AMES — Iowa State redshirt junior Chase Allen feels a level of excitement and energy around the tight end position room that he hasn’t felt in his four years at Iowa State.
The position group finally has veterans who have played meaningful snaps. Led by Allen, they have versatile guys who can do different things and offensive coordinator Tom Manning is back from his one-year stint coaching tight ends in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts.
Manning and Iowa State tight ends coach Alex Golesh have watched film of the Colts to see what will transfer from the NFL to Iowa State’s offense.
One of the biggest things they see is being able to use the tight ends in the red zone more. In the past, Iowa State had 6-foot-5 Allen Lazard or 6-foot-6 Hakeem Butler, receivers who could line up near the boundary come down with balls thrown in their vicinity. The Cyclones don’t have that kind of receiver this season, so it will be up to the tight ends to help in that area of the field.
“(Red-zone targets) a little bit has come to fruition. Charlie (Kolar) had a couple last year,” Golesh said. “We have to earn those, but we spent a lot of time this winter trying to become that guy. It’s unique in that spot because you match up against safeties, which is different than what Allen and Hakeem faced.
“With Coach Manning going and coaching tight ends in the NFL, it’s been easy to sell our guys and show them, ‘This is what you could have.’ They’ve really enjoyed watching (the Colts’ tight ends) go up and get balls in the red zone.”
Allen believes his, Kolar’s and Dylan Soehner’s ability to be positionally flexible in the red zone will help.
“Somebody has to be a big target down there and we are 6-foot-6, 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-7,” Allen said. “It makes a lot of sense for us to be that. But we have to work on timing with the quarterbacks.
“We can be flexible. Look at Iowa’s tight ends last year, they were huge for their offense and hopefully they have great careers in the NFL. We just want to get to a spot where we can be like that as well.”
Manning is excited to see how he can use the tight ends and which personnel groupings he’s able to use with them. Last season, Sam Seonbuchner was a huge asset to Iowa State’s offense, but he was in, almost exclusively, to run block for David Montgomery. When he was in, it was almost a dead giveaway what Iowa State was going to do.
Now, the Cyclones believe they’ll be able to keep teams a little more off balance.
“It’s a really interesting group of guys,” Manning said. “The first thing that sticks out to you is that we have a lot of them. Having tight ends is something that helps any offense. It gives you the ability to be in multiple sets and different personnel packages. In today’s day and age there is a lot of 11 personnel with a lot of receivers on the field, and I just feel like those guys have done a good job of going in there and adapting and do some different things.”
Allen has noticed the difference in how much the tight ends are being utilized. Iowa State went from zero scholarship tight ends when Allen arrived, to now using them as an important part of the offense.
“We have guys that can play all sorts of spots all over the field and there is a lot of fun stuff for us to do,” Allen said. “We’re not just pass protecting anymore, we’re really an asset to the offense, now.
“We all found a new love of football.”
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