Super Bowl champion Tristan Wirfs gives his take on Iowa's 2021 offensive line group
MOUNT VERNON, Ia. — Tristan Wirfs knows firsthand what it takes to play in the NFL and how Iowa prepares its offensive linemen for the next level.
It's the reason he committed to Iowa as a high-schooler and it's why he decided to spend his offseason in Iowa City to prepare for his second NFL season. His training partners are familiar faces: current Hawkeyes linemen, many of whom were his teammates a short time ago.
"I remember being in their place and watching older guys come back," Wirfs told the Register Saturday at a ceremony in which he was inducted to Mount Vernon High School's Hall of Fame. "And now I'm the 'older guy'. But watching them, giving them tips and pointers ... it's just really cool how it comes full circle."
Iowa's offensive line arguably endured more attrition than any other position from last year. In addition to losing three starters, there's also a new offensive line coach in George Barnett.
Related:'We got a lot of guys': Iowa's offensive line still a work in progress in summer
Still, the Hawkeyes offensive line is expected to be strong once more in 2021. They will be anchored from the inside out by Tyler Linderbaum and Kyler Schott.
Schott and Wirfs are especially close.
"Me and Kyler were roommates throughout college," Wirfs said. "Linderbaum was a year younger than us. They pushed me when I was there and now they're pushing each other. I'm excited for the both of them."
The two have also received national acclaim this offseason. Both were named to Pro Football Focus' list of the top 10 returning interior offensive linemen in college football. Linderbaum was ranked No. 1 and Schott was listed at No. 8.
"They're both some dogs," Wirfs said. "They love to finish guys. They're nasty, mean players. I think they're both bulldogs."
The unit can be broken into three tiers: top leadership with Linderbaum and Schott, a middle group of experienced players ready to take the next step and then a developmental group.
More:How tragedy inspired Iowa OL coach George Barnett to become a football coach
Following spring practice, the preliminary depth chart is as follows: Linderbaum and Schott at center and right guard, respectively, followed by: Jack Plumb at left tackle, Cody Ince at left guard and Nick DeJong at right tackle.
Others, such as Justin Britt, Tyler Elsbury and Mason Richman, are in the mix as well. Ince and Plumb hold 19 game appearances each and DeJong has eight appearances.
Through summer and fall, the lineups are sure to be reshuffled again. One positive, according to Wirfs, is that there's several players who are interchangeable at a few positions.
"I think there's some really good young guys, a lot of pieces," Wirfs said. "I know the offensive line has done some shuffling over the last few years and everyone's like a puzzle piece but every piece fits. Whoever they put out there will do a great job."
Related:Back in Iowa, Tristan Wirfs reflects on rookie season with Tampa Bay Buccaneers, looks ahead to 2021 year
In training with them, Wirfs is continuing the tradition of Iowa linemen returning to campus to pass down wisdom from the next level. His main message is simple: Continue to trust the process that's continuously put linemen into the NFL, and the success on Saturdays will follow.
"They know what it takes. They've been there long enough," Wirfs said. "The way we work at Iowa, if you keep working hard and come in with the right attitude, then everything will work out just fine."
Kennington Smith is the new Iowa Hawkeyes beat writer for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at email@example.com