Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz finished his freshman season with more kickoff returns (one) than catches (zero).
It wasn’t the start many expected from one of the top tight ends nationally in the 2010 recruiting class.
Stars? Rankings? “That doesn’t mean anything,” Fiedorowicz said on media day. “It’s all about your work ethic. I realized that right away.
“A lot of guys come in thinking because they are the best on their high school team they are going to be playing. I realized I needed a lot of work the first week of camp.”
Fiedorowicz was one of nine true freshmen to play last fall, but most of that time was spent on special teams. Despite his physical gifts, Fiedorowicz wasn’t ready to line up regularly at tight end.
“It’s hard, especially at our position,” tight ends coach Eric Johnson said. “He came from a spread offense and never really lined up as a blocker.
“He’s had a lot of adjustments to make, and he’s done a tremendous job making them. We’re extremely excited about C.J.”
And why not? Iowa has a history of turning out NFL tight ends, and Fiedorowicz seems ready-made for the next level. Coming into his sophomore season, Fiedorowicz is 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds and can run and catch like a receiver.
But it was because he played receiver in a spread offense in high school that his learning curve was so steep as a freshman.
“I didn’t know much about going in a three-point stance,” Fiedorowicz said. “Just getting off the ball is so much different.”
Fiedorowicz had no practical experience blocking 290-pound defense ends.
“I blocked 160-pound defensive backs in high school,” Fiedorowicz said. “So blocking (Adrian) Clayborn last year was kind of a wake-up call when I got put on my butt a couple of times.”
The Johnsburg, Ill., native had to learn blocking step by agonizing step. One week Fiedorowicz would work on his first step, the next week where he placed his hands, and the next week pad level.
“There’s so much that people don’t even realize,” Fiedorowicz said. “Look at all of our tight ends; they can all block and catch. If you only catch the ball, you’re probably going to be a receiver.”
Fiedorowicz showed enough in the spring to be the second-team tight end coming into the fall despite not having a catch.
Senior Brad Herman — a 6-5, 255-pound senior from Metamora, Ill. — has earned his title of TE1 on the depth chart. He had nine catches last season for 154 yards.
That makes Herman the third-most experienced pass-catcher returning behind senior receiver Marvin McNutt (53) and junior Keenan Davis (11).
“You’ve got to keep working hard. You can’t relax because you’re the number one guy,” Herman said. “I want to strive to be the best tight end in the Big Ten and the country.
“That’s part of being an Iowa tight end; aiming for those goals.”
Allen Reisner caught 42 passes, third-most on the team, a year ago, before being signed by the Minnesota Vikings. Those catches are going to go to someone.
Herman, Fiedorowicz and junior Zach Derby — who had one catch last fall — are among the top three, and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has indicated that the true freshman could provide depth.
Jake Duzey (6-4, 224), Ray Hamilton (6-5, 235) and Henry Krieger-Coble (6-4, 210) will be taking reps this fall.
But a lot of the eyes are going to be on Fiedorowicz to see if he’s ready for prime time.
“C.J. might be as improved a player as we had on our team during the course of spring practice,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He really looked like a Division I football player this spring.”
The sophomore is ready for a chance to prove it.
“I’ve busted my butt, so hopefully the opportunity comes my way,” Fiedorowicz said.
One thing is certain; Johnson has zero intention of letting him become an offensive lineman.
“He’ll be a tight end to the end,” Johnson said. “He’s got a big frame, but he’s also a big, athletic, fast guy.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football