IOWA CITY — “Tight End U” has kind of been “Tight End As Afterthought U” through the first two games of the season. Which is just plain weird.
Iowa didn’t have any catches from its tight ends in last Saturday’s 30-0 win over Rutgers. In the opener two weeks ago against Miami (Ohio), Shaun Beyer had three catches for 30 yards.
By the way, prior to last Saturday, the last time Hawkeyes tight ends were shut out was Nov. 12, 2016.
You might remember that game. Iowa shocked No. 2 Michigan at Kinnick Stadium.
“I think you’d have to ask (offensive coordinator) Coach Brian (Ferentz) about that one,” Iowa senior tight end Nate Wieting said, when asked if his group would get more involved in the passing game as the season wears on. “Right now, we are just focused on doing our job to the best of our abilities. Whether that’s running off safeties, whether that’s trying to get open on linebackers or cornerbacks, trying to find a mismatch. Winning in the run game, protecting (Nate) Stanley when he’s dropping back.
“Coach Brian asks a lot of the tight ends, and I think we’ve done a really good job of executing our job up to this point.”
Without T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant and George Kittle (all starting for their respective NFL teams) at his disposal, Ferentz has found other ways for his team to move the football.
The ground game has been good, and Iowa seems to have capable wide receivers all over the place now. The tight ends haven’t been needed as much, except, as Wieting pointed out, in blocking situations, protecting quarterback Stanley and helping get receivers open.
That’s OK. It’s just a little different for “Tight End U.”
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“Just the other day, Coach Brian said the tight end’s job on this (particular) play was to clear out the high coverage, so we can get something underneath,” Wieting said. “That’s not glorified, that’s not something that’s probably going to be written about. But you’ve got to do that job to the best of your ability, to open up your teammate so he can make plays.”
There is inexperience at the position, which could be another reason for a lack of tight end targets early.
Wieting is a senior and former walk-on with three career catches. Junior Beyer’s catches against Miami were the first of his career.
Drew Cook is a senior converted from quarterback who does not have a career catch and who has played in only seven games in his career. True freshman Sam LaPorta has gotten a few snaps here and there.
“They’re doing fine,” said Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz. “Probably the first thing that comes to mind are the catches Shaun made a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully good for his confidence, because he doesn’t have a lot of playing experience. So I think that’s certainly a positive. Nate’s doing a good job, and Drew and Shaun are coming along behind trying to gain on the fly. We’ll keep pushing those guys, and hopefully they can help contribute this week.”
“Exciting, a lot of fun, but also a lot of responsibility,” Wieting said, about being a starter. “I know I’ve got to prepare to the best of my abilities, and that starts Sundays after the game, really. Getting to bed early, so you can wake up Monday ready to go. You’ve got to bring it every day. Other guys, younger guys are looking at you, and you’ve got to set the tone, set the example and bring energy and enthusiasm every single day in practice.”
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