The Iowa Hawkeyes look to be a dark horse in the 2014 Big Ten title race this fall but will have to replace a key piece of their offensive attack to get it done. C.J. Fiedorowicz was a favorite target in the passing game at tight end but has moved on to the NFL, leaving a void in the offense that must be filled. Can Ray Hamilton step in and pick up the slack?
Hamilton has spent his entire collegiate career behind Fiedorowicz but has found a role on the offense as an excellent blocker even without the opportunity to catch a lot of passes. The senior has just 11 career receptions heading into 2014, including eight catches for 95 yards in 2013. But despite his lack of production in game situations, the coaching staff has raved about what he has shown during practice and will be expanding Hamilton’s role in the offense significantly this fall.
But he won’t be alone in working to replace Feidorowicz’s production this season. Iowa has excellent depth at the tight end position, which they started to show off last season with three-tight end sets, and should play a major role in how the Hawkeyes attack teams this fall. Jake Duzey is the leading returning pass-catcher for the position after recording 19 catches for 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore George Kittle adds elite speed to the position and junior Henry Krieger-Coble has displayed phenomenal ball skills in practice.
Of that talented group, however, Hamilton is likely the most complete tight end and should get more opportunities in the starting lineup. That expanded role for the former blocking tight end will result in a huge boost to production and lead to a breakout season for Hamilton. Will it be enough to get Iowa into the Big Ten title game?