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Matchup to watch: Logan Jones vs. Caleb Sanders

Iowa has big shoes to fill at center - can the converted defensive tackle do it?

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Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via Imagn Content Services, LLC

This time last year, Logan Jones was a reserve defensive lineman nursing an injury which kept him out of the first 10 games. Now he enters the season as about as lock-y at his position as any offensive lineman for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

While it would be silly to frame his transition as unique, considering Iowa’s former center, Tyler Linderbaum, made a similar transition and turned into a force in the middle of Iowa’s offensive line, it is absolutely worth noting how quickly he rose to the top of the depth chart. The Lewis Central (Council Bluffs, IA) product made hay in the weight room this offseason by breaking positional records as just a redshirt freshman.

His pedigree is certainly there: the above link notes how well he fared as a defensive lineman against the top tackle during All-American practice as a senior in high school and his official visit with Linderbaum hosting foreshadowed the positional change. But he does enter the season undersized at 283 pounds and will be snapping for the first time in live action. While he served as the scout team center last season, his only in-game offensive line experience is at tackle, according to Iowa’s roster notes.

New position. New number. New role and responsibilities. It’s not lost on me that only he & Spencer Petras are expected to touch the ball every play on Saturday. That’s a lot of opportunities to show what he can do, good or bad.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: MAY 16 FCS Championship - Sam Houston vs South Dakota State Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Going against him will be defensive tackle Caleb Sanders. The senior out of Glenwood, Iowa led the Jackrabbits in sacks each of the last two seasons, registering 11.5 total. He had 13 tackles for loss last season, which ranked 7th all time for their program. It’s his fifth full season in Brookings so he, no doubt, has their defensive system down pat.

While he’s also undersized at 6’1”, 270 pounds, he has a wrestling pedigree and no doubt understands the leverage necessary to make opponents go where they don’t want to go. His wrestling career ended with a class 3A state title.

Nobody is expecting Jones to come in and be a Linderbaum clone. Those expectations are way too high. But he does need to show that Kirk Ferentz made the right choice to flip him to the offensive side of the ball as Iowa looks to improve their pass protection (Lindy was as good as they came there) and run blocking. With more downhill runners in Williamses Gavin & Leshon, I expect a lot of inside zone.

If Jones is able to match Sanders, Iowa could make hay in a run game desperate for some consistency while keeping him at bay on pass plays. Should Sanders best Jones, blowing up the line on pass & run calls, the Hawkeyes could be in for a longer-than-anticipated afternoon.