No. 18 ... In recruiting, you don’t know if it’s going to work. You don’t know if today’s letter of intent will end up being tomorrow’s all-Big Ten star.
Sometimes, you get a better idea by what a player does when, oops, ‘Hey there’s this other guy, too.’ Iowa coaches caught of glimpse of that with Ohio tight end Ray Hamilton.
Hamilton, of Strongsville, Ohio, was the second tight end Iowa nabbed in the 2011 recruiting class. Mount Pleasant’s Henry Krieger-Coble was the first.
Then, about a month later, there was this other guy. He turned out to be Jake Duzey, a 6-foot-4, 224-pounder out of Michigan.
Krieger-Coble and Hamilton were in. Iowa coaches told them they would stop shopping at two tight ends. Then, after performing well at Iowa’s summer football camp, Duzey wanted in.
Wait, before you throw out the “promises broken.” There’s a little more to the story.
“We actually asked the other two tight ends,” said then-recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach Eric Johnson. “Hey, this is a guy we feel strongly about. We know we said we were going to take two of you guys, but this is a guy we feel very strongly about as a football player.”
Hamilton, who picked the Hawkeyes over UCLA, Florida State and North Carolina, was fine with a third tight end. “He said, ‘Coach, this is our team now, whatever it takes to help us win,’” Johnson said. “When you have guys who take that kind of attitude, you have a pretty good chance of being successful.”
Duzey played wide receiver for Troy (Mich.) Athens High School. Why not? He’s 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. At the MichiganPreps.com combine in March, Duzey ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash, a 4.28-second 10-yard shuttle and marked a vertical leap at 33 inches.
In college, Duzey is looking at tight end. That’s why last week he looked at the University Iowa and committed.
“I’m going to play tight end (at Iowa), but I’m not just going to block, I’m going to move around,” Duzey said. “I’m going to start working on blocking, but I’m still going to play some wide receiver and H-back this year.”
Duzey picked Iowa over Oregon. He had 10 other offers, including Purdue, Michigan State and Cincinnati. He’s serious about playing with his hand on the ground. This fall, he’ll move from safety/linebacker to defensive end.
“Yes, I know the NFL-Iowa tight end thing, and it’s my dream to go to the NFL,” Duzey said, “but I was just looking for a place to work hard.”
The big hello ... Before last year’s Ohio State game, Duzey (6-4, 245) had seven catches for 47 yards in his career. Against Ohio State, he had six catches for 138 yards including an 85-yard catch-and-run TD that opened eyes across the Big Ten.
Duzey put up the best numbers for a tight end in a single game during Kirk Ferentz’s 15 seasons, topping Dallas Clark’s 116-yard effort against Purdue in 2002.
“It helps if you’ve got a guy who can run a little bit, and Duzey can,” Ferentz said. “We saw that.”
After the game, former Iowa TE and now Houston Texan C.J. Fiedorowicz said Duzey is a 4.5 guy. That’s not bad for a 6-4, 245-pounder. That is, potentially, a Dallas Clark model. Potentially. It was one game. Let’s try to keep it in perspective (me included, since I just did bring up Dallas Clark). Duzey had 24 receiving yards on Iowa’s TD drive to open the game. The 85-yarder was his first career TD. Duzey was Iowa’s first 100-yard receiver since Kevonte Martin-Manley had 131 yards against Indiana last season. That was a span of 10 games. His 138 receiving yards were the most by a Hawkeye since Marvin McNutt has 151 yards on nine catches vs. Purdue in 2011. And, as far as anyone knows, it was a career best in a game for an Iowa TE. Clark had the 95-yard TD reception vs. Purdue in 2002 and finished with 116 yards.
Would you believe this was Iowa’s only 100-yard receiving performance in a game last season? It was. WR Tevaun Smith was close against Michigan with 97 yards.
TD makers ... Say what you want about expectations met and whatnot, Fiedorowicz, finally in the last half of his senior season, became a go-to in goal-line situations. He caught five TDs in Iowa’s final eight games.
Does Iowa’s TE group have that guy? It doesn’t have a 6-7 guy. Fiedorowicz grumbled a bit when the draft process started that he didn’t think he was used correctly at Iowa. He eventually softened his stance. He found the TD touch late in his career. Ferentz said throughout the spring that Fiedorowicz will have a long NFL career because of his potential on the goal-line.
“We won’t have C.J. and he was an outstanding football player, and I think he’ll play a long time moving forward,” Ferentz said. “We’ll have enough guys in that group. Somebody has to make those catches in the red zone and some of those things that C.J. did well, too.”
The four TEs Iowa will go to in 2014 have three combined TDs in their careers. Duzey has two and Krieger-Coble had one in 2012. It remains to be seen whether or not this matters, but it made Fiedorowicz a third-round draft pick and NFL money.
Outlook ... I had a great conversation with Hamilton about blocking and how it’s the “thing” that an Iowa tight end has to have a handle on. It reminded me about a similar conversation I had with former Iowa TE Scott Chandler when he played here. Chandler began his career at Iowa as a wide receiver. He made the move to TE mostly because he and his 6-7, 260-pound frame had an NFL career ahead of it (Chandler will begin his eighth NFL season this year). The biggest difference? Blocking. That and wrist bands.
“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,” Chandler said. “You just change your mentality. I feel like it took me awhile, but I feel like I changed it.”
Duzey doesn’t shy away from the fact that blocking was the last element of his game to fall into place.
““You’ve got to do everything,” Duzey said. “When I first came here, they said to play tight end at Iowa, you have to block. In high school, I played a lot of receiver and a little bit of running back. I didn’t really have to block. Just coming into camp that first year is a huge difference. It was just a huge process for me.”
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