IOWA CITY — Tight ends are preparing for an expanded role as part of the Iowa offense’s offseason makeover.
The Hawkeyes will unveil a hint of what they have been working on during spring drills tonight, when Iowa holds the first of its two public spring workouts.
Position coach LeVar Woods said fans attending the 6:15 p.m. practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines may get a chance to see how Hawkeye tight ends fit into Iowa’s offensive plans.
“It’s a little bit more multiple and the tight ends are being asked to be in different spots, different positions a little bit more than we have in the past, which I think is to our benefit,’’ Woods said. “We have some talented guys in the room, some guys that can do some really good things.’’
The objective, Woods said, is to put those players in a position to do more of those “really good things.’’
Potentially, that involves utilizing tight ends in multiple roles.
“We have some guys that can flex out at receiver, we have some guys that can play in the backfield as a fullback, do some kick-out blocks, some lead blocks, things like that,’’ Woods said. “So, we’re going to be a little more multiple with that.’’
Woods has no problem with any of his players filling those expanded roles.
“I’m a proponent for as many tight ends as you can get on the field being on the field,’’ he said. “I think we have some guys who have more talent than just playing in-line tight end, so we’re trying to get those guys on the field.’’
Peter Pekar, a senior who started eight games last season, is the most experienced returning tight end at Iowa works to replace George Kittle.
“There are a lot of guys and there is some good competition going on,’’ Pekar said. “How we fit in the offense is changing and we’re all learning together. We’re all excited to see how it all fits together.’’
Pekar is among seven players currently working at the position this spring.
Some, like Pekar and sophomore Noah Fant, offer returning experience. Others, like redshirt freshmen Shaun Beyer and T.J. Hockenson, are working to earn their first collegiate snaps.
Senior Jon Wisnieski and sophomores Nate Vejvoda and Nate Wieting are also part of a collection of relatively inexperienced tight ends. Wieting started three games last fall, but is out this spring because of injury.
“All of the guys at tight end are pretty competitive and I think that’s driving us all,’’ Pekar said. “We’re pushing each other and the idea is to not just be good at one thing, it’s to be good at everything we do. That’s the goal.’’
Woods likes the potential he sees in the three youngest tight ends on the field this spring.
He says Fant, Hockenson and Beyer have all shown the ability to stretch the field a bit, another avenue Iowa is looking at to make more effective use of its tight ends.
Fant offers speed at the position and Hockenson brings some intensity, playing with an edge that Woods likes to see.
He also sees similarities in what Iowa hopes to accomplish with its tight ends to how they were utilized in the past as Tony Moeaki, Scott Chandler, Brad Herman and Allen Reisner played the position.
“We’re watching tape of some of those guys, seeing some of those clips and you do see them down the field a little bit more, and that’s part of what we’re trying to do,’’ Woods said. “We have capable guys, it’s just a matter of putting them in the position and then them having to make the play.’’