AMES — No. 17 Iowa State has the best tight ends room in the Big 12 and one of the best in the nation.
All three who play on a regular basis have earned all-Big 12 accolades.
Charlie Kolar was a first-team selection last season, Chase Allen was a second-team pick and Dylan Soehner was honorable mention.
The group isn’t disappointing this season, either.
Kolar has 23 receptions for 264 yards and three touchdowns, Allen has 13 catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns and Soehner has eight catches for 79 yards.
While Soehner’s pass-catching numbers don’t stand out, the 6-foot-7, 270-pounder is the best blocker of the bunch.
The group has helped pave the way for running back Breece Hall to lead the nation in rushing.
It’s that versatility that Coach Matt Campbell loves.
“The neat thing for us is they all have the ability to do what really good tight ends have the ability to do,” Campbell said. “And that’s the ability to flex out, play attached or to play as an f-back. All three can do that. All three have the ability to be great pass catchers, all three have the ability to be really good blockers and that’s what is so unique about the group.”
And it’s that versatility that makes it so hard on defenses.
Iowa State is the only team in the Big 12 that uses 13 personnel (one running back and three tight ends) on a regular basis.
“Teams try different things against us,” Kolar said. “Teams have to play us differently, so sometimes you have to guess because you haven’t seen what they’re doing to you on film before because they haven’t played against 13 personnel yet.
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“Some teams load the box when we use 13 personnel, some teams treat us as receivers — they all try different things and you just try to address it and attack it no matter what it is.”
Against the teams that treat them as receivers and stay in their base defense, expect Hall to get the ball. Against teams that load the box and bring the safeties down, expect quarterback Brock Purdy to look their way.
“The word I would use to describe that group is exceptional,” Campbell said. “What we’ve asked those guys to do, the amount of knowledge and understanding and adapting in game to adjust, has been incredible. Their ability to retain those items and their ability to have knowledge and football awareness to be able to adapt and grow has been tremendous. We’re really fortunate that all three of those guys have done an incredible job.”
While Campbell sings their praises, Kolar feels like there’s more they can do.
“We’re doing all right,” Kolar said. “We’re 5-2 and that’s the most important stat. We don’t try to focus too much on our room, we’re more focused on the entire building. It doesn’t matter if the tight ends have 10 touchdowns if we lose the game. We’ve helped the team out but we can continue to improve.
“We need to keep getting open for Brock and make it easy for him. And then in the run game, we’ve been pretty good making it as easy for Breece as possible. We need to keep improving in all aspects of the game — creating edges, get separation — just little things here and there.”
Campbell is comfortable praising the tight ends because their own expectations are higher than any expectations anyone else could put on them.
He knows they won’t become complacent.
“When you talk about each one of them individually, they’re all playing some of the best football of their career,” Campbell said. “From that standpoint on top of the collective whole, what they’re doing by playing at such a high level has been really big for this football program.”