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Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz explains the logic behind moving Solon native Tyler Linderbaum from defensive tackle to center Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz looked into the near future and didn’t like what he saw at the center position.

The best answer for 2019, he felt, was to move Solon native Tyler Linderbaum from defensive tackle to the offensive side. Two weeks ago, as the Hawkeyes started preparing for the Outback Bowl, Linderbaum made the switch. And it appears to be permanent.

“He was really doing well on defense,” Ferentz said of Linderbaum, a 6-foot-2, 270-pound freshman. “What I kept coming back to is I think we really had a little bit of a void at the center position.”

Starter Keegan Render is set to graduate. Fellow senior Dalton Ferguson was the third option at center. That would leave sophomore Cole Banwart as the “one guy that really looks like he can handle it,” Ferentz said of a position that is typically the captain of the offensive line.

Banwart is a starting guard. Moving Linderbaum would give the Hawkeyes the option of keeping Banwart there next season.

Ferentz has always been effusive in his praise for Linderbaum, a four-sport athlete who was an Army All-American football player as a senior at Solon.

“If they were triplets, it would have been perfect, because we would have two at defensive tackles and one at center,” Ferentz joked of wanting more Linderbaums on his team. “I wouldn’t mind having one at guard, too — at each spot, so five — quintuplets would be OK. He’s just a real good football player and the tenacity, I think, he shows on the wrestling mat — he showed it in football last year, too — he brought it with him. That’s who he is. He’s really serious and he’s got a lot of pride. I think he’s going to do just fine.”

The move leaves Iowa with two primary options at defensive tackle next year, with Matt Nelson and Sam Brincks also graduating. The starters would be Cedrick Lattimore and Brady Reiff. Linderbaum would have been a backup. Now, that will be a question mark entering spring practices.

But center will not be.

Three other position changes, plus an injury

Linderbaum isn’t the only Hawkeye shifting from one side of the ball to the other this month. Ferentz said sophomore Austin Schulte has also moved from the defensive line to the offensive line. Levi Duwa was an offensive lineman but has now become a defensive tackle. And Henry Marchese has gone from wide receiver to safety.

Duwa, a redshirt freshman from Kalona, is making his second position switch — this time back to his original spot.

“Some guys are more instinctive or play faster at certain positions. It just seems like he’s a little more aggressive and natural in his play, if you will, on the defensive side. But we gave it a good shot,” Ferentz said of Duwa. “It just didn’t seem to be a good fit for him.”

Ferentz also revealed the Hawkeyes have suffered one significant injury: Junior offensive lineman Jake Newborg had knee surgery and will miss the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl against Mississippi State.

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Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says players considering an early jump to the NFL need accurate information, and not from agents. Listen in: Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

Ferentz wants 'accurate information' for players thinking about NFL

Iowa junior tight end Noah Fant has already declared that he plans to enter the NFL draft. He will miss the bowl game. Junior quarterback Nate Stanley said this week he’s definitely returning for his final season as a Hawkeye.

That leaves redshirt sophomore tight end T.J. Hockenson, junior safety Amani Hooker and junior defensive end Anthony Nelson as three Iowa players who have yet to announce their decisions about their immediate NFL futures.

Ferentz said at the outset of his Wednesday news conference that he didn’t want reporters asking those players questions about it once they arrive in Tampa, Florida — he wants the pregame focus to be solely on the Outback Bowl.

But he’s also aware that there’s much speculation among media and fans about whether those three vital players will be in a Hawkeye uniform next year. Ferentz said his primary role in the decision-making process is to help his athletes get “accurate information.”

“The agents are selling one thing: Leave now — that’s the only way they’re going to make money this year,” Ferentz said.

“I would be willing to bet that most of (players who declare for the draft early) think they’re going to go first, second, third round. Obviously, the statistics don’t back that up. There’s some people on the outside that really sell that because they’ve got nothing to lose. It’s a game for them. But we’re talking about young people’s lives. And to me, there’s a real responsibility there. So we try to get good, accurate information, and I think the NFL has stepped up their game.”

Ferentz will sit down with each player and let them know the round of the draft they are projected to be chosen, if at all. Last season, center James Daniels and cornerback Josh Jackson departed early and were picked in the second round.

Ferentz noted that this year’s draft seems to be full of defensive line prospects. So maybe that’s an indication that Nelson will be advised to come back.

The players have until Jan. 15 to decide.

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