Four Downs -- The Tight Ends (spring version)
Iowa goes into 2013 with 7 TEs on scholarship, that's a lot
QUICK LOOK BACK: C.J. Fiedorowicz came out of the Michigan State game with one reception. Yes, it was rainy and slippery and basically an outdoor dishwasher that October day in East Lansing, but Fiedorowicz had a fitful start to the 2012 season.
There were points during the first third of the season when the 6-7, 270-pounder was asked about his production and if he thought he had enough of a role in the offense. Let's run the quote machine from right around week 4.
“I just haven’t been getting the ball as much as people were thinking, but that’s fine,” Fiedorowicz said. “We had how much offense last week, 400 yards? It’s not that big a deal. You never know what’s going to happen.”
He handled those questions well. And, yeah, the numbers eventually filled in.
After one catch at Michigan State, Fiedorowicz caught five, three, three, four, eight and six passes.
Fiedorowicz finished the season with 45 receptions for 433 yards and a TD. As far as Iowa tight ends go, Marv Cook caught 63 in 1988 and 49 in 1987; Dallas Clark caught 43 in 2002; and Scott Chandler had 47 in '05 and 46 in '06. That's heady company.
Among tight ends in '12, Fiedorowicz tied for ninth nationally. Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Stanford's Zach Ertz led tight ends with 69 receptions.
Beyond 45 catches, Fiedorowicz's numbers lacked explosion. He averaged just 9.6 yards per catch, behind 18 other TEs in the Big Ten (granted, some were far less productive). He caught just one TD pass, but Iowa only threw seven, so everything is relative in that regard.
Four other TEs caught passes for Iowa. Three (Henry Krieger-Coble, Jake Duzey and Ray Hamilton) return this season.
FOURTH DOWN — CONCERNS: The lack of explosive plays has to be a concern team-wide. The question for the tight ends is can they help here?
The passing scheme is cloudy, but TE is most definitely in the gameplan. And, recent history under Kirk Ferentz, shows that he considers TEs a crucial part of the offense and they also can gain yardage in chunks.
In 2010, Allen Reisner averaged 10.95 yards on 42 receptions. In 2010, Tony Moeaki averaged 12.9 yards on 30 catches. In 2008, Brandon Myers averaged 12.44 on 34 catches. All three TEs are in the NFL, by the way. What's the big deal between 9.6 yards and 12.50? Remember the fourth-and-3 against Purdue last season? QB James Vandenberg threw to TE Zach Derby, who was cut down after a 1-yard gain. There's your difference.
THIRD DOWN — ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Derby finished his four years as a walk-on with 19 receptions. He found his way to fullback against Purdue and caught four passes for 38 yards, his best day as a Hawkeye.
Derby is all Iowa loses at TE. The Hawkeyes signed two in the 2013 recruiting class.
Ike Boettger (6-6, 245) -- Boettger switched from QB as a junior to TE last season at Cedar Falls. He led the Tigers with 33 receptions
for 452 yards and four TDs. He camped as a QB one day at Iowa. Iowa coaches asked him to come back as a TE the next day. He faced a learning curve as a blocker, but he didn't blink and was offered quickly thereafter. And, yes, he's a tight end but there is wiggle room.
Jon Wisnieski (6-5, 220) -- The Des Moines Dowling prep comes with some kind words from Rivals.com: "He’s one I wish I would’ve been able to see in person a little bit more toward the end of his process," Rivals.com midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt said, "because if there’s one player in this class that I’m a little worried about being too low, it’s Jon Wisnieski.”
SECOND DOWN — BATTLES BREWING: What happens at TE after Fiedorowicz?
Who's the fastest among Hamilton, Duzey and Krieger-Coble? Maybe it breaks down that way.
Krieger-Coble didn't catch a pass until week 11 at Michigan, but he caught three for 24 yards and a TD. He was the last to get playing time, but he finished with more catches than Hamilton (two catches for 20 yards) and Duzey (three for 16). That probably doesn't mean too much, but credit the former Mount Pleasant prep for jumping in and contributing.
Hamilton went the final six games of the season without a reception. Duzey went the final three. Again, these are simple stats. Not sure if they'll mean much this spring, when it really starts to get serious for this group.
Fiedorowicz is a senior and will, presumably, leave a lot of receptions on the table when he finishes up at Iowa. Hamilton will be a junior and might rank with RB Jordan Canzeri, who's coming back from an ACL injury, as one of the team's hungriest players. Duzey, a sophomore, was recruited by Oregon. Krieger-Coble also is a sophomore.
All three came in with the 2011 recruiting class. It should be one of the more competitive situations on the team.
George Krieger-Kittle also comes online this season after a 2012 redshirt year.
FIRST DOWN — WHAT COULD HAPPEN: Same deal here as wide receiver. Tight end production absolutely hinges on the quarterback and, as it stands now, that remains a mystery for the Hawkeyes.
-- Fiedorowicz should progress and hold his end of the deal up as far as production. Can he bring the threat of an explosive play? If he uses that big body, he could be one broken tackle from 25 yards or more. That also can work against him. He needs to be fast enough to force defenders out of position. It's possible he looks at season-long bracket coverage, with a defender underneath and another over the top.
-- Iowa TEs have a new coach. David Raih is now director of high school relations at Texas Tech for new coach Kliff Kingsbury. He spent three seasons as a graduate assistant with the Hawkeyes, taking over TEs last year. That, as it turns out, was a precedent. This year, DJ Hernandez will take over Iowa TEs. He spent last season as a graduate assistant at Miami (Fla.) with the wide receivers. He's Iowa's TE guy this year. The connection? His brother is New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was coached by Brian Ferentz when he was with the Pats before joining his father as Iowa's OL coach last season.
-- Iowa will have seven scholarship tight ends next fall. That's a lot. Someone could switch, but that's always easier said than done.
This is just a guess, but it could go like this:
Hamilton (Big and strong, has seen some time as second TE.)
Krieger-Coble/Duzey (Duzey was used before HKC last season, but this is a new year.)
Krieger-Kittle (He was brought in as an athlete and wears No. 46, so maybe he finds a less crowded roster spot at FB?)Boettger/Wisnieski (Boettger is a big dude, but remains athletic. He was a key player on Cedar Falls' state tourney hoops team.)