Former defensive tackle Logan Jones in contention for starting center job

Jones is wearing Rimington Award winner Tyler Linderbaum’s old number and asking the All-American for tips.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa center Logan Jones blocks defensive tackle Louie Stec during a spring practice at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, April 23, 2022.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

The Iowa football team’s starting center during its 15th and final practice of the spring on Saturday was a former defensive tackle wearing No. 65.

Sound familiar?

With former Hawkeye and Rimington Award winner Tyler Linderbaum, who also switched positions during his time as a Hawkeye, watching from Kinnick Stadium’s west stands, Logan Jones snapped the ball to quarterback Spencer Petras and blocked his former position-mates on the defensive line. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz approached Jones this offseason about changing positions, citing the depth on the defensive line and a need for a new starting center with Linderbaum’s departure. After about a week of mulling the decision, Jones agreed to move to the other side of the line of scrimmage.

Jones knew that, with the switch, he had a long offseason of learning ahead of him.

The redshirt sophomore also realized he needed a new number.

“I texted Lindy asking if I could wear it and he allowed me to,” said Jones, who wore No. 95 in his first two seasons as a Hawkeye. “It’s a lot of pressure. He was like, ‘I don’t care. It’s just a number.’ So he’s cool with it … Obviously, Lindy is a great player. I hope I can live up to what he’s done, not only as a player, but as a person. I’d be proud of myself.”

Linderbaum declared for the NFL Draft after his junior season. The All-American is a projected first-round pick in Thursday’s draft.

While preparing for the draft for the last four months, Linderbaum has also helped his former teammate do the same thing he did ahead of the 2019 season — move from defensive tackle to center. Jones has reached out to Linderbaum, who encouraged Jones to make the switch, frequently for pointers about the position.

One area, in particular, has caused Jones some trouble: snapping.

“I thought it would be easy,” Jones said. “I snapped a little bit in high school. But it is hard. The timing of the count and everything, stepping and snapping, there’s a lot to it.

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“With changing positions there are a lot of challenges … Getting plays down, my footwork, and then going against the defensive line guys. Going against them, it was hard to be really serious about it. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to beat these guys despite them being my old brothers.”

At the start of spring practice, Jones was listed as the No. 3 center on the depth chart. Tyler Elsbury and Matt Fagan held the top two spots. But on Saturday, Elsbury started at first-team left guard and Fagan played second-team center.

Jones, the 6-foot-2, 282-pounder, said he arrived at Iowa thinking he could change positions one day. He knew Linderbaum did it. Once the former Lewis Central High School prep started playing scout team center last season, his teammates on the defensive line started joking that his time on that side of the ball was coming to an end.

The joke became reality.

“The biggest thing for me was leaving the defensive linemen,” Jones said. “We created such a strong bond and leaving them and going to another room was probably the hardest part for me … But they understand and are very supportive.”

Ferentz joked on Saturday that enough time has passed since he moved Jones from D-Line to O-Line that his defensive coaches are finally speaking to him again.

Defensive line coach Kelvin Bell, who recruited Jones, was particularly adamant about Jones staying on defense. Bell said Jones would have seen significant time at defensive tackle this season had he stayed there.

“It’s a combination of what he might be able to do, then a combination of what our depth is,” Ferentz said of Jones moving to center. “That’s really what led us to this move. We try not to move guys just to move ’em. If there’s a good rationale for it, we’ll have a discussion.”

Jones redshirted as a freshman in 2020 and saw limited snaps last season.

Bell still isn’t thrilled about the move, but said he knows it is in the Hawkeyes’ best interest.

“Anyone can empathize with the feelings I had during that [transition],” Bell said. “You’ve built a foundation for that kid and you’re excited about it. To have it taken away from you … But I understand. It’s going to be for the betterment of our football team. Would Logan have played defensive tackle for us this year? Absolutely. He would have been a really good one, much like [Linderbaum] would have been. But there’s a need on offense from a depth standpoint on the offensive line. That’s the best spot for him.

“I hate to lose Logan. He’s a great player. But it’s going to be better for our football team that he goes on that side of the ball.”