116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa’s tight ends are set to be a key component to its offensive success this season.
Injuries and the pandemic destabilized the position the past couple seasons, but the FCS’s move to the spring last season did offer opportunities for multiple players to gain experience.
Headed into 2021, health and development has rebuilt the position and has it poised to help UNI recapture some of its best form from the past few years.
Graduate senior Kyle Fourtenbary returns and will provide a productive, veteran leader at the position.
UNI offensive line coach and run game coordinator Ryan Clanton said that Fourtenbary offers versatility.
“Kyle is a very good tight end,” Clanton said. “He has the ability to flex out wide and be a threat in the passing game. As well as be an off-tight end and be a threat in the quarterback-run game. He can also be a Y-on guy (on the offensive line). He’s got a lot of versatility (and) he’s mature. I think he’s going to be a huge part of our offense this year.”
Along with Fourtenbary’s experience and versatility, Jayden Scott is on schedule to return from a 2019 knee injury this fall. He gained experience in 2019 after Briley Moore’s neck injury and Clanton says the Omaha, Neb., native looks to be in the best shape of his collegiate career.
“Jayden is massive. He’s looking really good,” Clanton said. “Coming off his injury he’s doing a really good job. We’re expecting him to have a big year blocking, catching (and) doing a little bit of everything for us because he does have the body to do a little bit of everything.”
Among UNI’s underclassmen at the position are Noah Abbott, Maverick Gatrost and Dawson Fenton. Alex Allen — a junior — also returns after gaining a bulk of experience this spring, mostly as a run blocker.
None among the Panthers trio of underclassmen have much experience, but Clanton said that Abbott is physically ready to contribute.
“I recruited Noah and he’s got the frame,” Clanton said. “A really, really strong, gifted athlete. He’s a heck of a kid, too. He’s a no nonsense, just work, doesn’t talk about it type of kid — which I love about him.”
“Maverick has a big frame on him as well. I think he’s going to take off in the run-blocking aspect.”
Beyond the particulars of UNI’s personnel at tight end, its ability to run 12 personnel regularly (one running back, two tight ends) continues to be frequently mentioned by its offensive staff as an important factor toward its effectiveness.
Entering this fall with three players at the position with extensive snap counts, along with a promising trio of underclassmen, suggests a move back toward more of the 12 personnel sets the Panthers offensive staff seeks.
“We got multiple (position) groupings that look the same — you can call them all 12,” Clanton said. “I think that’s going to help us a lot in the run game and to be honest with you we’ve got some talent coming in at tailback, so that’s going to be awesome to watch those guys run. You definitely don’t want to get stuck in 11 personnel. Having the ability to get multiple and be healthy with that, it will be a first and we’re excited about that.”