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63 Days Until Iowa Football: Justin Britt

Can the redshirt freshman earn a starting role in 2020?

Middle Tennessee v Iowa
Can the RS freshman unseat an upperclassman to earn a starting spot in 2020?
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Happy Independence Day everyone. Here’s hoping there are no alien invasions (I mean, would you be shocked at this point in 2020?) and you’re able to enjoy some semblance of normalcy. We’re one day closer to the scheduled return of Hawkeye football and thus are continuing our countdown to kickoff. Up next is a talented big man up front who could challenge for a starting spot: Justin Britt.

Justin Britt (RS FR)

Indianapolis, IN (Warren Central)

6’5”, 290 lbs.

2020 Projection: Rotational offensive guard

Redshirt freshman Justin Britt is a talented big man from Warren Central High School that was part of a pipeline Kelvin Bell built into the city of Indianapolis. He joined the Hawkeyes in the class of 2019 after suffering an ACL tear his senior year that cost him his senior season.

The history of true freshmen starting on the offensive line at Iowa is a short one, but Britt was in that conversation during the 2019 season. An interior lineman, Britt has the flexibility to play either center or guard. While redshirt freshman Tyler Linderbaum grabbed ahold of the starting center gig rather quickly, Iowa’s injury situation opened the door at guard.

With injuries to Alaric Jackson at left tackle, Cole Banwart at guard and eventually Kyler Schott at guard as well, Britt stepped in and was able to earn playing time early in 2019. He never cracked the starting lineup, but did rotate in at guard in wins over Miami (OH), Rutgers, Middle Tennessee State and Purdue. Britt missed the Penn State game due to a concussion, but was back in action a week later against the Boilermakers.

The decision to shut him down for the remainder of the year had much more to do with his future potential and the injury situation around him than any injury to Britt himself. Ahead of senior day last year, reported that Ferentz viewed keeping Britt out as a positive:

“We’re watching it, obviously,” Ferentz said. “I think Justin Britt is right on that line right now and Ivory is also on that line. But we’ve already made a decision, and I think Justin right now looks like we’re going to be able to keep him out, which is a positive.

“At this point, if we can do that, that’s something we’d like to do. And then the other guys have one, two, three games available. And all hands on deck right now.”

Why is it a positive? Two-fold. First, it means the rest of the interior linemen were healthy enough that Britt, a true freshman, wasn’t needed in the lineup. But perhaps more importantly, it meant that the staff would still get up to four additional seasons with Britt as an option to plug into the lineup, despite his ability to step in and soak up snaps as a freshman.

Looking to 2020, despite the loss of star right tackle Tristan Wirfs to the NFL and a pair of Paulsens, Iowa returns virtually everyone else. Jackson is locked in at left tackle and Linderbaum at center. At guard, Iowa still has the aforementioned Banwart and Schott looking to secure starting roles. There is also a battle brewing at right tackle with Indiana transfer Coy Cronk the odds on favorite, but Mark Kallenberger has positional flexibility as well and could push for a starting job at guard if he doesn’t win the right tackle gig.

Britt has a big frame and great athleticism to get out in space on linebackers at the second level so counting him out of the starting lineup isn’t wise. But he will be facing stiff competition from a group of experienced guys who aren’t exactly slouches in either. At worst, look for Britt to earn plenty of playing time as a rotational guard while Brian Ferentz and Tim Polasek figure out their best 5 up front. At best, Britt has the talent to win a starting job and develop into an All-Big Ten talent at guard.