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Iowa Football Position Preview: Jackson, Linderbaum Anchor Front

April 2, 2020

Written by Rob Howe

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IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa secured one of its best recruiting classes in recent years during the last cycle. The group was ranked 35th nationally by Rivals and 247.

While there’s excitement about what these players can add to the future of the program, it’s often the guys retained on the roster that provide the most immediate impact. Alaric Jackson serves as an excellent illustration of the point.

The Hawkeyes’ three-year starter at left offensive tackle could have left for the NFL after last season. His exit would have changed the outlook for the front greatly.

Instead, he chose another year of college and anchoring what could be a strong unit. He’s started 34 games during the last three campaigns.

Jackson (6-6, 320) earned third-team all-Big Ten honors from conference coaches and media last season despite missing three games with a leg injury. The lost time affected his consistency and played a role in his desire for another year on the college level.

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“To be honest, I want to graduate. Also my knee isn’t right yet. I wanted to come back and clean up some (technique) things. I want to be a leader, be more vocal and just have a great year,” he told HN after December’s Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

The Hawkeyes lost starting right tackle Tristan Wirfs to the NFL. His outstanding performance at the draft combine solidified his stock as a first-round pick. Twins Levi and Landan Paulsen exhausted their eligibility after starting at various times during their careers.

Beyond that trio and losing freshman Ezra Miller to a career-ending injury, Iowa brings back all of its offensive linemen and adds others. That includes starting center Tyler Linderbaum (6-3, 286). The Solon (IA) product returns after earning honorable mention laurels from league coaches and media as a redshirt freshman in ’19.

Linderbaum is poised for a big step forward after starting 13 games at one of the team’s most critical positions. He’ll be more advanced physically and mentally.

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Redshirt junior Kyler Schott returns after starting six games at right guard. The former walk-on would be more experienced had he not missed five contests with injury last fall. He has the inside track at a starting spot in ’20.

Redshirt senior Cole Banwart (6-4, 300) proceeded Schott as the team’s starting right guard. He’s coming back from a leg surgery that cut last season short after five games. He returns with five starts under his belt and has been No. 1 at right guard when healthy the last two campaigns.

Mark Kallenberger (6-5, 291) worked his way into the lineup last season. He started four games at right guard and then the Holiday Bowl at left guard.

The coaches likely will give Kallenberger a look at guard and tackle. He could slide out and replace Wirfs on the right side.

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Indiana graduate transfer Coy Cronk also figures into the picture after starting 40 games at left tackle for the Hoosiers. He’s recovering from a leg injury that cut his ’19 season short and led to a redshirt before a search for a new school.

Cronk (6-5, 325) could end up at right tackle with Kallenberger staying inside. Maybe Kallenberger looks better outside and Cronk shifts to guard.

A group of younger players could be ready to step forward and challenge some of the veterans.

Redshirt sophomore Cody Ince (6-4, 287) played in 11 games last season, most often rotating in at left guard. Redshirt freshman Justin Britt (6-5, 290) saw action in four contests at guard during ’19 and has earned praise from the coaches for being advanced despite his inexperience.

Redshirt sophomore Jack Plumb (6-7, 272) continues his conversion from high school tight end to college tackle. He’s closer to the requisite size and strength needed after seeing mostly special teams’ assignments in 13 games last fall.

Redshirt junior Coy Kirkpatrick (6-4, 291) along with redshirt freshmen Tyler Endres (6-6 307), Noah Fenske (6-4, 300) and Nick DeJong (6-6, 275) look to push their way into the discussion. Mason Richman, Tyler Elsbury and Josh Volk arrive as true freshmen.

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