Iowa third-year OL coach Tim Polasek also breaks down the progress of some younger players like Ezra Miller, Jack Plumb and Cody Ince. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central
There’s no doubt that Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs can be a dominant athlete.
The 320-pound junior is as physically gifted as anyone in college football.
Hawkeyes offensive line coach Tim Polasek is trying to impress upon Wirfs the need to display that dominance throughout football games this fall.
“We’re always looking for guys to finish football plays in a dominant football position,” Polasek explained in a Thursday interview on the “Hawk Central” radio hour on KxNO. “For an offensive lineman, it’s really pretty simple. Your hands are inside. You’re obviously running your legs into the block. And then we’d all want to see a guy finishing a guy on his back. For us, it’s a matter of staying with a guy.”
For Wirfs, that means developing more of an “edge,” Polasek said. The Mount Vernon native is easygoing by nature. Wirfs told the Register recently that before a game at Nebraska his freshman year offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz saw him smiling and told him to instead take on the characteristics of a shark about to feed on its prey.
“I don’t want to say he’s level-headed because he’s an excitable guy,” Polasek continued. “He needs to develop this edge about him that he’s the baddest guy on the football field. Because I think it’s attainable. … It’s not an effort thing, it’s just a mentality that ‘I can dominate this guy in front of me.’“
Polasek said he’s seen videos of Wirfs showing great emotion while winning high school championships in wrestling and in the shot put.
“What he needs to learn is that, yeah, football is 72 plays. And for an offensive lineman, it’s not about jumping up and down or yelling and screaming. But can you put that enthusiasm in your finish 72 plays a game?” Polasek said.
'Other great options' for media days
Polasek said all of Iowa’s coaches had some input into which players were selected to represent the team at Big Ten Conference media days next week in Chicago. Head coach Kirk Ferentz passed around a sheet asking for names.
“Where do you guys think our leadership is at? Who do you think would do a good job?” Ferentz asked his staff.
Senior quarterback Nate Stanley, senior cornerback Michael Ojemudia and junior running back Toren Young ultimately got the call.
Polasek was asked whether he thought Wirfs deserved to make the list.
“Tristan’s a guy that I actually think would do a good job with those things. I’m not sure that Tristan has always been 100 percent (on board) from a leadership standpoint,” Polasek answered. “He’s still a young kid, still learning and growing. He’s most definitely getting closer to our expectations. I’m totally comfortable with him not going from the standpoint of I think we have other great options.”
An offensive line group that is 'together'
Polasek is entering his third season on the Iowa staff and must replace two starters in Keegan Render and Ross Reynolds. But he said the challenge goes well beyond that. And he’s thrilled with the response he’s getting from his athletes. None are looking to improve just for their own sake, he said, but rather for the good of the entire team.
“With the offensive line, it’s not about the five starters. Can you get to the seven or eight quality players that all want to die for each other, that all want to help and support each other?” Polasek said. “That’s the thing that stands out the most to me is how together we are in that room.”
Mark Emmert covers University of Iowa athletics for the Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press-Citizen.