Iowa State’s tight-ends have been like a half-empty box of chocolates: You never really knew what you were gonna get, but there really wasn’t much there to begin with. Will it be different this season? All signs point to that being the case.
Iowa State has seen some talented players, such as EJ Bibbs and Collin Franklin, make an impact at this position. Generally, however, this has been an under-recruited position, and warm bodies who could block were often pressed into service.
That being said, Matt Campbell has placed an emphasis on recruiting athletic pass-catchers who can help open up the offense and serve as solid bail-out options for Jacob Park. Chase Allen hopes to be all of that and more in 2017. Allen, a highly-recruited player who missed out on 2016 due to a myriad of issues, is a prime candidate to have a breakout season. He has great hands, decent speed, and enough athleticism to give linebackers trouble in pass coverage.
In terms of pass catching, senior Sam Harms is the only other TE who has seen significant playing time. Look for Harms to be used as more of a check-down option, as the real route-running will likely be left to Allen.
This is where the bright spot for the TE position lies. There are many guys on the depth chart who are ready and able to play, albeit maybe not catch passes, and who should make an impact on the running game.
The young player who shines brightest in ranks of the back-ups is easily Dylan Soehner. The coaches have done nothing but rave about the 6’7”, 271 pound redshirt freshman and his abilities to block and also make plays in the passing game.
Other players likely to see the field include redshirt juniors Sam Seonbuchner and Cole Anderson. Look for these two to fill the role of the blocking tight-end, with Seonbuchner also serving the lead blocker in power packages.
The tight ends have to, and will, be more involved in the passing game in 2017.
This is true almost by default, as it’s nearly impossible to have them make less of an impact than they’ve done the past two seasons. This position has almost been entirely left out of the offense the past two seasons at Iowa State.
Just look at the numbers.
ISU tight ends:
2013 - 47 receptions for 518 yards
2014 - 45 receptions for 382 yards
2015 - 6 receptions for 71 yards
2016 - 7 receptions for 68 yards
Lets compare that to Toledo under Matt Campbell.
2012 - 13 receptions for 158 yards
2013 - 6 receptions for 84 yards
2014 - 14 receptions for 222 yards
2015 - 25 receptions for 250 yards
Lastly, I’d like to point out that the years in witch both programs got decent contributions from the TE position directly correlate with talent at that position. In 2013 & 2014, Iowa State had EJ Bibbs, who is still in the NFL, making spectacular catches and proving to be a dangerous red zone threat. The same trend holds true for Toledo, who had Michael Smith in 2014 and 2015, a player who was selected in the 4th round of this past NFL draft.
Bottom line: Iowa State now has some talent at this position. Therefore, look for the production from this position to drastically increase.
How they Stack up in the Big 12
While a few good tight-ends have graduated, many of the most talented at this position still return. Mark Andrews (OU), Ben Johnson (KU), Jordan Feuerbacher (BU), Andrew Beck (UT), and Cole Hunt (TCU) were all in the top 10 for receiving yardage in 2016. Most of these players are seniors, and have featured roles in their respective offenses.
Iowa State should finish in the middle of the pack in terms of production from guys like Chase Allen and Dylan Soehner, but look for them to climb towards the top of the conference over the next few years.