IOWA CITY — If anyone walks away grinning from all the changes to Iowa’s offense since last December, it’s got to be tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz.
He went to bed after the Insight Bowl and woke up with 1) Brian Ferentz in town and 2) offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who places a high value and will seek to creatively use the tight end position, passing out the playbooks.
Brian Ferentz is Iowa’s offensive line coach, but he came to Iowa fresh off his gig as New England Patriots tight ends coach. Last season, Rob Gronkowski caught 17 TD passes. Brian Ferentz has helped some with the tight ends.
Suddenly, coaches and players are mentioning the 6-7, 265-pound Fiedorowicz as a potential centerpiece in the passing game.
“I still need a lot of work,” Fiedorowicz said after catching two passes for 12 yards in Saturday’s spring scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium. “I need to work on blocking, I dropped a couple of balls today. I’m always looking to improve.”
That started to show up in the second half of last season. Over Iowa’s last six games, Fiedorowicz caught 14 of his 16 receptions and all three of his touchdowns.
He’s proven himself enough to be on the field in Iowa’s five-wideout set. When Iowa emptied the backfield Saturday, Fiedorowicz was on the field and he was split out. Last season, Fiedorowicz didn’t see time in that formation until late in the season.
“During his true freshman year, this was really new to him,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We were asking him to do a lot of things he hadn’t done in high school. Last year, he made progress but there was still an inconsistency there.
“This spring, he’s clearly at a different level, which is good. That’s what you hope to see in players. I think he’s really ready to play football for us. He’s got a lot of good gifts and skills.”
Fiedorowicz said the wrinkle in Davis’ passing game for him is some deeper corner and post routes, but he knows the offense will try to make a living off shorter routes.
“Deep balls are great, but the short ones count, too,” Fiedorowicz said.
Last week Davis said he was high on the tight ends group. Saturday, they combined to catch nine passes.
“It’s a personnel group of ours we know we need to get the ball to,” quarterback James Vandenberg said. “They do a good job of catching the ball, they’re all big bodies who can get space. As long as they keep catching it, we’ll keep throwing it to them.”
No one could walk away from Saturday’s scrimmage and say they know exactly what Iowa’s offense will look like on Sept. 8 against Northern Illinois at Solider Field in Chicago.
During the actual scrimmage, with downs and everything, Iowa did throw the ball 52 times to 29 rushes. Still, that might just be ironing out kinks in what seems to be fairly intricate, and new, system.
“It’s going to be a fun offense, absolutely,” Fiedorowicz said. “It’s learning a whole new offense, it takes time.”
After two seasons building, Fiedorowicz understands the concept of patience.