Last night Tristan Wirfs was drafted thirteenth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who traded up one spot to take Wirfs. We look back at the bowl game from Wirfs’ sophomore season against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs finished the season ranked second in total defense allowing only 13.2 points per game and less than 100 yards on the ground. Wirfs spent part of the game going against Montez Sweat, who had double digit sacks on the season and was drafted in the first round by the Washington Redskins in 2019. He finished with seven sacks in his rookie season.
Wirfs left Iowa after only three seasons in which he began starting at tackle in the middle of his freshman season. This game was at the end of just his second year on campus going against one of the top defenses and players in all of college football.
Wirfs is one of the most athletic lineman in all of college football. His combine numbers were jaw dropping, but that athleticism showed up on the field as well. On the first play show, Iowa uses Wirfs to kick out and lead block from his right tackle position. He is able to locate and make solid contact against the closing linebacker. Notice how the linebacker his Wirfs on the inside, but Wirfs is able to keep their motion going outside to allow the inside lane for the running back. Not many 6’5” 320+ pound people would be asked to move and cleanly contact a linebacker in space like this.
Wirfs is not only was agile, but he is a powerhouse as well. Videos of him breaking records in the Iowa weight room went viral as he broke the hang clean record. He used that strength along with the technique taught by coaches to turn lineman and push them horizontally. On the following plays, Wirfs is able to take his man and move him horizontally across the field. He’s able to lock his hands on the defender and clear passing lanes by driving his man into the middle of the line.
“There’s no greater feeling than moving a man from Point A to Point B against his will.” - Russ Grimm
Wirfs is going to Tampa Bay to protect their newly acquired quarterback. His first name is Tom.
While Wirfs is far from a finished product due to his age and seemingly unlimited ability, he already has had a lot of success against high level pass rushers. He is able to take a deep set using a great kick and then transfer that to his powerful base. Doing so he is able to create stalemates or force the rusher vertical protecting the quarterback. Good luck getting around a man of that size who also runs a sub-4.9 forty yard dash.
Note: Montez Sweat is #9
Not only is Wirfs able to kick and set, but he is able to attack and maintain on his pass rush as well. On the first play, Wirfs fires out of his stance as if he is blocking for outside zone. This puts the linebackers and safeties into their run responsibility reads leading to an easy touchdown for the Hawkeyes. Once Wirfs makes contact with Sweat, he’s able to keep him outside of the pocket and gives Stanley plenty of time for wait for Easley to clear the secondary.
The next play shows his ability to read and react. Mississippi State is running a stunt but Wirfs has already locked into his man. Instead of disengaging, when the interior rusher is already more vertical than Wirfs, he maintains his contact and locks his man up. By pushing his man further inside, he’s also about to induce a double team if needed.
Wirfs takes nearly unlimited ability with him to the NFL and has not reached his full potential or technical supremacy as a lineman. The Buccaneers are wanting to win right away, and Wirfs will be expected to protect their most important asset from day one.