Iowa football: Previewing the tight ends

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Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz hopes to send another tight end to the NFL, making it 10 total tight ends of his getting a chance to play professionally.

Iowa football has some astounding statistics but perhaps the most fascinating one is that in head coach Kirk Ferentz’s career at Iowa, 9 tight ends have gone to the NFL with 7 of them being drafted. In that time, we have seen the likes of Dallas Clark, Tony Moeaki, Brandon Myers, and most recently, C.J. Fiedorowicz take the field and now it’s time for the remaining tight ends on the roster to make their presence felt. Iowa has the talent with some fairly high regarded recruits on the depth chart, but they all have been behind Fiedorowicz. This is the year to find out what they can offer.

Tight End: Ray Hamilton (#82, Senior, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, Strongsville (OH) HS)

This is what I said about Ray Hamilton in my potential break out stars for the Iowa Hawkeye’s offense:

“Hamilton is listed at starter for tight end right now for the Hawkeyes. He has also started three games for the Hawks at tight end in his career, all coming last season. He is a very good player, but he has been playing behind fan favorite in C.J. Fiedorowicz. Fiedorowicz was lauded as a freak athlete with his size and speed. He also spurned Illinois to come to Iowa during the recruitment process. Because of this, all the attention was focused on Fiedorowicz, so no one noticed that one year after Fiedorowicz came to Iowa, four star tight end Ray Hamilton, who had an offer from Ohio State, committed to the Hawkeyes.

Hamilton avoided a redshirt and has been a back-up the majority of his career. Now that Fiedorowicz has departed, Hamilton gets his chance to shine. Hamilton has size and deceptive speed. As a primary backup last season, Hamilton was known for his blocking and would come on when Iowa needed to get the running game going.

Hamilton hasn’t shown much as a receiver as he only has 11 receptions in his career, with nine last season. He has been a tight end under Kirk Ferentz so it is safe to say that Hamilton will be involved in the passing game as a safety valve for quarterback Jake Rudock. Iowa does have a few primary receiving tight ends in Jake Duzy and Henry Krieger Coble, so Iowa won’t rely too heavily on Hamilton. But based on how well past Iowa tight ends have played their senior years, (think Tony Moeaki, Allen Reisner, Brandon Myers, Fiedorowicz) we can expect a tremendous season for the first full time starter.”

I still think that he will be a big part of the offense, but we won’t see any amazing receiving days like we have seen with Moeaki and Myers. I also think that he will continue the Iowa tradition of tight ends going into the NFL.

Jake Duzey (#87, Junior (RS), 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, Athens HS (Troy, Mich.))

Jake Duzey is going to be a very interesting player to watch this season. He isn’t the typical Iowa tight end as he isn’t a very solid blocker but is a dynamic receiver. That receiving ability was on display when he took a wheel route 85 yards against Ohio State, outrunning their whole team. He ended the day with a total of 138 yards receiving on six catches. Sadly, he didn’t continue that production as he only had 270 yards all season long.

While Fiedorowicz departed, leaving the number two tight end spot open, Duzey may not win that job. Iowa’s number two tight ends typically have a block first mentality and they rarely shine in the receiving game. Hamilton is a prime example of that, he has only 11 receptions in his whole career and he has been the number two for the past couple of seasons. Because Ferentz likes a blocking number two, Duzey isn’t really much of an option there with that philosophy. He may have improved a lot this offseason but we don’t know for sure. If he hasn’t, Iowa will may look to their other options for blocking and bring on Duzey in obvious passing situations and three tight end sets. There also is a possibility that Duzey will be put in the slot sometime with his height and speed, but given Iowa’s lack of creativity on offense, that isn’t a for sure thing. Right now, Duzey is the wild card for the tight end group and we will have to see what the coaches have in store for him.

Henry Krieger Coble (#80, Junior (RS), 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Mt. Pleasant (Iowa) HS)

Krieger Coble is more of a typical Iowa tight end, tall, big, and a solid blocker. His redshirt freshman season, he had a four catch game against Michigan which was one of the few bright spots in that game. He also started in a game that season as the second tight end that season. Then last season, he regressed, having no statistics besides returning one squib kick eight yards.

This season there is more optimism surrounding him as he is known for being a solid blocker so he may get a chance at the second spot. Right now it is Duzey’s to lose, but if Ferentz wants a better blocker, Krieger Coble may get his chance.

George Kittle (#46, Sophomore (RS), 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Norman (Okla.) HS)

Kittle is yet another player contending for the second tight end spot on the depth chart. He actually started there against Iowa State last season as a redshirt freshman. He had five receptions last season and turned a couple meager receptions into big yards. While he isn’t too much of a blocker at this point, he is a dynamic receiver. He is more like Duzey than Hamilton, with a smaller frame and more known for his speed than blocking ability. He still has plenty of time to improve in that area, but for this season, look for him to make a similar impact to what Duzey had last season. He will make some plays in the air that will make you say “wow” and then disappear for some other games.

Jon Wisnieski (#81, Freshman (RS), 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, Dowling Catholic HS (West Des Moines, Iowa))

Wisnieski, a highly regarded recruit from Iowa, is going to rarely play this season with four other players ahead of him. He has an excellent frame and will most likely add on another 10 to 15 pounds in the next couple of years. He is the tight end of the future and we will have to wait and see if he will become another great tight end for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

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