CHICAGO — So, Tristan Wirfs is a freak. Athletically, not in real life and not in an Insane Clown Posse sort of way.
Bruce Feldman has curated his “College Football Freaks” list since the early 2000s. This post always hits in the most lethargic part of the summer, at least for college football fans. It’s just before conference media days fire out of the chute.
And so everyone reads it and enjoys the living daylights out of it. Feldman writes for The Athletic and is a sideline reporter for Fox Sports. He’s written two books on college football, including “Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting.”
So, when he “curates” a list, he is not flinging stuff against the wall. When he goes through it, he gets a lot of feedback from coaches, but has found NFL scouts who go to campuses have verified information, at least as close as you can get to verified.
“I’m just trying to get the most accurate information,” he said.
Wirfs is No. 1 on the list this year. Why? Well, you saw the video from Iowa’s weight room.
“It kind of correlates with 450 pounds going up four times like that,” Feldman said.
In March, Iowa posted a video of Wirfs lifting 450 pounds four times in the hang clean. The lift topped former Hawkeye and now Washington Redskins guard Brandon Scherff’s record of three reps at 443 pounds in 2014. Of course, Scherff made Feldman’s Freaks List in 2014.
Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle doesn’t pull out the video camera for just any lift. The list is Scherff and Wirfs. “Not a lot of guys can vertical 42 inches, but there are a lot of guys in that range,” Feldman said. “There are a lot of fast guys.
“What you don’t see a lot of are guys with that level of explosiveness and strength. He’s just different. So, I thought I’m going to go with an offensive lineman. I’ve had a lot of defensive linemen. Of course, the list is subjective.”
Wrestling also piqued Feldman’s interest. Wirfs’ fast rise at Iowa — the fourth true freshman to start on Iowa’s offensive line in head coach Kirk Ferentz’s 20-plus seasons, joining James Daniels, Bryan Bulaga and Mike Jones, who all started at left guard — also drew attention.
Through his contacts, Feldman discovered Wirfs put up a 35-inch vertical jump in the offseason (which would be the second-highest jump by an O-lineman at the NFL Scouting Combine in the past seven years). He also set a personal record in the broad jump, going 9-5.
“A rare athlete,” Feldman said. “A state champion wrestler who went there and hit the ground running. He fits in the mode of how they develop. They take these big athletes and turn them into terrific offensive linemen. He’s probably the latest and the biggest example of it.”