ABOUT A YEAR AGO, Iowa expected to enter the 2015 season with two senior starters at tight end. Then Jake Duzey tore up his knee during spring practice and suddenly George Kittle was expected to step in. Kittle's emergence began last April and continued through August and into the season, where he finished with 20 catches for 290 yards and 6 touchdowns. He finished second on the year at tight end behind senior Henry Krieger-Coble (35 rec, 405 yds, 1 TD). Kittle will be a key weapon for the 2016 Iowa offense.
Behind Kittle's 20 receptions Iowa returns one total catch from a young group of tight ends (Jameer Outsey). The Hawkeyes often utilize two and three tight end sets so one or two spots are up for grabs this spring. The previously mentioned Outsey begins second on the January depth chart behind Kittle. Can he hold that spot? Who else will push for playing time? Let's take a look.
JON WISNIESKI SOPH 6'5" 247
Wisnieski was a four-star recruit from West Des Moines Dowling that suffered a knee injury his first year on campus that set his development back a year. He was picked as a possible breakout player last spring by yours truly but that never materialized.
Wisnieski was in a battle with Peter Pekar for playing time last Spring and eventually both were passed by converted linebacker Jameer Outsey. Wisnieski doesn't appear yet on the depth chart but Iowa does utilize three tight end sets at times. His blocking ability will get him on the field and he may be more of a pure receiver than Outsey. Regardless of who starts, expect both to play a lot.
PETER PEKAR JR 6'4" 245
If Wisnieski doesn't lock down the second or even third tight end spot, Pekar may be that guy. He's been a spring practice star the last few years, getting lots of reps with the second unit. He has the size to play along the line but it's not clear how effective he can be in motion or out of the backfield. It's a big spring for Pekar if he's going to make a splash on this Iowa team. The latest recruiting class haul has four or five tight ends that will fight for playing time in 2017.
NATE VEJVODA RS FR 6'5" 215
Vejvoda is kind of a forgotten guy with all the prospects Iowa brought in with the 2016 recruiting class. Iowa has a type with tight end recruits. Like Jake Duzey, Vejvoda arrived a slight 215 pounds and this first year is his year to pack on the pounds to get to the 245 that Iowa likes at that position. He played on the outside in high school, similar to Duzey. Vejvoda could find his way behind Kittle as Iowa's outside threat at tight end.
NATE WIETING RS FR 6'4" 225
Similar to Pekar's story, Wieting is a walk-on. He earned honors at Iowa's 2015 team ceremony for his work on the scout team. Like Vejvoda, Wieting is still a few pounds away from blocking Big Ten linebackers. If he's invited to spring watch for plenty of action with the second and third unit.