Iowa recruit Tyler Linderbaum records big tackle for loss on first play of game against Regina.
Tyler Linderbaum’s first day at U.S. Army All-American Bowl practice in San Antonio, Texas, didn’t start so well.
The offense lined up for what appeared to be an inside run play. Linderbaum, an Iowa signee, got down in his normal defensive tackle position and put his hand in the turf opposite the offensive guard. The ball was snapped …
"And I just got knocked on my butt," Linderbaum laughed, remembering the moment in a phone call with HawkCentral Wednesday night. "And I’m like, 'All right, I need to pick it up a little bit.'"
For the rest of practice, Linderbaum impressed in team settings and one-on-one battles. He earned the West team’s No. 2 defensive tackle spot for the game, in which he recorded a solo tackle for loss and a quarterback pressure that helped force an interception.
The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Linderbaum, who was the smallest defensive tackle and the lowest-rated nonspecialist of the entire field, said his week in San Antonio bolstered his development and readiness for college competition. He didn’t see many (if any) All-American-caliber linemen in Iowa high school football. But he acclimated quickly and relied on his quick first step, effort and sound fundamentals to gain his edges.
"I was going against some kids that were like 340, so obviously I had to be quicker off the ball and then keep using my hands," he said. "(Going against) that kind of speed — I think that was huge for me. Just playing against those kids and that type of talent."
Kevin Miller, Linderbaum’s coach at Solon, was on hand for the last couple days of practice and the game. He talked with coaches and scouts in attendance, and all had the same message regarding Linderbaum: "That he competed well. That he’s just a tough, hard-nosed kid."
"These kids that play in those particular games?" Miller continued. "They play against that type of competition regularly. They do. Whether you’re from Texas or California or Florida or Georgia — it’s common on a weekly basis for them to have to compete against Division I athletes.
"I just thought that Tyler was able to crank it up and match the intensity of those individuals that performed in that game. That says a lot about him and the potential that he has moving forward."
Linderbaum's biggest highlight — the quarterback pressure — came on the game's first play. He burst between a pulling guard and a late-reacting center, stuck his hand in Clemson quarterback signee Trevor Lawrence’s face and caused an underthrow on a deep ball for an interception.
That was one of the few plays Linderbaum faced a one-on-one matchup. When the center and guard double-teamed him and got their hands on him, he wasn’t able to do much. But he was a problem in one-on-one — that’s the matchup he faced when he recorded his tackle for loss in the second half, too.
Rivals Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt had seen plenty of film on Linderbaum before last week, but he saw him in person for the first time in San Antonio.
The first thing that stood out to Helmholdt? Linderbaum’s size — or lack thereof, which makes it so bigger offensive linemen can usually control him if they get a good grip on him.
The second thing? Linderbaum’s first step.
Now, Helmholdt is eager to see if Linderbaum can add the necessary weight and strength while maintaining the speed that sets him apart.
"But that’s the challenge, certainly, for the strength and conditioning coaches and for Tyler, himself — to find that perfect balance," Helmholdt said. "And that’s just a matter of seeing how he reacts to a college training table and weight room and physical development. Some guys you can project it with. Other guys, like Tyler, you just kind of have to wait and see how they get to that level."
With his size and Iowa’s immediate depth on the defensive line, Linderbaum has seems like a good redshirt candidate. Helmholdt agrees.
"At 255 pounds, he’s going to have to add the weight, he’s going to have to add the strength," he said, "and then also get used to playing at that bigger size and making sure he stays explosive and stays quick. If you pack on the pounds too quickly, then you’re going to end up sacrificing on the quickness side of things. That’s the hallmark of his game — that’s his key asset. You don’t want to diminish that."
Linderbaum will get closer to 285 pounds this winter as he wrestles in the heavyweight division for Solon. He earned fifth place at the state tournament last year.
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 email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.