While Iowa State will keep its position as the Tight End University in the state of Iowa, the tight end group will play a much different role in 2022 than they have in years past as the offense is built around Hunter Dekkers.
Oh, the Cyclone’s don’t lose much, only Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen, the two best to ever play the position in Ames. In 2021 alone they accounted for 88 receptions and 8 touchdowns.
Talk about big shoes to fill.
Moore undoubtedly has the most potential in the long term and also the best chance to impact the 2022 squad. The redshirt freshmen from Johnston checks in at 6’5” and nearly 250 pounds, and is not only a highly regarded recruit but has drawn good reviews during his brief time in Ames.
Andrew Keller and Gabe Burkle
I’m grouping these two together because they have very similar profiles. As recruits, both were well-regarded and chose Iowa State over some big-time power 5 programs (Texas and Iowa for Keller, Kansas State and Michigan State for Burkle). With the blocking requirements that this position carries for Iowa State, the coaches would really have to see aptitude in all areas of the TE role for these two to see the field in 2022.
Leader Of The Pack
Jared Rus (#RusBus) is the lone leading contributor at this position, but calling him a tight end is a precarious proposition. Rus has played the F position for Iowa State over the last 3 seasons, a position in Tom Manning’s offense that most resembles a fullback (Vikings fans, think Jim Kleinsasser). While he only caught 7 passes in 2021, he was named 1st Team All Big 12 in 2021 for his blocking efforts. His role in the offense should expand as Tom Manning moves to a more pass-heavy system, and Rus is experienced enough to handle that in stride.
While some of these names may sound familiar, their impact on the field has been limited thus far. Converted QB Easton Dean will sound familiar, as his name has been mentioned by Campbell over time as a player who has nearly limitless potential. Learning the position has definitely taken time, and playing behind Soehner, Allen, and Kolar is not conducive for getting meaningful reps. Dean has played in a lot of games, and the redshirt junior should be ready for an increased role in 2022. Redshirt Junior DeShawn Hankia checks in at 6’6” 238, and while his playing time has been limited to special teams, it will be exciting to see if he can earn the trust of Manning and Dekkers as a big target over the middle.
Having a crystal ball is almost required to accurately predict the impact this group will have in 2022. While Rus is an incredibly good fullback, we have yet to see him integrated into the offensive game plan as a pass catcher, though we know he is most likely capable. Dean has been praised by the coaching staff, but can he break out in a big way? Will Hanika provide a good possession threat in short yardage situations? And the possible emergence of Tyler Moore definitely brings excitement to this position group. Ultimately the outlook may depend more on how Manning uses the tight end group in 2022 than on the contributions of these individual performers, but Iowa State definitely has options here, and I wouldn’t call this a position of concern for the Cyclone offense.