2019 Football Preview: Offensive Line
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
We continue our look at the 2019 Iowa Hawkeyes, this time with the big fellas on the offensive line that will be protecting Nate Stanley and paving the way for Iowa's three-headed monster at running back.
Returners - 2018 Statistics:
Cole Banwart, Junior - 7 2018 Starts
Tristan Wirfs, Junior - 12 2018 Starts
Alaric Jackson, Junior - 12 2018 Starts
Levi Paulsen, Senior - 1 2018 Start
Matt Fagan, Redshirt Freshman
Kyle Sorensen, Redshirt Freshman
Cody Ince, Redshirt Freshman
Jeff Jenkins, Redshirt Freshman
Jack Plumb, Redshirt Freshman
Kyler Schott, Sophomore
Mark Kallenberger, Sophomore
Coy Kirkpatrick, Sophomore
Landan Paulsen, Senior
Departures - 2018 Statistics:
Keegan Render - 13 2018 Starts
Dalton Ferguson - 7 2018 Starts Ross Reynolds - 13 2018 Starts
Additions: Luke Empen - Position Change from Tight End
Tyler Linderbaum - Position Change from Defensive Line
Nick DeJong - Pella, Iowa
Clayton Thurm - Williamsburg, Iowa
Taylor Fox - Winthrop, Iowa
Noah Fenske - New Hampton, Iowa
Justin Britt - Indianapolis, Indiana
Tyler Endres - Norwalk, Iowa
Ezra Miller - Holstein, Iowa
Starters Prior to Spring Practice (Last Official From University of Iowa):
Left Tackle - Alaric Jackson
Left Guard - Landan Paulsen
Center - Cole Banwart
Right Guard - Levi Paulsen
Right Tackle - Tristan Wirfs
It should be noted that I will likely revisit this group in particular when fall practice starts in a few weeks and the depth chart becomes clearer. With so little experience returning, the race for the 2 guard spots and center are open competitions that I see ending this way at this point:
Left Guard - Levi Paulsen
Center - Tyler Linderbaum
Right Guard - Cole Banwart
My opinions and outlook are based on the starting lineup of Jackson, Le. Paulsen, Linderbaum, Banwart, Wirfs.
Outlook at the Position: 2019 could be an adventure for the interior of the Iowa Hawkeyes offensive line. Iowa returns approximately half of the offensive line starts from a year ago, with 24 of the 32 returning starts being from Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson at the right and left tackles respectively. 7 more of those starts come from Cole Banwart, who played a fill-in role at multiple positions on the line due to injury and suspension in 2018, but never made the start at center where he was listed as the starter at the end of spring ball. That means that the center and guard position will likely experience some growing pains early in the year.
With all the experience returning at the tackles, I expect both Wirfs and Jackson to be really good to spectacular this season and potentially put Iowa in the rare position of having a duo of first round draft picks in the same draft for the second consecutive year. The key to success for this offensive line will come down to two key factors that are extremely hard to measure.
The first key to success will be for the group to gel together and operate as one unit and that will likely be determined by how quickly the three new starters can settle into their roles, understand the strengths and weaknesses of each other, and communicate changes to the blocking schemes at the line of scrimmage. One of the things that will really help this group is the tandem of tackles have experience with each other. As I mentioned before, Wirfs and Jackson both started 12 games last year and have developed together. This co-development puts them in a position to be leaders on this line until the new starters become comfortable.
The second thing that I see making or breaking this offensive line is developing depth behind the starters. Iowa returns nobody with any starting experience that wasn't listed as a starter heading into spring practice. A Big Ten Conference season is grueling, and in all likelihood, Iowa will ask a couple of young guys to step up in a big situation due to an injury or fatigue. How ready guys like Landan Paulsen, Mark Kallenberger, Ezra Miller, Tyler Endres, Noah Fenske, and Justin Britt are to contribute right away could determine the outcome of one or two games this year.
Although largely untested, I like this group a lot. In limited action new starters Levi Paulsen, Tyler Linderbaum, and Cole Banwart have played well and I have been nothing but impressed with the film and limited action I have seen from the others in this group. In particular, the only things that I have heard or read about Linderbaum is that he has transitioned from defensive line to offensive line well. There will undoubtedly be growing pains, but the ultimate product will be worth those pains. There will be moments where Nate Stanley has to throw the ball away because a blitzer comes through unblocked. There will be times where run blocking looks horrible, but I think this group could be one of the better offensive line groups that Iowa has had in recent memory.
Potential Emerging Contributors: I think the surprise of this group could be Linderbaum. Banwart and Le. Paulsen are somewhat known commodities, having seen collegiate action on the offensive line, but Linderbaum is unknown. Listed last year as a defensive lineman, Linderbaum switched positions in the offseason to provide depth on a young 2019 offensive line. All reports say that he has flourished, with Kirk Ferentz at one point saying that he wished he had five Linderbaums on the team, two to play defensive tackle and three to play the interior of the offensive line. A full collection of those comments of praise, including the wording of that specific Ferentz comment, can be found in Chad Leistikow's article on Hawk Central here:
I think the bottom line is, Linderbaum has been impressive and looks to be a very promising member of this 2019 Iowa offensive line. I look for him to burst onto the scene and anchor a very promising, young offensive line in 2019.
Thank you as always for reading! If there is something that you think I missed, feel free to let me know, as I am always interested in seeing what others think about this upcoming Iowa season.
Next Up: Iowa's 2019 Specialists: Kickers, Punters, and Long Snappers
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As always, On Iowa! and Go Hawks!
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