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Hawkeyes dealing with lack of production from tight ends

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | OCTOBER 19, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa is experiencing uncharacteristically low production from its tight ends this season.

Through six games, four players — Zach Derby, Brad Herman, C.J. Fiedorowicz, and Ray Hamilton — have 14 catches among them and zero touchdowns.

Allen Reisner alone caught 19 passes with one touchdown in Iowa's first six games in 2010.

But coach Kirk Ferentz — whose teams have sent a bevy of tight ends to the NFL — said the lack of production is OK, as long as the Hawkeyes are scoring points.

They are.

Despite a 3-point output at Penn State, Iowa is still averaging 32.5 points per game, fourth in the Big Ten.

"Doesn't matter who's catching or whatever," Ferentz said. "One game it's this guy, and another game, it's that guy. It's managing. The thing is trying to get points — that's the bottom line."

Surprisingly good wide-receiver depth has helped neutralize Iowa's need for receptions from its tight ends. Marvin McNutt and Keenan Davis both rank among the Big Ten's top 10 in receptions and receiving yards per game. Redshirt freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley is among the conference's top 20 in both categories.

Still, quarterback James Vandenberg said, he would like to get the tight ends more involved.

"We know we can get them the ball more, and that's something we'll look to do," he said. "But if we're running the ball well and we're throwing the ball well, it's going to get spread around."

Donatell continues transition to linebacker

A few months ago, Tom Donatell never would have thought his first career start would be at linebacker.

But that's exactly where the former safety found himself in the Oct. 15 game against Northwestern. With Tyler Nielsen shifting to middle linebacker in place of the injured James Morris, Donatell took over Nielsen's usual strong-side role and registered seven tackles.

"I didn't see it coming at all," said Donatell, a junior. "But it's awesome to get out there and play and help contribute to a win."

When linebacker Shane DiBona went down to an Achilles injury in training camp, Donatell said coaches approached him and said, "Hey, we'll try you out for a couple practices."

"It stuck, and I've been doing linebacker ever since," Donatell said.

Donatell said he's encountered some difficulties in learning the position's technical nuances. Getting off blocks is a challenge he didn't face much as a safety, but every day marks part of the learning process, he said.

"It was new, a little faster-paced being that close to the line," he said. "But it was real similar to safety in certain circumstances. I just wanted to do anything to help the team."

Canzeri works through hamstring injury

Jordan Canzeri didn't play against Northwestern because of a strained hamstring suffered in practice on Oct. 11. The freshman running back hasn't played since his début on Sept. 24 against Louisiana-Monroe, when he racked up 30 yards on five carries.

Ferentz said he expects Canzeri to be OK to play this week.

"I don't know if he could have played or not last week," Ferentz said. "He probably could have played Saturday, but he didn't practice all week, so that kind of threw a monkey wrench in that one."

Ferentz is also optimistic that Morris (ankle), linebacker Anthony Hitchens (knee), and defensive tackle Tom Nardo (knee) will all be fit to return as well.

"They were all cleared last week, but I don't know how effectively they would have played," Ferentz said. "Hopefully, they'll be ready to go, and we'll see what happens."


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