The Iowa Hawkeyes are known nationally for producing NFL-level talent at a few positions. Defensive backs are built in Iowa City. Offensive linemen play at the next level if they make it at Iowa. But at the end of the day, the University of Iowa is Tight End U.
While that tradition has been going for the better part of two decades, Iowa has come to the forefront of the national discussion on tight ends over the last several years as George Kittle has risen to the top of the NFL at the position and Iowa set an NFL record with two tight ends selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in the same season with TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant.
Now the Hawkeyes look to reload at the position in the class of 2022 after not taking a tight end in the class of 2021. A big part of that, literally, is Cael Vanderbush. The Indiana native is a big body at 6’6” and he looks to fill those big tight end shoes in Iowa City as he officially signed his national letter of intent on Wednesday.
Vanderbush, despite that big 6’6” frame, is not one of those big bodies who could end up on the offensive line. As a prep, Vanderbush routinely lined up split out wide as a receiver given his plus speed for the position and ability to go up and attack the ball above opponents reach.
As a senior at Plainfield, Vanderbush finished with 35 catches for 736 yards and an absurb 21 yards per reception - a number more in line with a receiver like Keagan Johnson than a tight end. He found paydirt 8 times this year, including multiple 80+ yard catch and runs.
While he has the speed to line up out wide, Vanderbush is also versatile and played plenty of snaps in line as a prep. He’s an adequate blocker, something that will likely continue to develop as he adds bulk to that big frame at the next level.
Provided he can add that bulk and develop as a blocker without losing his speed and athleticism, Vanderbush projects as another good one for Kirk Ferentz and company.
Braden Smith lobs to Cael Vanderbush for the DUNK pic.twitter.com/wvpGQgDXxC— Indy Heat - Gym Rats (@indyheatgymrats) May 1, 2021
Vanderbush, once a Western Michigan commit, saw his recruiting take off later in the cycle. He ultimately chose Iowa over offers from Utah, Air Force and Western Michigan.
Welcome aboard, officially, Cael Vanderbush!