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2021 Iowa State Football Position Previews: Tight Ends

The Tradition of Tight End U Continues

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Oregon v Iowa State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Stop us if you’ve heard this before (and you have):

Iowa State is Tight End U.

As we approach the most anticipated football season in Iowa State history, it’s no secret the Cyclones bring back boatloads of talent at every position, and tight end is no exception. Case in point: In both 2019 and 2020, the Cyclones had a tight end selected on both the First-and-Second All-Big 12 teams.

Both are back in 2021.

Departures

Iowa State didn’t make it out of the offseason completely unscathed, as Dylan Soehner left following the 2020 season, signing as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints following the NFL Draft. Soehner was a prolific blocker — a major reason for the success that Breece Hall and Brock Purdy experienced last year.

Add to that his 18 receptions for 205 yards last season, and there’s no doubt the Cyclones lost a key part of its offense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 31 Iowa State at Kansas Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There’s no clear-cut replacement for Soehner, though there are a lot of programs that would give anything to face a problem in which replacing their third-string tight end is a primary concern. There’s no shortage of options, however, as Jared Rus, DeShawn Hanika, Easton Dean, and newcomer Tyler Moore will all battle for the opportunity to fill the vacancy.

For what it’s worth, Rus’ player page on the Cyclones’ Web site lists him as having taken “significant snaps from scrimmage at the F Spot,” the vacancy left behind by Soehner.

New Guys

The Cyclones welcome just one new face to the tight end corps, Des Moines-native Tyler Moore, a 6-foot-5-inch, 255 pound freshman was a three-star recruit, and arrived in Ames over offers from Arizona State, UCF, and Boise State.

It remains to be seen what type of impact, if any, the freshman will have with the offense, but should he see any significant playing time, he could have an impact, as highlighted by his senior season at Johnston High School. He was an impact player his senior season, rising to four-star status at one point, and finished the year as an second-team All-State selection after catching 45 passes for 571 yards and six touchdowns.

The other tight ends, though not new to the team, may very well be new to a number of fans, so let’s talk about them, too:

Will Zahradnki: Redshirted last season. He’s a 6-foot-6-inch, 235-pound Marion, Iowa native.

Drew Iutzwig: Another redshirt freshman, the Batavia, Ill. native is 6-foot-6-inches and 265 pounds.

DeShawn Hanika: Hanika, a redshirt sophomore from Topeka, Kansas, saw limited action last season, appearing in nine games, all on special teams. The 6-foot-6-inch, 245-pound tight end isn’t likely to factor too much into the plans this season, barring any sort of injury situation that the team has to face. Never say never, but as he’s more likely to slide into the Y position, well, that’s pretty well spoken for (more on that later).

Easton Dean: Dean, another redshirt sophomore, played in all 12 games last season, and though most of them were on special teams, he did finish with one catch for 25 yards, this in the Cyclones’ 52-22 win over Kansas. The 6-foot-6 inch, 255-pound Kansas native is likely to slot into the backup F position.

Jared Rus: Rus is the likely candidate to step up and fill the void left behind by Soehner, especially after Matt Campbell referred to him as a “glue guy” who is “kind of like a fullback, but he can play tight end and can do a lot of different things for our team.” As mentioned above, he has taken meaningful snaps as the third TE option in practice, and the 6-foot-2-inch, 240-pound redshirt junior may be primed for a breakout season.

Leader(s) of the Pack

And now, our dynamic duo, as if they need any introduction: Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen.

Words cannot describe the pure sense of jubilation fans experienced when both Kolar and Allen announced they were going to return for the 2021 campaign. Though it’s a dogfight for the spot behind them, Kolar and Allen are the undisputed one-two tight end punch that the Cyclones will field this season. The two combined last season for 827 total yards, 63 receptions, and nine touchdowns.

Separately, their laundry list of achievements is bound to intimidate even the most seasoned opponent, starting with Kolar. He’s First Team All-Big 12, Second Team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation and the AFCA, Third Team Associated Press All-American, and the list goes on. He’s the first Cyclone to be a two-time All-American since Troy Davis did it back in the mid-90s.

Most notably, he already holds school records for career receptions (106), receiving yards (1,425), and touchdown catches (17) by a tight end. So, yeah. He’s going to do some damage.

Allen, meanwhile, is nothing to sneeze at. The redshirt senior earned his second consecutive Second Team All-Big 12 honor last year, starting in eight of the 12 games he played in. He’s got 526 yards and four touchdowns to his name, and his 48 career receptions are currently 10th-best on Iowa State’s all-time tight ends list.

Indeed, Kolar and Allen will team up yet again to ensure the Cyclones always have a threat on the field, and that will continue to loom large.

2020 Receiving Stats

Rk Player Rec Yds Avg TD
Rk Player Rec Yds Avg TD
1 Charlie Kolar 44 591 13.4 7
2 Chase Allen 19 236 12.4 2
3 Dylan Soehner 18 205 11.4 0
4 Easton Dean 1 25 25 0

2021 Projection

The tight end corps is going to again flex its muscle as the season wears on, but let’s face it, nobody needs to be convinced that Kolar and Allen are going to go out and dominate, so the real story here is about who’s primed to step up in the tight end-F position under their tutelage.

As of right now, Rus is likely the candidate, especially given Campbell’s recent comments. Dean will more than likely back him up, leaving Hanika and Moore as the odd players out. Look for Hanika to fill that third backup spot.

Buckle up, because this crew is going to be a blast to watch on a weekly basis. Whether it’s helping to clear the lanes for Hall/Purdy, or hauling in a jump-ball, there’s plenty to look forward to when the season kicks off.