressure allowed by Bazata would greatly limit the time in the pocket for clean throws. I say “allowed by Bazata” because it is imperative Iowa is smart about how they rush Allen. If Bazata is TOO individually dominant along the line, he would force Allen outside the pocket where he can extend plays with his feet or his arm.

It’s “do your job” football at its finest.

Make no mistake, this is the work Bazata loves. Should he be at full health, especially full conditioning, I expect we hear his name called as he makes hay against the youngin. But if he isn’t and Harris is able to build confidence and manage the point of attack, it could spell doom for a young, inexperienced, shorthanded, potentially shaky Iowa secondary.