Next up on our countdown to the start of the Hawkeye football season is the young man who many fans believe will blossom into Iowa’s next great interior offensive lineman and who, just a year ago, those same fans believed would eventually blossom into Iowa’s next great interior DEFENSIVE lineman.
Tyler Linderbaum- RS Freshman
6’3”, 286 lbs
2019 Projection: Starting Center
Linderbaum comes from a long line of Solon High School football standouts who donned the black and gold, following in the footsteps of fellow Spartan stars such as Marshall Koehn and James Morris. Linderbaum was a U.S. Army All-American during his senior year and showed enough talent as a true freshman defensive tackle that he managed to work his way onto the field during Iowa’s opener against Northern Illinois. Still, Linderbaum was predictably buried on the depth chart once upperclassmen Brady Reiff and Cedrick Lattimore returned from their suspensions and saw action in only one other game in 2018.
Linderbaum’s lack of game reps during his first year on campus may ultimately turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Not only was Linderbaum able to preserve his redshirt and maintain four years of eligibility starting in 2019, but his loss of playing time allowed coaches to work him in to the rotation at center during Iowa’s prep for the Outback Bowl. That move seems to have stuck, as Linderbaum emerged as the heavy favorite to be Iowa’s starting center for 2019 by the end of spring practice despite spending the majority of his time on campus playing on the other side of the ball.
Why did Iowa’s staff move a former high school All-American defensive lineman to the other side of the ball? As I noted this spring, Kirk Ferentz has a phenomenal track record at identifying offensive line talent, including singling out players who would benefit mightily from a position shift. The same strength, agility, technical proficiency, intelligence, and relentless motor that helped Linderbaum stand out as a defensive recruit have allowed him to thrive at his new position. Linderbaum is now in line to be the first Hawkeye freshman to start at center since Rafael Eubanks did so as a redshirt freshman in 2006.
Iowa struggled to run the ball with consistency last year, and its offensive line will be called upon to lead the charge to correct that trend in 2019. Linderbaum will be asked to perform well beyond his age and experience level this season, but every indication is that he will be up to the task.