Why Iowa might use 4-tight end sets this fall
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Will Iowa use 4-tight end sets? — Josh Zylstra
ANSWER: At nearly every school in college football, considering a four-tight end formation would get as much of a chuckle as suggesting a team needs to return to a wishbone running attack. But at Iowa, it is worth taking seriously.
Iowa used a three-tight end grouping 33 times in 2017, including 21 plays with one running back and one wide receiver. The Hawkeyes actually passed 11 times (one-third) out of those three-tight end formations. That suggests offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz is comfortable with his tight ends in all situations, and they’re athletic enough to play key roles in the passing game. This, of course, is the case.
Junior tight end Noah Fant caught 11 touchdowns and averaged 16.5 yards per catch last fall. Fant led all tight ends nationally in both categories. Sophomore T.J. Hockenson caught 24 passes for 320 yards and 3 touchdowns last year. Converted wide receiver Shaun Beyer, a sophomore, seems poised to have a big role in the offense, and junior Nate Wieting has emerged as the designated blocking tight end. Junior Drew Cook, who switched from quarterback to tight end late last spring, has the pedigree to play the position at a high level. Cook’s father, Marv, was an All-American at Iowa and later an All-Pro with the New England Patriots.
It’s unlikely Iowa would use a four-tight end set in a traditional down and distance. It would involve more of the Hawkeyes’ four-minute offense when they’re trying to close out games or perhaps in short-yardage situations. But with Iowa’s versatile playmakers at tight end, a four-tight end set definitely is a possibility for this season.
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