TIGHT END C.J. FIEDOROWICZ
Arrival: The 6-7, 265-pounder originally committed to Illinois. Then, he visited Iowa in '09 when Iowa had tight end Tony Moeaki was building his NFL resume. Also, Allen Reisner's career started taking off. Also also, Dallas Clark, Brandon Myers and yeah, Fiedorowicz connected the dots and picked a tight end-friendly atmosphere.
Fiedorowicz was a big kid playing "little" positions at Johnsburg (Ill.) High School. He was fast enough to play wide receiver. He played some free safety on defense. Freak athletes can call their shots like that. Tight end always was going to be his home at Iowa and so there would be some transition to a big player playing a big position, with blocking and everything.
That's OK, Iowa had done this before.
Of course you remember Scott Chandler. He went from a 6-7, 210-pound high school wide receiver to a burly 260-pound tight end for the Hawkeyes. Chandler signed a two-year, $5.45 million contract extension with the Buffalo Bills after posting 38 catches for 389 yards and six TDs last year.
Chandler had one of the all-time best quotes for a receiver making the transition to tight end:
"You do go from the guy with all the wrist bands on and that stuff to having dirt on your shirt at the end of the game. You just change your mentality. I feel like it took me awhile, but I feel like I changed it."
That's been part of Fiedorowicz's trip, learning blocking technique and the detail the position demands. He had no catches as a true freshman in '10. Over Iowa's final six games last season, he caught 14 of his 16 passes and scored all three of his TDs.
Clearly, the arrow is going up here.
2012 Takeoff: New offensive coordinator Greg Davis has liked everything he's seen from Fiedorowicz so far. It was 15 practices in the spring, but this was some grade A hype.
“This is only 39 springs I’ve been in and I’ve never had a tight end like C.J. with his size and ability to play at the line of scrimmage and also stretch the field,” Davis said.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz has seen a jump in Fiedorowicz's approach.
“During his true freshman year, this was really new to him,” Ferentz said. “We were asking him to do a lot of things he hadn’t done in high school. Last year, he made progress but there was still an inconsistency there.
“This spring, he’s clearly at a different level, which is good. That’s what you hope to see in players. I think he’s really ready to play football for us. He’s got a lot of good gifts and skills.”
It's hard to say what shape Iowa's offense will take. The no-huddle might be a part of it. It will be Davis' passing schemes and zone blocking with power runs mixed in. Fiedorowicz's eyes are wide open going into this.
"I think there are going to be a lot big plays," he said. "There are a lot of routes we're throwing off the defense and meshing through. Coach Davis really knows what he wants to do. He had a lot of success at Texas. I'm excited."
Fiedorowicz predicted more deep routes for the tight end. Maybe, we'll see. It's going to be what the talent dictates, that's the mission statement that hangs over everything Iowa offense, especially this fall.
Fiedorowicz calls his speed "good enough," but points to his size as the difference maker.
"My size really helps me out," he said. "I can box guys out. When I break my route and 'get big in the paint,' you just know where the guy is and when you have them beat. Playing the game so long, you can just feel that."
Fiedorowicz still wears wrist bands, but he's clearly willing to get his jersey dirty. That might be the theme for his 2012.