Iowa's new O-line coach on an emerging star, some up-and-comers and fun-loving twins

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

Iowa offensive line coach Tim Polasek is imploring center James Daniels to become more of a leader, so he was heartened by a conversation the junior initiated recently.

Daniels, an emerging star, approached Polasek and asked if he could be roommates with redshirt freshman Spencer Williams during August training camp.

“I want to be able to help with the communication,” Daniels told Polasek, who has been on the job for only five months.

Iowa offensive line coach Tim Polasek, shown during the April 21 spring game, is quickly bonding with his new group, particularly center James Daniels.

“I didn’t even know we had to make a rooming list,” Polasek recounted with a laugh on Wednesday’s HawkCentral radio show on KxNO. “He said, ‘I’ll help you with it.’”

LISTEN: Polasek joins the HawkCentral radio show

Polasek leaned on Daniels and senior tackle Ike Boettger to help him decide who’ll live with who this summer, some welcome assistance for a coach still adapting to new players at a new school. Polasek, a Wisconsin native who was previously the offensive coordinator at North Dakota State, shared several observations about the veteran offensive line he inherited, and even identified some newcomers who could be making a splash soon. Some highlights:

Of Daniels, a two-year starter who will be one of the keys to Iowa’s offense this fall, Polasek said:

“He’s a heck of an athlete. In Iowa’s run-blocking system and some of the outside zone stuff, a center can get left alone in some tough situations, and he just does a tremendous job. He’s got great feet. He’s a long kid. For a 6-(foot)-4 kid, he’s much longer than that as far as arm length.”

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Polasek, a former quarterback, noted the importance of the rapport a signal-caller builds with his center. The Hawkeyes have yet to name a No. 1 quarterback, but whoever it is will be making his first start Sept. 2 against Wyoming.

Polasek said, as he was learning the Hawkeyes’ terminology and blocking schemes during spring practices, he would frequently check with Daniels.

“I can lean on him to say, ‘Hey, James, what are you calling here? Yeah, I see it, too. OK, good, we’re on the same page,’” Polasek said.

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Polasek said there’s little secret about Iowa’s starting offensive linemen, with seniors Sean Welsh and Boone Myers and junior Keegan Render slated to join Daniels and Boettger in forming what should be a formidable quintet. But he also said that he’s inviting competition this summer, so some depth-chart movement is possible.

“We have a couple of guys that are getting ready to challenge for some playing time early here in fall camp. Maybe around Aug. 10 or 12, we’ll have a better idea,” Polasek said, singling out redshirt freshman tackle Alaric Jackson and junior guard Ross Reynolds. “Some of those guys are really coming on.”

The most highly touted of Polasek’s newcomers, Tristan Wirfs of Mount Vernon, checked in at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds this summer. Polasek’s initial observation of Wirfs: “He is not a freshman.”

But, although Wirfs clearly has the size to compete in the Big Ten Conference, Polasek was not ready to proclaim that he will work his way onto the depth chart as a rookie.

“Is he going to be a fast learner? Can he go in there and compete against other really good players up front?” Polasek asked. “We obviously like the prospect that we recruited, but I think that it’s way too early to tell what kind of college player he’ll be except for the fact that I feel in my meetings with him that he’s a kid that cares, wants to be great and he’s got some ability. And obviously, the size is there. So he’s got all the potential in the world to be a great player.”

Recruiting analysis:

Finally, there’s Polasek’s first brush with coaching identical twins. Sophomores Landan and Levi Paulsen of Moville spent the spring testing their new coach’s perception, Polasek said.

“Those two would switch spots in the meeting room all spring just trying to mess with me,” said Polasek, who finally showed exasperation and informed all of his offensive linemen: “It don’t really matter what name we go with, everybody’s got to be paying attention.”

Polasek said he can now tell the twins apart because of the scar Levi bears under his eye.

And then there’s Landan’s ultra-competitive spirit, which sometimes gets him in trouble.

“Landan might let one play affect another, and so that’s something that we’re working real hard on with him,” Polasek said. “It’s great to be competitive, but at the same time we’ve got to win 80 percent of our snaps and we can’t let one play beat us for the rest of the series or the next snap. I think he’s learning to let go a little bit of a bad play.”