Hawks set to lean on deep tight end group
IOWA CITY – Iowa’s dependence on tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz in key moments last season might have left the impression that the Hawkeyes were thin at that spot.
Iowa hopes a deep group of tight ends that played behind Fiedorowicz in 2013 can play bigger roles this fall.
Last season, Fiedorowicz was Iowa’s second-leading receiver with 30 receptions for 299 yards and six touchdowns. He was taken in the NFL Draft in May by the Houston Texans, leaving Ray Hamilton, Jake Duzey, George Kittle and Henry Krieger-Coble behind.
Hamilton said Wednesday that Fiedorowicz’s departure has helped foster strong competition for playing time.
Hamilton, Duzey and Kittle combined for 32 receptions, 473 yards, and two TDs last season.
“We’re all gunning for certain spots, we know they’re only going to put one, two, or three tight ends and we have more tight ends than that,” Hamilton said. “A lot of us are talented guys that we feel could help the team and get the best out of each other.”
Kittle is the smallest of the bunch at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, and the Hawkeyes hope their collective size and athleticism can create matchup issues for opposing defensive backfields.
Iowa strong safety John Lowdermilk, who frequently matches up with them in practice, said the Hawkeyes tight ends are harder to cover than anyone he has faced in a game.
“(Duzey and Kittle) are big guys with receiver speed so they’re a pain to cover,” Lowdermilk said. “It gets pretty competitive.”
Though Iowa also appears to deeper at wide receiver than it’s been in year’s past, that group is relatively unproven and inexperienced beyond senior Kevonte Martin-Manley.
But the Hawkeyes have long had a tradition of utilizing their tight ends under 16th-year coach Kirk Ferentz, a tradition highlighted by the recently retired Dallas Clark.
Few expect Hamilton, Duzey, Kittle or Krieger-Coble to play as well as Fiedorowicz did in helping Iowa win eight games in 2013 after a 4-8 season two years ago.
But if the four vying for snaps in the offseason can all contribute this fall, the Hawkeyes could again find themselves thriving behind their tight ends.
“We all bring different things to the table,” Hamilton said. “As long as everyone can complement each other really well and produce … that’s what is most important to helping this team win.”