Iowa’s history on the offensive line is legendary
As Hawkeye fans we all know what makes our team go. It has been the offensive line for forty years. Heck, more than that even. Duke Slater deservedly received some nice recognition lately. If you haven’t read about some of his exploits, it is worth your time. Under coaches Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz, the big fellas up front have dictated most everything. Looking back it is like a who’s who of some of the best offensive linemen in all of college football. Under Coach Fry: Jay and Joel Hilgenberg, John Alt
, Mark Bortz (Ok, he was a defensive player for the Hawks), Joe Devlin, Ron Hallstrom, Ross Verba, and Casey Wiegmann. Under Coach Ferentz: Marshal Yanda
, Eric Steinbach, Robert Gallery, Brandon Scherff, Bryan Bulaga, James Daniels, Mike Goff, Riley Reiff, Austin Blythe, and Tristan Wirfs. Tyler Linderbaum will be saying hello to these folks as well. Iowa has had and will continue to have an excellent offensive line. The reason? Kirk Ferentz. Also, it is what is emphasized.
Alaric Jackson’s experience will be missed
Before we get into this year’s offensive line, let’s take a look at what the Hawks lost from last year’s squad. The big loss, especially from an experience standpoint, is Alaric Jackson. Jackson logged 42 career starts, all at left tackle. Plugging him in for four straight years was quite the luxury. Our right tackle will be new as well as Mark Kallenberger and Coy Cronk have moved on.
The Hawkeyes will be taking direction from a new offensive line coach. George Barnett takes over for Tim Polasek who takes over at Wyoming as offensive coordinator. You know that more than any position coach, Kirk Ferentz is going to do his homework on his offensive line coach. The O-line has been and always will be Coach Ferentz’s baby.
This year’s line
A few years ago I recall a game at Michigan where Nate Stanley was chased all day as the Wolverines were pressuring the Hawks up the middle. Our tackles were solid, but we were getting killed at the guard and center position. This year it seems like we will be very tough up the middle, and our tackles will need to develop and gain experience. Our discussion must start with one of the baddest dudes you could ever put on an offensive line. Tyler Linderbaum (6’3”, 290) came in as a defensive lineman, a star wrestler, and seemingly converted to the offensive line during bowl prep. That’s pretty incredible. The Baumer has made himself into arguably the best interior offensive lineman in the land.
Linderbaum plays with a joy and nastiness at the same time. I will never forget Tyler Goodson’s long touchdown run against the Badgers last year where Linderbaum was darn near running stride-for-stride with TGood.
One thing that I still think is pretty amazing is that Tyler Linderbaum recorded three tackles last year. Spencer Petras threw five interceptions in 2020. On 60% of them Tyler Linderbaum went from offensive player to destroyer of human beings. I would expect Linderbaum to win a number of awards this year and move on to the League. He will be an all-timer. Linderbaum is backed up by Matt Fagan, a junior from Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The Hawkeyes return experience at both guard positions. Cody Ince (6’4”, 282) and Kyler Schott (6’2”, 294) have both played extensively and at a high level. Redshirt freshman Tyler Elsbury backs up Ince and Sophomore Justin Britt backs up Schott. Iowa always preaches position flexibility, so look for these backups to move around and play where needed.
At the tackle positions, the Hawks have some nice talent, albeit inexperienced. Junior Jack Plumb (6’7”, 296) is slated as our starting left tackle, and Nick DeJong (6’6”, 292) is set to go as our right tackle. Redshirt freshman Mason Richman is the backup left tackle, and true freshman Connor Colby is the backup right tackle. Getting these tackles up to speed is going to be key as the Hawkeyes begin the year with two ranked opponents in Indiana and Iowa State.
Iowa had one of its best recruiting classes last year in some time, especially when it comes to the offensive line. The cupboard is far from bare. The Hawkeyes will continue to develop offensive line talent with the best of them. Good things on the horizon for Iowa’s backs as there should be plenty of green in front of them. As always, Go Hawks!