Barnett, Hawkeye offensive line set for Saturday showdown with Indiana

Iowa’s offensive line will square off against an Indiana pass rush that ranked second in the Big Ten last season with 25 sacks.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum gets ready to snap the ball during “Kid’s Day at Kinnick” inside Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 14.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

Since he joined Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa football staff in March, offensive line coach George Barnett has worked hard to familiarize himself with Iowa’s offensive line room and determine how his group can protect junior quarterback Spencer Petras this season.

After an offseason of tinkering, Barnett and his offensive linemen believe they’re ready for the Hawkeyes’ matchup with No. 17 Indiana this weekend.

“We’re looking forward to getting the guys out there and playing,” Barnett told reporters via Zoom on Wednesday. “We have more than five guys in the mix and everyone is improving and competing each day.”

The 18th-ranked Hawkeyes have a few holes to fill up front this season following Alaric Jackson, Mark Kallenberger, Cole Banwart, and Coy Cronk’s departures at the end of the 2020 season.

The foursome helped Iowa’s offensive line surrender just nine sacks and pave the way for the Hawkeyes’ running backs to gain 1,363 yards on the ground last season.

While Jackson, Cronk, Banwart, and Kallenberger will be missed, the Hawkeyes are still feeling optimistic about their run blocking and pass protection ahead of the 2021 season.

“Inside, you have some young guys and some older guys, a mix getting reps with the ones and the twos as we go,” Barnett said. 

First-team All-Big Ten center Tyler Linderbaum will anchor Iowa’s offensive line in 2021 just as he did in 2020.

Senior guard Kyler Schott will also be back on Iowa’s offensive line this season — though he won’t play in the Hawkeyes’ season-opener against Indiana as he recovers from a foot injury he sustained baling hay in August.

Schott was listed as a starter on the first three depth charts Iowa released this year, though he did not appear on the Hawkeyes’ Week 1 two-deeps at all.

On the outer portion of the line, junior Jack Plumb and sophomore Nick DeJong are slated to start at left and right tackle, respectively. According to Barnett, Plumb was in an intense battle with redshirt freshman Mason Richman all offseason before he ultimately earned a starting spot at left tackle.

Though Richman is not Iowa’s starting left tackle, Barnett still expects him to see plenty of game action this weekend.

Richman and the Hawkeyes will have their hands full come Saturday, as Indiana’s pass rush was ranked second in the Big Ten last season with 25 total sacks. The Hoosiers will, however, be without their leading pass rusher from 2020: Jerome Johnson. Johnson left the Indiana football program to pursue his NFL dreams this offseason.

While Johnson may have produced four of the Hoosiers’ 25 sacks last season, the Hawkeyes still have to account for the entirety of Indiana’s defense in pass protection. In 2020, Indiana’s linebackers and defensive backs produced 19.5 sacks.

University of Mississippi transfer defensive lineman Ryder Andeson also joined the Indiana football program during the offseason. In 2020, Anderson logged seven sacks in just 10 games played.

“They’re a dynamic front,” Barnett said. “They’re tremendously coached and they play the game the right way. They do enough multiple things to keep you on your toes, so we definitely have to work well and cohesive together.”

Action between the Hawkeyes and Hoosiers will begin at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. The game will air live on the Big Ten Network.

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