By Adam Hensley
Iowa’s offense was hit or miss last season, but when it was clicking, it was sure hard to stop — just ask Ohio State.
One of Iowa’s focal points — tight end Noah Fant — will try to make a leap in production in his third season with the program. Fant caught 30 passes last season, totaling 494 yards and a team-leading 11 touchdowns — a breakthrough season for the hybrid player in offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s system.
But there’s always room to improve, both when it comes to blocking and receiving.
“I can definitely get better in the run game — I always want to improve my run blocking,” he said. “That’s something I try to focus on, the finer techniques of different ways you can block.
“As far as running routes, I want to get my routes more crisp than they were last season.”
Last season, Ferentz said having a player such as Fant in the system is so valuable. The coordinator could move him all over the field — split out wide, in the slot, on the line of scrimmage — in an effort to keep opposing defenses guessing.
“My thing is, I like being all over the field,” Fant said. “I like being split out, I like being on the line … it varies the offense, and it gives the defense different looks as far as what we’re going to do. I wouldn’t say I like being out in the slot more than I like being in the line because they’re both my natural positions … I do like the variability in our offense.”
It’s safe to assume Fant will appear all over the field this coming season, because he possesses the speed to burn linebackers and the physicality to muscle with defensive backs.
Fant said that since Iowa’s postseason concluded, he’s worked to build strength while maintaining his speed, which is easier said than done.
“I knew I needed to get bigger,” Fant said. “I needed to keep gaining weight, but it’s a process, and I didn’t want to put too much weight on with losing speed. All the credit goes to our strength program.”
Fant is currently listed at 241 pounds.
Year two of Brian Ferentz
Last season in year No. 1 of Ferentz directing the offense, the Hawkeye aerial attack scored 27 touchdowns, and the ground game scored 17 times.
Despite inconsistencies, there was a noticeable difference under the new coordinator, specifically with quarterback Nate Stanley, who enters his second season under center after finishing one touchdown shy of tying the single-season school record.
The consensus remains that with one season under their belts, the Hawkeyes are having an easier time grasping Ferentz’s system.
“You don’t have to relearn a language … it’s all familiar stuff,” Stanley said. “The installing has been a lot easier for a lot of guys. Just continuing to understand the concepts of why we’re doing what we’re doing has come a lot easier … Everything’s intertwined, whether it be a receiver or the offensive line.”
Stanley noted that he’s had more freedom in the offense this offseason.