TIGHT END ZACH DERBY
Arrival: The 6-3, 240-pounder spent the first couple of years at Iowa as an anonymous walk-on building his body into Big Ten tight end. You never know how that’s going to come out, and, yes, this is becoming a familiar story early in this series. Walk-on or lightly recruited player trying to work his way into relevancy. These are the stories that put the cherry on top of rosters and, potentially, push them into the Big Ten contender status.
Now, we’re not talking just Derby, but the whole contribution of the periphery, walk-ons and young or unestablished scholarship players.
As of now, it’s unclear whether or not Derby has a scholarship. If you look at the tight end depth chart, it’s lined with scholarship players, five in total including incoming freshman George Krieger-Kittle.
The fifth-year senior walk-on is such a rare commodity. This is a kid who’s playing football because he loves it. And even if Derby does have a scholarship, he didn’t for several years and that speaks to “want to.”
2012 Takeoff: As a sophomore, Derby caught one pass. Last season, he held the No. 1 spot until C.J. Fiedorowicz finally emerged and took the position by the facemask.
Derby caught nine passes in the first seven games, but had just three the last six, when Fiedorowicz took off.
Fiedorowicz is the clear No. 1 going into August. Derby is . . . probably the No. 2. The other candidates are sophomore Ray Hamilton and redshirt freshman Henry Krieger-Coble and Jake Duzey. One of them could emerge, but Derby has a solid resume and has been an overall solid player. A crucial drop at Penn State does stand out, and he would be the first to tell you.
What we don’t know is how the No. 2 tight end position will evolve under new OC Greg Davis. The zone rushing scheme will be a giant peg in what Iowa is offensively. You have two Ferentzes coaching the Hawkeyes this year. The zone scheme, which have been the featured running plays for the Hawkeyes under Kirk Ferentz, isn’t going away. So, the No. 2 TE isn’t going away. The position is a staple in the zone scheme.
You still want flexibility. Davis will want to pass out of running formations and run out of passing formations. So, where does No. 2 TE fight? Does it come down to a situation where the No. 3 wide receiver brings more to the table than the No. 2 TE? Remember, the mission statement from Davis was Iowa will be what the players make it.
Throw in challenges from younger TEs, Derby will have to fight to keep that spot. He’s the frontrunner, to be sure, but competition, scheme, it’ll be interesting.