New Iowa offensive line coach keeps things moving

Mark Emmert

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Tim Polasek has been on the job for only seven football practices, but it’s clear Iowa’s new offensive line coach has adopted a mantra: “Bend and move.”

Polasek used the phrase repeatedly Wednesday when speaking to reporters at the Hawkeye football facility. It’s what he expects out of his players. And apparently the 37-year-old coach isn’t afraid to lead by example.

“He’s always moving around. Even in meetings,” Iowa senior guard Sean Welsh said last week of Polasek. “It’s funny, he finds a way to get himself pumped up just watching film. It’s great to see.”

Iowa offensive line coach Tim Polasek gives a pointer to redshirt freshman tackle Alaric Jackson at a practice  last week.

Polasek, who spent his previous three seasons as offensive coordinator at North Dakota State, acknowledged he is bothered by inaction. He wants his linemen to transition quickly from drill to drill.

“I really like to see active bodies out there. I get on edge a little bit when I see too many guys standing around, and so we're going to go fast,” Polasek said. “We want to have a great deal of energy. We want to have an urgency, a can't-wait mentality in what we're doing.”

Polasek has spent most of his coaching career working with running backs and tight ends. Those positions are much more intertwined with the offense as a whole, and so he found himself spending less time in meetings and more time getting his players out on the field and walking through formations and plays.

Polasek has tried to bring more of that mentality to his first job coaching offensive linemen. But he also has a veteran group at Iowa, with five returning starters who sometimes take a more cerebral approach to their sport.

“With these guys, they can kind of sit back, get their notebooks out," Polasek said. "These guys are scribbling and writing and taking notes.”

So he’s found himself becoming more “detail-oriented,” getting to work early to prepare PowerPoint presentations to show his 14 Hawkeye linemen.

“They all have met any kind of challenge I put in front of them as far as, ‘Hey, guys, want you to go back and look at the Minnesota game; tell me what you learned from it,’” Polasek said. “You'll get a handwritten sheet that looks like they've tried to be organized and that they've worked hard to make sure it's detailed out.”

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In between all the bending and moving and studying, Polasek is starting to mold an offensive line that he hopes can help Iowa win football games in the fall. It helps that in Welsh, senior tackles Boone Myers and Ike Boettger, and junior center James Daniels, he has a strong nucleus. Junior Keegan Render completes the quintet as the front-runner at left guard after making six starts a year ago.

Spring practices have been devoted to identifying the next three players on the depth chart. To building up flexibility in case of injury. Polasek said it was too early to say who those “next men in” would be yet, but he offered high praise for one hopeful: redshirt freshman tackle Alaric Jackson, listed at 6-foot-7, 320 pounds.

“He's a pleasure to be around. He's a joy to be around. I like his work habits,” Polasek said of the Detroit native.

“I think that he wants to be great. No matter how badly we want kids to excel and to win the Big Ten and all these other things, they have to have a burning desire to want to be great, and I see that with A.J. I don't know that it's consistent enough. The part where A.J. can improve is late in practice. Can he be the same guy that he was at the start at the end of practice? He's one of those young guys that is providing some potential that we're going to need come middle of September, middle of October.”

So Jackson has some more bending and moving to do. So does his coach, in actions he figures to be easier once he can start sleeping in an actual bed again.

“My wife (Jill) just got here last night. We’re sleeping on an air mattress until tomorrow,” Polasek said at the beginning of his comments Wednesday.

“So the football facility is a lot better than my new home.”