Kirk Ferentz said he wanted to choose his words carefully. He didn’t want to disparage anyone, didn’t want to take away from the quality of another player.
But when it came to Big Ten Conference coaches not voting for Tyler Linderbaum as the league’s top center, the Iowa football boss let everyone know in a kind of passive-aggressive way exactly what he thought. A sophomore from Solon, Linderbaum was first-team All-Big Ten only in the media vote.
“I’ll just say this,” Ferentz said. “I haven’t been around many centers in college football better than Tyler Linderbaum. I’ll leave it at that.”
Linderbaum was a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, with Ohio State’s Josh Myers getting first-team honors. Myers was joined on the first team offense by teammates Justin Fields (quarterback), Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson (receivers), Wyatt Davis (tackle) and Thayer Munford (guard).
Fields was named the Graham-George Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year and Davis was tabbed the Rimington-Pace Lineman of the Year. Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim was the Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year, Indiana’s Ty Fryfogle the Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year and Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year.
“It’s a great honor. I don’t really care wherever I’m at,” Linderbaum said, with typical humility. “It’s a great honor by the media and the coaches. I’ve had a lot of people help me along the way, going from a D-lineman to an offensive lineman. Without their help, I don’t where I’d be at today. So I’ve had a lot of great teammates and coaches push me along the way.”
Linderbaum has graded out as not just the Big Ten’s top center, according to Pro Football Focus, but the nation’s top center. An indelible image from last Saturday’s 28-7 win over Wisconsin was Linderbaum running a good 25 yards down field with running back Tyler Goodson on Goodson’s 80-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
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“There’s more that goes into being a center than just snapping the ball and blocking,” Ferentz said. “There’s so much other stuff to it. At our place, playing center is a special job. There’s a lot on your job description that you have to do if you’re really going to be good. Whether it’s protections, all these things we expect them to do, just like a quarterback, like a middle linebacker, safety.
“Tyler is the total package. He is so committed to doing everything at a high level. Again, that’s the stuff that to me nobody else is privy to on the outside, but we see it every day. More importantly his teammates see it every day. I’m pretty sure he’s the only junior on that captains list we’ve had week in, week out. By the way, it’s going to be the same six guys. It’s a slam dunk when they do the voting, a slam dunk. He is seen in the highest light. It’s the stuff behind the scenes that would make me just say if I categorize everybody, hard to think of guys that play better at that position than Tyler Linderbaum.”
Iowa did have unanimous first-team all-conference picks in Goodson and tackle Alaric Jackson. Cole Banwart was a second-team selection at guard.
Goodson, a sophomore, led Iowa and ranked second in the Big Ten in rushing yards with 762 in eight games. He had four 100-yard games and seven touchdowns.
Jackson was the first four-year tackle starter under Ferentz. The senior was a third-team all-conference pick last season after being a second-teamer in 2018.
Jackson, Linderbaum and Banwart are stalwarts for an offensive line that has been a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award for best O-line in the country.
Iowa also had honorable mention picks in running back Mekhi Sargent, guards Kyler Schott and Cody Ince, wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette and tight end Sam LaPorta.
The all-conference defensive team and special teams will be announced Wednesday.
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