Offensive linemen usually toil in anonymity, doing football's dirty work while those passing, running and catching the football receive the lion's share of the attention. There are exceptions to that general rule, and one will come Saturday when the Gophers face Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.

Hawkeyes center Tyler Linderbaum, a combination of strength, speed, agility and tenacity, just might be the best player on the field when two of the four Big Ten West leaders meet. Linderbaum, 6-3 and 290 pounds, is a consensus preseason All-America selection and this week was named one of four semifinalists for the Lombardi Trophy, given to the nation's top lineman, offense or defense.

Linderbaum has a big fan in the man who's game-planning against him and the Hawkeyes this week.

"He's phenomenal,'' Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi said. "I don't know if I've ever seen anyone with his athleticism. I've seen him reach the three-technique [tackle], which is kind of crazy, but he's done it. I've seen him pull and get out on the perimeter and block an edge defender and block a second-level defender and then block a third-level defender.

"He's fun to watch,'' Rossi added. "He's obviously got a bright future at the next level.''

That could be as soon as next year for the redshirt junior. Linderbaum is largely regarded as the best center in the 2022 NFL draft should he choose to enter, and he's projected as a first-round pick. An early mock draft by CBS Sports has the Pittsburgh Steelers selecting him at No. 13 overall.

Much of Linderbaum's agility can be traced to his winter sport in high school: wrestling. He's the latest in a long line of Hawkeyes who've turned a wrestling background into football success. He finished third at heavyweight for Solon High School in the 2018 Class 2A state tournament. Hawkeyes starting left guard Kyler Schott was a state runner-up, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-year tackle Tristan Wirfs, a former Hawkeye, was a state champion.

"He's super talented, has really good feet and he can really move for a big guy,'' Gophers linebacker Jack Gibbens said of Linderbaum. "It's really impressive to watch him.''