CHICAGO – Redshirt freshman Tyler Linderbaum has caught on quickly at center for the Iowa football team, moving into a starting spot on the Hawkeyes’ preseason depth chart.
Released Thursday at the start of the Big Ten’s annual football kickoff and the first since the beginning of spring football, Linderbaum continued his climb at a position where he took his first snaps during Iowa’s practices leading up to the Outback Bowl last season.
His progress has allowed Cole Banwart to return to a starting assignment at right guard, a role he filled last season.
Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs fill the tackle spots – where Bettendorf’s Mark Kallenberger remains listed as the back-up to Jackson on the left side – and Landan Paulsen opens at the top of the depth chart at left guard.
The changes provide the Hawkeyes with a starting point when fall camp opens in a little less than two weeks.
Iowa’s depth chart includes a few other changes as well, with redshirt freshman Nico Ragaini joining Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette on the top row at the Hawkeyes’ three receiver spots.
Jeff Jenkins, a redshirt freshman, is listed as the back-up to Linderbaum at center, while Levi Paulsen moves from the top line to a back-up role at right guard.
The only change on the offensive chart is at receiver, where redshirt freshman Calvin Lockett has moved in as the back-up to Smith.
On defense, Daviyon Nixon now shares a back-up role at tackle with Austin Schulte behind Cedrick Lattimore and Amani Jones is listed as the back-up at right end, reflecting Iowa’s plans to use a three-man front at times.
In the secondary, converted receiver Devonte Young is now the back-up to Geno Stone at strong safety and Kaevon Merriweather is listed as the starter at free safety, a shift among safeties since spring.
Iowa’s kicking race remains that heading into the fall with Caleb Shudak and Keith Duncan now sharing the top line on the depth chart.
The honors: Iowa junior A.J. Epenesa became the seventh Hawkeye in six years to earn a spot on the 10-player Big Ten preseason honors list, selected by a media panel as one of the top five players in the West Division.
The returning all-Big Ten defensive end joined Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez, Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fisher, Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor in being honored from the West.
In the East, the picks were the Michigan State duo of linebacker Joe Bachie and defensive end Kenny Willekes, the Ohio State tandem of running back J.K. Dobbins and defensive end Chase Young and Penn State defensive end Yetu Gross-Matos.
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The newbies: They inherit different situations, but Big Ten coaching newcomers Ryan Day at Ohio State and Mike Locksley at Maryland both feel like they have something to prove.
“This is a new staff, a new team. We haven’t done anything yet,’’ said Day, who takes over a Buckeyes program that won 13 games a year ago.
Locksley calls the Terrapins position his “dream job,’’ pointing out that he grew up in the area in the 1970s when Maryland had a dominant collegiate sports program.
Returning after working at Alabama, he’s been an assistant there twice.
“People outside of the DC and Baltimore area may not understand it, but this a very special place to me,’’ Locksley said.
Late arrival: Thunderstorms in Chicago forced the chartered flight Nebraska coach Scott Frost was on to be diverted to Peoria early Thursday morning, leading to a delay in his scheduled media appearance.
“Sorry about being late, we had to stop in Gurnee and sell some shower curtain rings,’’ Frost joked before offering his take on the growth he expects from a Cornhuskers team which won four games in his first season.
One last time: Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is presiding over his 31st Big Ten kickoff event and in addition to reflecting on the successes of his tenure, he was asked about his biggest regret.
He went to back to something he pushed for a few years ago that gained little traction among his peers, a push for four-year scholarships, a small stipend for student-athletes to cover necessities and freshman ineligibility, all rules that went by the wayside in the 1970s but have been revisited.
“That was pretty much met with a thud,’’ Delany recalled.
The wait for Nate: Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez plans to catch up with Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley at some point during the Big Ten kickoff.
Hawkeyes players take part in the two-day event today and arrived later in the day Thursday, while the Cornhuskers were among seven teams showcased on the first day. Martinez got to know Stanley better when the pair worked together as counselors last month at the Manning Quarterback Academy.
“It was a good time. We had a chance to throw a few balls to each other. I got to know him a bit, seems like a good guy,’’ Martinez said.