Hawkeye Football Position Previews: Tight Ends

BY TORK MASON | AUGUST 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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C.J. Fiedorowicz isn’t the only reason the tight-end position is one of the Iowa football team’s strengths this year. The junior appears poised for a breakout season, but coaches say the depth and versatility behind him are important, too.

Several other tight ends impressed coaches in spring and fall practices. Senior Zach Derby and redshirt freshmen Jake Duzey and Henry Krieger-Coble played well enough that offensive coordinator Greg Davis said the team could frequently show multiple-tight end formations.

Quarterback James Vandenberg said several tight ends were proving to be steady targets in practice.
“We might spread the ball around a little more,” he said. “We’re going to get the ball to numerous different tight ends.”

Derby got his first significant experience as a junior last year. He only pulled in 12 catches for 117 yards on the season, but he showed the steady blocking ability that earns playing time for Hawkeye tight ends.

Krieger-Coble showed flashes in the team’s spring game, making an impressive diving catch. Duzey caught the team’s only touchdown during an Aug. 18 scrimmage.

Sophomore Ray Hamilton said the tight end is going to have a significant role in Davis’ offense, just as it did under former coordinator Ken O’Keefe.

“We have the ability to make plays and be playmakers out there,” Hamilton said. “And this team is going to need playmakers this year, and it’s going to need people to step up. So whoever is called on, we’ve got so much depth that that person is going to go in there, and he’s going to do a great job.”

Fiedorowicz said the play calls are more simplified this year than they have been in the past, and they tell the tight end exactly what route to run on a given play. He said he struggled at times in the old system when he had to make decisions based on what he was seeing from the defense.

Hamilton said that helps the tight ends as they make the transition to a new offense, but it doesn’t change things in the big picture.

“Coach Davis does a great job implementing [his schemes] for us,” he said. “It is maybe a little simpler, but at the end of the day, an offense is an offense, and it all goes back to concepts.”

Hamilton said the tight ends would be asked to do some different things than they have in the past, but blocking effectively in the running game isn’t an expectation that has changed under Davis. That was one thing that held up Fiedorowicz during his first two years. But he said he got his act together in the middle of last season.

“I just started listening to the details and focusing on what I had to do,” Fiedorowicz said. “I was getting sick of standing on the sideline like I did my freshman year.”

The then-sophomore recorded only 16 catches last year, but 12 of those came over Iowa’s final four games as he began to emerge as a target for quarterback James Vandenberg. Vandenberg said he could tell when Fiedorowicz rededicated himself, and seemed confident that the focus will carry over to the 2012 season.

“He’s a guy who’s extremely capable and really took steps forward in the spring and just has continued to do that over the summer,” Vandenberg said. “He’s still young — he’s only going to get better.”

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