Johnson Pleased With Tight End Progress

Oct. 7, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — University of Iowa tight ends coach Eric Johnson spent a few minutes with Friday in Beaver Stadium, hours before the Hawkeyes open their Big Ten Conference football season against Penn State.

Iowa, from the Legends Division, enters the game with a record of 3-1 overall; the Nittany Lions, from the Leaders Division, are 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten (winning 16-10 at Indiana on Oct. 1).

Johnson’s position group is primarily rotating three players — senior Brad Herman, junior Zach Derby and sophomore C.J. Fiedorowicz. True freshman Ray Hamilton has also seen action.

The Hawkeye tight ends who will play most Saturday are the ones who “are having success in the offense and being consistent in the offense,” Johnson said. “We’re going to run a lot of two tight end sets as we normally do, and we’ll rotate those guys around.”

Herman has four catches for 67 yards this season, Derby has four catches for 39 and Fiedorowicz has two catches for 32. In the last four meetings between Penn State and Iowa, the Hawkeye tight ends have caught 11 balls. Allen Reisner hauled in three passes for 29 yards last season during Iowa’s 24-3 win in Iowa City; Reisner had three catches for 22 yards in 2009, when Iowa won, 21-10, in University Park. During 2008, when the Hawkeyes prevailed 24-23 in Kinnick Stadium, Brandon Myers caught four passes for 42 yards and Tony Moeaki had one catch for 8.

“We’ll see what the defense gives us,” Johnson said. “It’s nice that we have three great wide receivers to open up the field for us, and a tremendous running game with (sophomore running back) Marcus (Coker). We’ll see what we can contribute tomorrow.”

UI wide receivers have matured and thrived this season. Marvin McNutt, Jr., leads the pack with 25 receptions and four touchdowns, Keenan Davis has 19 catches and three touchdowns and Kevonte Martin-Manley has 14 grabs and three touchdowns. Coker averages 95 yards per game on the ground and he is fourth on the team with 11 receptions.

Hawkeye quarterback James Vandenberg has been opening it up with a no-huddle offense, and in a 45-17 victory against the University of Louisiana at Monroe, the UI tight ends combined for two catches for 17 yards.

“The no-huddle doesn’t change anything we do, it’s just at a quicker tempo,” Johnson said. “Overall our plays are basically the same. The receivers are having success and that opens up the field for the tight ends a little bit and for the running game.”

The game against Penn State is another educational opportunity for the Hawkeye tight ends.

“We’re young at the position and we’re learning as we go through the season,” Johnson said. “We’re rotating three guys and each one brings a little something different to the table and we’re really pleased with the way they’re improving right now.”

As pleased as Johnson is with the progress of the Hawkeye tight ends, the entire team is extremely excited to kick off the Big Ten season on the road at Penn State.

“The intensity always picks up when you enter Big Ten play,” Johnson said. “Everything counts now from a standpoint of the conference championship. This is the first one to kick it off for us — a cross rival game in the Leaders and Legends divisions, so this is going to be a big game tomorrow.”

Game time is 2:36 p.m. (CT). The game is broadcast to a nationally televised audience by ABC and ESPN.