Iowa football switching heralded defensive lineman Logan Jones to center. Sound familiar?
IOWA CITY — When Iowa's football team started spring practice on Wednesday, a few returning players began their journeys with new positions on the team.
Speaking with the media that day, head coach Kirk Ferentz officially announced those roster moves: sophomore Logan Jones from defensive line to offensive line, and senior Mike Timm from linebacker to fullback.
"Logan Jones has moved over to the offensive side, primarily center/guard position," Ferentz said. "And then Mike Timm is going to move over to the fullback spot. Logan's a young guy, had some injuries, redshirted, had some injuries, had a really good winter.
"And Mike has done a great job on special teams. We're a little bit deep at the middle linebacker position, and that's what he plays. So I felt like he might have a better avenue for playing time at the fullback spot."
Of the two, Jones' move will pique fans' interest most. A former four-star recruit in the 2020 class, Jones was an Army All-American out of Lewis Central in Council Bluffs who entered Iowa's program with high expectations at defensive line. He redshirted in 2020 and was expected to compete for first-team reps last spring but a knee injury and subsequent surgery held him back from playing significant snaps during in 2021.
Entering into the 2022 season, Iowa will have a deep defensive line group with every major contributor returning except for senior Zach VanValkenburg. Ferentz said the depth played a role in the decision to transition Jones over to center, where there's less playing experience.
"It's a big part of it," Ferentz said. "I hate to even go back to the last trade (to) throw a tag on a guy. But Logan was doing perfectly fine at that spot. It's about doing what's best for the team. And part of the reason is that we were afforded that opportunity because we have some guys right now — I think we've got eight, nine, 10 guys in the mix for playing on the defensive line. We were really young a year ago. But everybody's back."
The last trade Ferentz is referring to is future first-round pick Tyler Linderbaum switching from defensive line to center following the 2018 season. It's far too early to make a claim for Jones as the next Linderbaum, but there are a few similarities, even dating back to high school.
Both were high-level defensive line recruits with similar builds. Linderbaum was listed last year at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds and Jones measured in at 6-3, 282 pounds in Iowa's spring football prospectus. They also both showed record-setting strength. Linderbaum set the squat record at center (590 pounds) in 2019. Jones set two weightlifting records at defensive tackle last spring: squat (630 pounds) and hang clean (435 pounds).
Ferentz said Wednesday that there's several transferable skills between defensive line and interior offensive line and equated it to flipping a switch. He explained that defensive linemen are "people movers" in both run defense and pass rushing. Flipping over to offense, a lineman's responsibility is to separate defenders from the ball to keep the offense moving.
Still, that doesn't guarantee a player will transition smoothly. However, it appears that Jones looked fairly comfortable on Wednesday, albeit after one practice. Jones appeared as the No. 3 center in Iowa's first spring practice depth chart.
"Look, one practice, I think I saw the ball on the ground once with him," Ferentz said. "Which is, I'm not saying it's a record, but that's pretty impressive. Usually it's going to be on the ground five times, especially when you have a new quarterback, like with him and Joe (Labas). That's a disaster waiting to happen.
"I'm talking about when there's somebody, you have to snap and then block, it's a different equation. So that's a positive start. But I don't think it's as big a deal as everybody makes it. Although I'll say this: There's some guys that just struggle with it."
Ferentz also noted that Jones will need to continue working on understanding body positioning and leverage while learning Iowa's offensive scheme, which is another challenge altogether.
What's known for sure is Jones is an exceptional athlete with ability on the field. The fruits of this move might not be seen immediately but given Jones' high praise since he's arrived on campus, it's not inconceivable to believe he can be an impact offensive lineman at some point during his Iowa career.
But first thing is first: He must find his footing in an offensive line room that, like him, will experiment at different positions to best find the right role for everyone.
"I think the potential is there," Ferentz said. "The potential is potential. Really doesn't help you. But I think the guys have worked hard. They've got the right attitude. I'm anxious to see everybody this spring. It's fun to watch guys and see how they practice, how they improve and compete."
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at email@example.com.