IOWA CITY, Iowa — Noah Fant is 6-foot-5, 232 pounds, and has the speed and athleticism to make plays over the middle. He looks like the prototypical Iowa tight end.
After 10 months in the Hawkeyes football program, Fant sounds like one, too.
“You got to love [run] blocking to play tight end, especially here,” Fant said. “I love it. I can’t get enough of it.”
Fant is embracing the all-around expectations Iowa wants out of its tight ends. The last step is for him to refine his blocking.
“There is a lot I can work on, but that is definitely up there,” Fant said. “I have to block better.”
Fant, a sophomore, arrived at Iowa ready-made for the passing game. He caught 9 passes for 70 yards and 1 touchdown as a true freshman last season.
He is far from a finished product as a blocker. The Hawkeyes tended to leave Fant on the sideline when they gave the ball to running backs Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr.
Fant, who had a gun pulled on him on Tuesday, isn’t averse to blocking. He just needs to work on it.
“Any time I can get run-blocking practice in I love it because I love doing that also,” Fant said.
He must have loved spring practice. The Hawkeyes focused on fundamentals and spent quality time on driving defensive ends and sealing off linebackers on run plays.
“We broke it down to the way basics just so we could build off of that,” Fant said. “It’s a building block. That is what we started with.”
It’s exactly what he needed. Iowa’s starting tight end competition is wide open with a mix of athletic pass catchers (T.J. Hockenson and Fant) and run blockers (Peter Pekar, Nate Wieting). The Hawkeyes lack a player who excels at both. Anyone who does it will jump to the top of the depth chart.
Fant, a former 3-star prospect from Omaha, Neb., possesses the skill set to put it all together in 2017.
“You’ve seen Noah be able to stretch the field,” tight ends coach LeVar Woods said in April. “The guy can run, flat-out run, and I think he’s developing. He’s underrated a little bit as a blocker. He needs to refine his technique.”
Iowa is short on established wide receivers and loaded with tight end depth. The Hawkeyes rolled out two- and three-tight end sets and targeted the position during the spring game. New offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz isn’t afraid to utilize the group in different ways and highlight them in the passing attack.
The situation heading into the season seems to play to Fant’s strengths and should make him a front-runner for significant playing time. To capitalize, he needs to do more than love blocking. He needs to excel at blocking.