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Iowa Football Position Previews: Tight End

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Iowa returns their most electric player at the position since Dallas Clark

NCAA Football: North Texas at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes are in fantastic position heading into 2018 with the tight ends they return. Only Peter Pekar departs with his 2 receptions and countless blocks. It’s thankless work and someone figures to step into his role as the Hawkeyes played 4 tight ends with regularity last year.

It is a little bit of a weird scholarship distribution, especially after Jacob Coonsdeparture, as evidenced below:

Iowa Hawkeyes Scholarship Distribution

POS SR JR SO RS FR Incoming FR Total 2019 2020
POS SR JR SO RS FR Incoming FR Total 2019 2020
TE Drew Cook; Noah Fant; Nate Vejvoda; Nate Wieting* Shaun Beyer; TJ Hockenson 5 Logan Lee
* walk-on

In addition to those listed, there are a few other walk-ons at the position hoping to become the next Peter Pekar. Or Dallas Clark. Weird things happen.

Speaking of Clark, Iowa returns the most explosive player they’ve had at the position in Noah Fant. Hawk fans can typically chalk up about 50 receptions to their tight ends, but few have matched his yards per reception in Ferentz’s time here.

Another thing to consider with this position group is the newly appointed coach in the room: Brian Ferentz. His history with the position is short but notable as the Patriots TE coach during the days of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. If anyone in college football knows how to maximize the position, it might just be Brian.

Want a Fant, ah, don’t you want a...

Noah Fant (#87, Junior, 6’5”, 241 lbs, Omaha South, Omaha, NE)

There was no more explosive player in the country at the position than Fant. His 16.5 yards per catch and 11 TDs led the nation for tight ends. His name is on both of ESPN’s first round draft boards. And with reason:

Thank goodness he didn’t get that last one called back.

He finished 2017 with 30 receptions and 494 yards, both second on the team behind Nick Easley. His 16.5 YPC were the most for an Iowa tight end since Dallas Clark in 2002.

If there’s anything he can improve, it’s being more sure-handed. The Northwestern game ended on a fourth down incompletion which hit him in the numbers - he was thinking TD when the first down was enough. Really, that’s his only downside: he’s a good enough blocker, he’s an out-of-this-world athlete, and he’s checked every box to get himself on the field to produce.

He’ll be playing Sundays soon enough so let’s enjoy his play on Saturdays. His big play certainly warrants it.

Hocken-Dazs

T.J. Hockenson (#38, Sophomore, 6’5”, 250 lbs, Chariton HS, Chariton, IA)

If Fant is all of the ice cream toppings elevating Iowa TE play to heights unseen since the beginning of this millennia, Hockenson is the steady vanilla ice cream on which the sundae is built.

Blocking? Check.

Sure hands? Check.

His stats - 320 yards on 24 receptions for 3 TDs - don’t stick out compared to Fant’s but his reception total is unmatched by any Kirk Ferentz #2 TE. As the better blocker, he sees the field more than Fant so we might see those numbers expand.

Jordan Hansen did some yeoman’s work on the two earlier this offseason detailing all the two can do. What makes Hockenson great is he can catch on the move as well as find the openings in zone defense to move the chains (or score).

If Iowa is going to have a great season, Hock will be a reason why.

The Blocker

Nate Wieting (#39, Junior, 6’4”, 250 lbs, Rockford Lutheran, Rockford, IL)

Wieting saw the field much of last year after nursing an injury throughout the non-conference season. His only reception came in the Pinstripe Bowl. Will he turn into anything more than a blocker this year? We’ll see. But the history of Iowa tight ends says he doesn’t need to catch passes to see the field.

The Question Marks

Shaun Beyer (#42, Sophomore, 6’5” 240 lbs, CR Kennedy, Shellsburg, IA)

Drew Cook (#18, Junior, 6’5”, 250 lbs, Regina, Iowa City, IA)

If there’s anything we know for sure from these two, it’s that Kirk Ferentz and Chris Doyle have tight end scouting and development down to a science. All 5 mentioned so far are almost exactly 6’5”, 250 lbs.

Of the two, Beyer looks to be the one who might see the field, as he climbed his way onto the spring depth chart after a redshirt season at WR and some special teams action last year. He might get a reception or two in garbage time but without seeing it in game action - blocking especially - it’s tough to see him breaking through the depth chart barring injuries or suspensions.

Cook is certainly the more interesting prospect of the two. He spent the better part of two years at QB after leading his high school team, coached by Hawkeye legend and his father Marv Cook, to four straight state titles (1A). Did he spend too much time at QB? Probably, according to me. Definitely, according to my Dad, who wanted to see him follow in his father’s footsteps at TE. The clock hasn’t run out, but it’s ticking.

Break Glass in Case of Emergency

Nate Vejvoda (#85, Junior, 6’5”, 250 lbs, Providence Catholic, Homer Glen, IL)
Noah Feldman (#86, RS Freshman, 6’4”, 230 lbs, West Liberty HS, West Liberty, IA)
Tommy Kujawa (#46, RS Freshman, 6’3”, 230 lbs, Greendale HS, Greendale, WI)
Bryce Schulte (#48, RS Freshman, 6’3”, 244 lbs, CR Xavier, Cedar Rapids, IA)
Ben Subbert (Freshman, 6’3”, 235 lbs, Williamsburg HS, Williamsburg, IA)

With the exception of Vejvoda, these guys are all walk-ons. For them to see the field, the path is time and blocking. I’d bet one of these guys will factor into Brian’s gameplans. Just not this year.