In front of a large gathering at Solon High School, Hawkeyes commit Tyler Linderbaum was honored for his U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection. Dargan Southard/HawkCentral
Last year, A.J. Epenesa and Tristan Wirfs gave Hawkeye fans a glimpse of their bright futures at the 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
This year, it was Tyler Linderbaum’s turn.
The Iowa defensive tackle recruit was one of 110 high school seniors selected to play in Saturday’s 2018 U.S. Army All-American Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, and he more than held his own against the top-tier competition this game provides. Here are some of HawkCentral’s observations from the West team's 17-16 win over the East team:
- First of all, Linderbaum got the starting nod as the No. 2 defensive tackle. All four DTs on the West roster got plenty of snaps, so him starting isn’t earth-shattering. But it’s not insignificant. According to Rivals and 247Sports, he was the lowest-rated nonspecialist of the field. If anything, Linderbaum starting suggests he’s one of the more underrated prospects in the 2018 class — something those who have watched him have thought for a while.
- Linderbaum showed why Iowa likes him so much on the game’s second snap: He exploded off the line with his quick first step, gained great leverage on the larger offensive lineman and was able to pressure Clemson quarterback recruit Trevor Lawrence with a high hand. Lawrence’s pass was underthrown and intercepted.
- If Linderbaum wasn't able to get by his man with his first step, though, larger offensive linemen were usually able to control him with strong hands keep him from causing too much trouble. He's the type of lineman who, at this point, will rely on his agility to win battles up front.
- Linderbaum was in on a four-person tackle for loss on Wake Forest running back pledge Ricky Person near end of first half on a second-and-goal.
- Then, on the next play, Linderbaum’s quick first step struck again. He blew past his man and contributed to a four-person sack on what looked an awful lot like a blitz off the edge … which technically isn’t allowed in this game.
- Linderbaum's best play of the day came late in the third quarter. Again, he got past his man with a quick first step (noticing a trend here?), worked his way to the backfield and snagged Miami running back signee Lorenzo Lingard from behind for a tackle for loss.
- On East's two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter, Linderbaum was one of two linemen able to push his way through the and get pressure on the wide receiver — who got the ball on an end-around and fired an incomplete pass intended for Lawrence.
As important as the game, though, was the week of practice beforehand. That's where players really get a chance to stand out with one-on-one opportunities to compete directly against the best prospects in the country.
Linderbaum, who the U.S. Army All-American Bowl listed at 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, was quite undersized compared to most of the linemen in San Antonio. But by all accounts, Linderbaum had a strong showing, especially in the offensive line vs. defensive line one-on-one session on Day Two of practice.
"He’s accounted for himself fairly well this week," Rivals Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt said in a video analysis. "Definitely on the smaller side for the defensive tackle position — one of the smallest linemen in the game, noticeably so. That’s hurt him from a strength standpoint. Once offensive linemen were able to get their hands on him, he has a tough time disengaging. Technique looks good. What really looks good is his first step. He has an explosive first step — he’s a very quick defensive tackle. And that has stood out. He’s had a lot of success against Texas A&M commit Luke Matthews, although a lot of people have — Matthews has struggled this week. Other offensive guards — Chris Murray on the West and a couple of the others — have been able to counter his speed, and then once they get their hands on him, again, he’s had trouble disengaging from blocks. But all in all, a very solid week."
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.