IOWA CITY — Nate Wieting and Shaun Beyer are working to become as familiar to Iowa football fans as the players they are working to replace.
"It’s motivation," Beyer said. "When people say ‘What are we going to do about tight end this year?’ It’s definitely motivation."
Shifting into lineup spots filled by all-Americans Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson last season, Wieting sees things the same way, with a twist.
"I’m not T.J. Hockenson, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have the same type of impact as a tight end as he did," Wieting said. "I might have different strengths than T.J., but I can help us put a productive offense on the field. That’s what I’m working toward."
That doesn’t mean he won’t be ready to catch a pass that might come his way.
"People suggest that I’m the blocker, the run-game guy, but there’s more to it than that, just like there was more to it for T.J. and Noah than catching passes," Wieting said. "The biggest thing any tight end that ever takes the field for Iowa does is block. That’s where it starts."
That’s not necessarily where it ends.
"I feel like I can add some things to the passing game as well," said Wieting, who has three receptions for 68 yards as a Hawkeye. "We like to move the ball around here a lot of different ways."
Iowa’s work at tight end remains a work in progress as the Hawkeyes begin their final week of spring practices.
Wieting, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior who prepped at Rockford Lutheran in Illinois, and Beyer, a 6-5, 244-pound junior from Shellsburg, Iowa, who competed at Cedar Rapids Kennedy, top the Iowa spring depth chart at the position.
Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz coaches the tight end position group, and Wieting said with a number of younger players in the room Iowa’s foundation at the position is being built on a thorough review of fundamentals.
"Coach Brian is doing a great job taking things slow and concentrating on the basics," Wieting said.
Wieting and Beyer have both seen the field for the Hawkeyes in the past and both have dealt with injuries.
Over the past three seasons, Wieting has participated in 29 games while Beyer, who moved from wide receiver to tight end following the 2016 regular season, has taken the field in 15 games over the past two seasons.
Beyer saw his time on special teams last season, gaining notoriety during the third quarter of a game against Wisconsin when a communication error on a punt resulted in him making contact with the ball with his foot and the Badgers recovering on the Iowa 10-yard line.
Three plays later, Wisconsin scored to open a 14-10 lead on its way to a 28-17 victory.
"Wrong place, wrong time and tough to get past because I felt like I left my teammates down," Beyer said. "It was hard to come back and look everyone in the eyes, but they were supportive and I’m eager now to show what I can do."
Both believe they benefited to a great degree from playing behind a pair of all-Americans last season.
"Who wouldn’t want to learn from a couple of the best? Watching Noah and T.J. work and prepare, it teaches you a lot," Beyer said. "Just the way they worked, there are a lot of lessons there to follow."
A torn meniscus, which kept him off the field throughout much of the second half of the season, provided Beyer with some unexpected but beneficial off-field experience.
"It was tough with the injury, but I did use the time to make mental notes about what they were doing, how they paid attention to detail and how the little things can make such a big difference," Beyer said.
Wieting watched the same.
"Both of those guys worked their game down to the detail. Every little thing mattered and that’s a good lesson to build on," Wieting said. "If we’re going to become the kind of football team we can be, we have to be as detail oriented as those guys were."
Beyer believes that’s where things start for the players now in Iowa’s tight end group.
They may not have Fant or Hockenson stitched across the back of their jerseys, but they hope to create a name for themselves.
"It’s all motivation and you just have to use it the best way you can," Beyer said. "Keep working, and things will work out."