March 31, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- There have been seven University of Iowa tight ends drafted into the NFL since the 1999 season. That prompts debate on what's more difficult, naming those seven, or rattling off the last former Hawkeye tight end that didn't make it professionally?
While the destiny of Allen Reisner's career will be decided in late April, Brad Herman, his understudy, is in the process of upgrading to a more substantial role in the UI offensive scheme. Reisner caught 42 passes for 460 yards and two touchdowns as a senior in 2010. On his final play in a Hawkeye uniform he was sprinting, then flipping, to the Missouri 1-yard line during a 27-24 victory in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28.
Herman corralled nine passes for 154 yards as a junior with a long of 56. His 17.1-yard average was the best of any Hawkeye receiver with nine or more receptions.
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi also played his final game as a Hawkeye in the Insight Bowl, meaning there will be a new arm throwing balls to Herman and 6-foot-7, 265-pound mammoth C.J. Fiedorowicz. Junior James Vandenberg, a two-time letterwinner, is listed first on the quarterback depth chart for spring practices.
"It doesn't feel strange at all," Herman said of Vandenberg replacing Stanzi, a three-year starter. "It's not like we skipped a beat. We've always connected and I'm lucky to have him as a quarterback right now."
Hawkeye fans will see more of Herman when the season kicks off Sept. 3 against Tennessee Tech; they will also see more of Fiedorowicz. The heralded sophomore tight end is still searching for his first reception as a collegian, but that is understandable to Herman when considering the position.
"They've made huge strides as far as a playing aspect on the field and an intelligence standpoint, which is important at tight end," Herman said of Fiedorowicz and fellow tight end Zach Derby. "I feel tight end is the most complicated position to learn. It took me awhile to pick up -- not everybody is as gifted as Tony (Moeaki) where they can come in and learn the entire system in fall practices and be able to play right away.
"You have to know what the wide receiver is doing, what the line is doing, what the quarterback is doing; you have to know every position and then you have to know what the defense is doing, too. There is so much to learn and to pick up and that's going to be the main key this spring is for the three tight ends to have our playbook established."
Derby caught a 17-yard pass late in the third quarter from Stanzi in a season-opening 37-7 win against Eastern Illinois on Sept. 4. A season highlight for Herman was being named honorable mention Tight End Performer of the Week by College Football Performance Awards following a 37-6 victory against Michigan State on Oct. 30. He caught three passes for 80 yards against the Spartans and all three receptions provided Iowa a first down.
Herman may be the most experienced tight end in camp, but that doesn't mean he isn't working on a few offseason assignments.
"There are always things, whether it's a little tweak here in your blocking or you're trying a different release technique," Herman said. "That's the great part about football. There is always room you can improve."
Iowa wrapped up its sixth practice of the spring Thursday afternoon at the Kenyon Football Practice Facility. The players may change season-by-season, but the program's objective does not.
"Media can talk about expectations, but in-house we have a goal and that's to win a Big Ten championship every single year," Herman said.
That championship march has begun with Herman leading the way at tight end. As far as having a new quarterback? Herman concedes another reason for his fondness of Vandenberg.
"He gets me the ball," Herman said with a laugh.