It should come as no surprise that Iowa football has another NFL talent along the offensive line this season. This time it’s center Tyler Linderbaum.
If you were told two years ago when Tyler Linderbaum converted from defensive tackle to offensive center that he’d eventually be the best interior offensive lineman in college football, you probably would have scoffed.
Like several other former Iowa football players (i.e. Aaron Kampman, George Kittle), Linderbaum was willing to do whatever to help his team by whatever means possible – even if it meant changing positions.
It’s a good thing he did. Linderbaum (6-3, 289) has quickly emerged into an elite center, becoming the anchor of Iowa’s sturdy offensive line along the way. So much so, that he’s playing his way into being a potential first-round pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.
Still, Linderbaum isn’t letting the potential of playing in the NFL cloud his thoughts at this time.
“I really haven’t put much thought into it,” Linderbaum said last week regarding the NFL Draft. “My focus is on this season. To me, I have a lot of improvement that I still need to do, and I’m just focused on that, what I need to get better at, because I see a lot of things I can get better at. Right now, I’m just focused on the season and the game ahead of us.”
After redshirting as a true freshman in 2018, Linderbaum took over as the Hawkeyes‘ full-time starting center in 2019. He started in all 13 games, playing on every single snap in 10 of those (rested in the fourth quarter in blowout victories against Miami, Rutgers and Middle Tennessee).
This season, Linderbaum picked up right where he left off and then some. He’s currently ranked Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 center in the FBS with a grade of 91.6. He’s the only center with a grade above 90.
As a pass protector, Linderbaum has allowed just one quarterback pressure on 215 pass-blocking snaps. He’s also PFF’s highest-graded pass-blocker, regardless of position on the offensive line.
“We talked about it before the season, ‘if you have a great season, what are you thinking?'” said Kevin Miller, Linderbaum’s former high school coach. “And he’s like, ‘I don’t care about that. I’m not focused on that. I’m focused on this season, my first opponent.”‘
A former wrestler in high school, some of Linderbaum’s success can be attributed to the techniques he learned on the mat. Maintaining proper pad level and balance are two traits Linderbaum shows on a consistent basis, which is likely due to his background in wrestling.
“Wrestling is probably the hardest sport I’ve ever done,” Linderbaum said. “It’s one-on-one; nobody’s there to help you.”
Linderbaum’s greatest trait is his athleticism. He’s extremely quick off of the snap and excels at reach blocking. He has no difficulty getting to the second level on screens or pulls. Practically the only downside is his size. Linderbaum will likely need to put on 10 pounds of muscle to withstand bullrushes from NFL defensive linemen.
That said, it’s important to remember that Linderbaum has only been playing center at the college level for roughly two years.
“I just feel like his upside is so great because of his inexperience and age,” Miller later stated. “He’s playing against guys who are 22, 23 (years old). On the line of scrimmage, those guys are true men. I think his best football is ahead of him. I honestly think he’s just scratching the surface.”
Linderbaum will have a big decision to make at the conclusion of Iowa’s season. If he continues to play at his current level, it’ll be hard not to cash in on the opportunity of playing in the NFL. Either way, the Hawkeyes will enjoy Linderbaum’s presence while he’s still on the team.