IOWA CITY — C.J. Fiedorowicz grabbed 45 passes a year ago as the Iowa football team looked for ways to move the ball.
Midway through his senior season, Fiedorowicz counts 11 receptions on his resumé and offense coordinator Greg Davis sees the reduction in passes caught by Hawkeye tight ends as part of the evolution of the team’s offense.
“Quite honestly, we are not having to depend on them quite as much as we did last year,’’ Davis said.
Instead, he sees the overall development of Iowa’s receivers as the primary reason quarterback Jake Rudock has been able to spread the ball around more frequently.
A total of 17 Hawkeyes have caught passes as Iowa has worked its way to a 4-2 start, and among the 105 passes Rudock has completed this season, 62 have been thrown to wide receivers, 23 have gone to tight ends and he has connected 20 times with running backs.
“We’ve got more guys that we feel like we can play, and that’s a good thing,’’ Davis said. “We’ve got more guys that can fill different roles than we had last year.’’
That is leading the ball in different directions for the Hawkeyes, who have gained 1,245 yards on the ground and 1,256 yards through the air during the first half of the season.
As Iowa turns its attention toward Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game at Ohio State, Davis likes the way that Rudock is distributing the ball. The sophomore ranks sixth in the Big Ten in passing average and 10th in pass efficiency.
From utilizing the strength of Fiedorowicz and Ray Hamilton at tight end, to the use of running back Damon Bullock in quick-strike situations, to the reliability of Kevonte Martin-Manley and to making the most of Damond Powell’s speed when throwing deep, Davis likes the options that exist in the passing game.
“When we’re sitting up there and the box is beginning to be loaded, we can flip it out to a slot receiver on a quick out for six yards and for us to be as good as we can be, the quick game has to be good,’’ Davis said.
And ideally, that leads to a more effective deep game.
“The hope is that that also sets up something downfield. We’re trying to take more shots than we did last year,’’ Davis said. “It would be nice if we hit some of them, but we want to continue to let the defense know that we’ll take our shots.’’
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Powell figures into that.
The Snow College transfer who led the nation at the junior college level with an average of 30 yards per catch last season has caught six passes so far for Iowa, reaching the end zone twice while averaging 37.5 yards per reception.
Mentioning that Powell arrived on campus three days before the start of fall camp, Davis expects Powell’s role to expand as the season progresses.
“He was not here in spring, not here in summer, so it’s been a process,’’ Davis said. “Obviously, we didn’t have to teach him how to run fast. He brought that with him. The other day he actually caught a ball and went 40 yards downfield with it. That’s encouraging. We want to continue to bring him on, because he is a guy who can do things after the catch.’’
Powell isn’t the only Hawkeye who will likely see a few more passes headed his way as the season progresses.
As was the case a year ago, he anticipates that Iowa’s tight ends will become more of a late-season factor in the Hawkeye passing attack as it complements what the Hawkeyes are getting on the ground.
“We want to be balanced,’’ Davis said. “We’re not a team that’s built to throw it 50 times and run it 30. We want to be a balanced team because we can protect better, which we’ve done much better this year, protecting the quarterback. That’s what we’re always going to shoot for.’’