The Iowa football team will be replacing 10 starters this season, but there are plenty of reinforcements at the tight end position.
Four players who logged significant experience in 2013 return this fall despite the loss of C.J. Fiedorowicz, who was picked 65th overall in the NFL draft by Houston. While Fiedorowicz’s production will be missed, the foursome are somewhat of a conglomerate-in-waiting as the Hawkeyes continue a trend of success at tight end.
Senior Ray Hamilton, juniors Jake Duzey and Henry Krieger-Coble, and sophomore George Kittle are all expected to contribute this season.
Hamilton is the most seasoned, having appeared in 34 games in three years.
“Ray Hamilton is a guy, in my opinion, that is probably better than we think, maybe, he is,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Ray’s made some nice plays for us. He’s done some really good things and I think we’ve seen him grow since last spring.”
Sitting at No. 2 on the depth chart for three seasons, Hamilton now anchors what is perhaps Iowa’s deepest position group on the roster.
Being an effective blocker is as important as catching passes in the Hawkeyes’ offense. Without blocking, there isn’t an opportunity for statistics.
Hamilton caught eight passes for 95 yards in 2013, but proved himself in blocking schemes.
“I’ve had a few different coaches over the years, but they all have the same core values and do a good job of teaching the fundamentals and the details of the position,” Hamilton said. “We take blocking first, then go out there and catch passes. You need to be able to block in order to see the field here.”
Duzey led the returning group with 19 catches; Kittle caught five; and Krieger-Coble had none, though he caught four as a freshman in 2012.
Don’t be surprised to see three tight ends on the field during certain plays.
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis installed a three-tight end set during the season last year, and the formation was effective. Defenses struggled with where to line up opposite of what was usually an empty formation — all three tight ends at the line of scrimmage and a receiver lined up on each side of the ball.
“Whatever Coach Davis calls, that’s what we’ll go with,” Hamilton said. “As tight ends, we like having as many out there as possible. Three-tight end sets means there are more spots out on the field for us.”
Quarterback Jake Rudock is comfortable with all four options at tight end as he adjusts to life after Fiedorowicz.
“One of the biggest things is they do a great job of blocking and running their routes, which makes it hard for defenses to cover,” Rudock said. “The versatility they have is really helpful.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football