IOWA CITY — Go beyond having to memorize the playbook, recognizing defensive fronts, mastering the pre-play calls to his fellow linemen and the vagaries of zone blocking. There always was one other fundamental thing Tyler Linderbaum had to learn and is still learning.
It’s the most elemental of duties for a center. Getting the football to his quarterback Nate Stanley each play.
“I would say during spring practice, I wasn’t the best at learning snaps, yet,” the Iowa redshirt freshman from Solon said. “(Stanley) would communicate ‘Just a little left. Just a little right.’ But I think over time, my snaps are starting to get better. The shotgun is getting better. Which is a good thing.”
A necessary thing.
Linderbaum has appeared to make a mostly seamless transition from defensive to offensive line for the Hawkeyes, who host Middle Tennessee at 11 a.m. Saturday. He played in four games last season at D-tackle for Iowa, yet as soon as Iowa went into Outback Bowl preparation, Coach Kirk Ferentz approached him.
They wanted him on the other side of the ball. He couldn’t say no.
“It was a great experience for me to be traveling with the defense last year,” Linderbaum said. “I learned so much, especially under Coach (Reese) Morgan. I thank guys like Matt Nelson, Anthony Nelson, Parker Hesse, Sam Brincks for helping me out. I learned so much on the defense schematically (about) what we’re trying to do.
“Then I made the switch, and I do think it helped me out knowing what defenses are trying to do. You can kind of see the big picture easier, I think, since I was on defense.”
Does Linderbaum miss playing defense? Or at least aspects of defense?
In a word: absolutely.
“Yeah, there are some things that I miss on defense,” he said. “Like hitting people. But, no, I have really enjoyed my time at center. And I’m glad I made the move.”
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“First of all, he really enjoys playing, enjoys competing,” Ferentz said, after Iowa’s opener against Miami (Ohio). “But for a guy playing center, the position gets hidden a little bit. It’s a tall order. There’s a lot going on up there. He seemed to handle it really well today. Nothing glaring that we saw from the sidelines. He has a really good demeanor. Likes playing, likes competition.”
Throwing another potential wrench into his transition, Linderbaum has had a rotating cast of guards around him. Because of injury, Iowa has used Landan and Levi Paulsen, Kyler Schott, Cody Ince and Justin Britt to the immediate left and right of him.
Even more change is coming this week, as Schott was hurt in a bye-week practice last week. Cole Banwart is expected to jump into his starting spot at right guard.
“Three games under my belt, I guess just getting that experience is something big,” he said. “We have seen a lot of different (defensive) fronts, which helps. Obviously, every week is going to throw something different at you. But, overall, just getting that game experience under my belt has been absolutely huge.”
“Tyler has done a pretty good job,” said offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. “We talked about that in the offseason, going back to at least August. I remember a question about him. I think I said something to the effect of ‘You don’t notice him very much,’ which I think is a positive thing. We’re talking about a first-year player at that position. I would echo that right now.”
You have noticed him at times, though, pancaking a Rutgers defender and holding his own against Iowa State’s Ray Lima two weeks ago. There is no question this kid has a chance to be really good.
He’s only three games into his career.
“I know he gives us some leadership up front,” Brian Ferentz said. “He pushes the tempo, and those are the things you want out of the position. But I think he’s kind of a microcosm of where we are offensively. There’s been some really good things, but there are a lot of things we have to clean up and improve on moving forward here. He’s the same way and would tell you the same thing.”
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