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No. 33 ... Oh, that beautiful 13 personnel at Ohio State. In Columbus last year, the tight ends bloomed into the pass-catching, defensive end-blocking dynamos. Junior Jake Duzey (6-4, 245) led the way with six catches for 168 yards, which included an 85-yard TD. Senior and newly minted Houston Texas C.J. Fiedorowicz added four catches for 29 yards, including a 2-yard TD that only his 6-7 body might’ve been able to reach. Sophomore George Kittle (6-4, 230) added one catch for 24 yards.
The totals were 11 catches for 191 yards and two TDs. Duzey put up the best numbers for a tight end in a single game during Ferentz’s 15 seasons, topping Dallas Clark’s 116-yard effort against Purdue in 2002.
And as soon as it was upon us, the three-tight end set faded away. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis knows this. Iowa has four veteran tight ends who, between them, offer all the skills the tight end position needs.
“We felt like that was one of the things that we probably should’ve done more of, quite honestly, is to put that grouping on the field and play empty formation out of it,” Davis said. “The more things that the tight ends can do and feel comfortable doing, the more that personnel grouping can be a part.”
Given the result from that one game, yes, this would make sense. The one caveat will be WR development. If that’s there, the tight ends will see fewer targets. Going into 2014, which group do you think is in better position to dictate targets? (It’s the tight ends.)
Cousins ... Junior Henry Krieger-Coble and Kittle are cousins, part of the same Iowa Hawkeye family tree that includes former basketball star Jess Settles and Brad Carlson, the all-Big Ten first baseman and career home-run record holder (45 from 1999-02) for the Hawkeyes.
Kittle’s dad, Bruce, played offensive line for Kirk Ferentz, was a four-year letterman, a starting offensive tackle and a team captain for the first of Hayden Fry’s three Rose Bowl squads. Krieger-Coble’s mom, Amy Krieger, played softball at Iowa.
They are family (sung to the tune of the famous Sister Sledge song).
In-line and move ... Krieger-Coble and Kittle are cousins, but that’s where the similarities end as far as their games go. Krieger-Coble (6-4, 250, a junior) has a blocker’s build and is often called upon to be a No. 2 tight end, more of a blocker than a pass catcher. But don’t only think of him as a blocker. Senior tight end Ray Hamilton is quick to praise Kreiger-Coble’s soft hands (he has four catches for 30 yards and a TD in his career).
Kittle doesn’t have the lead in the can that his cousin does (230 to 250), but he has wheels. Hamilton compared Kittle’s speed to Duzey’s. After Ohio State last year, Duzey fielded more than a few questions about his speed (he outran a corner for an 85-yard TD) and he claimed a 4.5 40-yard dash. So, if your two “move” tight ends have wheels like that, the three-TE set ...
“The 13 personnel [which, by the way, is three TEs and one running back] is something that we feel like gives the defense some problems in terms of lining up where pass strength is, where run strength is,” Davis said. “Last year, we felt very comfortable putting that personnel grouping on the field and we have still got it and we are still using it some.”
Outlook ... Iowa tight end will obviously be very different this year. Fiedorowicz is a Texan and leaves a 6-7, 265-pound hole. You want to say Iowa will miss Fiedorowicz’s blocking (he made himself into a bruising, effective blocker), but he caught 75 passes and seven TDs the last two seasons and that’s production you can’t ignore.
That said, Fiedorowicz doesn’t have the straight-line speed Duzey and Kittle have. Between Hamilton and Krieger-Coble, Iowa has two blockers who might be able to approach Fiedorowicz’s expertise there.
Iowa has four experienced tight ends for 2014. Hamilton and Krieger-Coble are the top two in-line bodies. Duzey and Kittle are movers. How Davis decides to use them is all that matters.
“Henry has great ball skills and is, you know, comfortable moving around in motion, inserting himself,” Davis said. “George lacks some strength. It’s an area that he has to improve on, but he can stretch the field more than most tight ends in the country. So, there’s a place for all of those guys to get in there.”
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