No. 36 . . . In the last week of spring practice, senior tight end Jake Duzey suffered a knee injury (possibly patellar tendon). It was kept silent for a few days, but when the Hawkeyes held their spring game, Duzey showed up on crutches.
Now, that wasn’t the end for Duzey, his Iowa career or his 2015 season. When asked about the injury after the spring game, Ferentz said he thought late September or early October for a return. Then, in June, Ferentz repeated the September timeline, saying “He’s on schedule. Everything was smooth and routine. Just keep pushing forward. We’ll probably know more in August certainly. So far everything’s right on schedule.”
What Iowa will be missing, at least for a while . . . With 58 receptions, Duzey (6-4, 245) is Iowa’s second-leading returning receiver (behind Tevaun Smith’s 70 receptions). He was No. 3 on the team last season with 36 catches for 392 yards and three TDs.
Here’s first-year tight ends coach LeVar Woods on what Iowa will be missing, at least for a while, with Duzey’s absence: “He’s big, he’s fast and he’s strong, and so that’s everything you’re looking for in a tight end,” Woods said. “That’s his skill set.
“The things that I think will help him is just be more consistent. And Jake will be the first to tell you that there’s four, five or six drops that he had last year, that watching all the film, I expect the guy to make the play. Maybe that’s being unrealistic but to me if a ball hits your hands, you should catch the ball, especially if you’re an offensive skill player.
“I think that will help him, just focusing in and then we’ll have to get into some of the techniques more as I get more comfortable teaching him some of that stuff. But Jake’s already well on his way, and all the guys are well on their way and now it’s just a matter of reining him in and tightening things down and being more consistent with what we are doing.”
You want a sharper, more focused Duzey, but you’ll have to wait until sometime in December.
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Outlook . . . This is a total “wait and see” type of a deal. For what he’s done and what he could do, Duzey belongs on this list. Healthy Duzey is a top 10 player at Iowa, at least 25 spots higher than No. 36. But there was the injury and here this is.
(Ferentz has been positive and we don’t know the extent of Duzey’s injury, so let’s not leap to grave conclusions. However, for reference, New York Giants WR Victor Cruz suffered a torn patellar tendon last October. Here’s a post laying out Cruz’s recovery. Click the link and get ready to read “long road” a lot. You might want to hold off on drafting him for your fantasy football team this year. Again, all indications with Duzey point to his injury not being nearly as extensive.)
Duzey certainly would make a difference in Iowa’s September — Illinois State, at Iowa State, Pittsburgh and North Texas. The first three are going to be tests for a team with a new QB, two new starting offensive tackles and a productive senior TE who’s probably the team’s No. 2 receiving option.
As this list unfolds, we’ll get more and more into how TE will look while Duzey is out. You already know that junior George Kittle is certainly going to have the highest profile of his career. If he develops and healthy Duzey returns for the Big Ten season, the Hawkeyes will find themselves in the super bonus at tight end.
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