With 44 combined starts, Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs are now the foundation of the Iowa offensive line.
“Kind of weird to think about…us being the veterans of the group now, kinda still feels like [I’m] a little kid sometimes,” Wirfs said. “It takes a lot to get your teammates to trust you and everything, but coming out here to work everyday and leading by example is the best way to do that.”
The experience doesn’t mean the duo is getting complacent as they prepare to once again protect quarterback Nate Stanley.
“Just following after the older guys from last year. I mean, it’s more so being a positive leader, things in that nature,” Jackson said.
The tackles were two of the best in the Big Ten Conference last season. Jackson was graded the best pass blocker in the conference by Pro Football Focus, while Wirfs did not allow a quarterback sack.
Both players credit their performance to working against Iowa’s stable of NFL-caliber defensive ends.
“You know, people sometimes ask me, ‘who’s the best d-end you’ve gone against?’,” Wirfs said. “I’m like A.J. [Epenesa], Anthony [Nelson], Parker [Hesse], like those guys, because they work so hard you know?”
“Those guys are great people to go against everyday. They’re like the best d-ends in the country to me,” Jackson said. “I mean, day-to-day, I feel like I get better everyday going against those four, well those two guys this year now.”
Offensive line coach Tim Polasek said Wirfs and Jackson are complementing those on-field battles with more knowledge of the entire offensive scheme.
“I’ve really seen them guys grow conceptually. When we quiz them, when we get them on the board, when we’re teaching and installing our offense, those guys are further along then they were,” Polasek said. “So I think they’ve really worked at it.”
All the with goals of a Big Ten West title in mind.