March 30, 2016
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Young and hungry not only describes the tight ends on the University of Iowa football roster, it also defines their position coach.
LeVar Woods, 38, begins his second season coaching Hawkeye tight ends after spending his previous seven seasons on staff as administrative assistant (2008-11) and linebackers coach (2012-14). He met with media Wednesday in the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center, singing praises of the “phenomenal people” he tutors.
“The group is very, very young, but it is hungry and ready, willing, and able to come to practice every single day and work hard,” Woods said.
Last season senior tight end Henry Krieger-Coble caught 35 passes for 405 yards and a touchdown. That reception total ranked second among Hawkeyes behind Matt VandeBerg‘s 65. Senior-to-be George Kittle was fourth on the team with 20 receptions for 290 yards and a team-high six touchdowns.
“George emerged during his junior season, so we had three guys (Krieger-Coble, Kittle, and senior Jake Duzey) that were readily available,” Woods said. “Right now we’re trying to find out who those other guys are (for 2016).”
Two incoming freshmen — Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson — were recruited as tight ends.
The leader of the pack is Kittle. A big-play target as a freshman (21.6 yards per catch) and sophomore (25 yards per catch), Kittle increased his reception numbers in 2015 and he has upped his blocking prowess as well.
“George has emerged as the top blocker in the group,” Woods said. “He’s a guy that is low and explosive and is an exceptional athlete. He is far from being where he needs to be in both the pass and run game, but he’s making strides. When he comes off low, fits his pads right, and does what he’s supposed to do he can move anybody.”
“The group is very, very young, but it is hungry and ready, willing, and able to come to practice every single day and work hard.”
UI tight ends coach
Because of his combination of speed and size (6-foot-4, 246 pounds), Woods says Kittle has potential to be as good as any Hawkeye tight end in history.
“We’re far from seeing the best that George has put on the field, but he has a long way to go,” Woods said.
During the first season with Woods coaching tight ends, the Hawkeyes finished 12-2, secured all four traveling trophies, won the Big Ten West Division, and played in The Rose Bowl Game. Iowa’s tight ends combined for 56 receptions (almost 25 percent of the team’s total) and seven touchdowns (more than 40 percent of the touchdown reception total).
“It was a wild ride and a lot of fun,” Woods said. “It was different being on the offensive side, but it was a historic season at the University of Iowa and I cannot thank the two (graduating) seniors enough. They made it a blast every day to come to work. They were so much fun and the tight end room got closer and closer and became a tight-knit group that I think performed up to what they wanted to do.”
The public can get a glimpse of the Hawkeyes April 8 during an open practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, Iowa. Drills begin at 6 p.m. (CT) with a youth clinic following practice at approximately 7:45.