Tight ends ready to take on bigger role in 2017

Senior tight end E.J. Bibbs catches a touchdown pass on Nov. 8 at Memorial Stadium. The Cyclones fell to the Jayhawks 34-14.

Aaron Marner

In 2014, Iowa State tight end E.J. Bibbs caught 45 passes for 382 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns. He was named to the AP All-Big 12 first team and was one of eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award, which goes to the best tight end in college football.

In the two years since then, Iowa State’s tight ends have combined for just 13 catches and 139 yards and no touchdowns.

That kind of production, according to Iowa State tight ends coach Alex Golesh, won’t cut it in 2017. Chase Allen should finally be healthy this year. A few other tight ends, including true freshman Charlie Kolar and senior Sam Harms, should be in line for playing time as well.

Allen’s story has been well-documented by now. He was hit by a car last summer before the start of the season, which forced him to miss his true freshman campaign.

But at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, Allen has the size to be a key player from day one.

Golesh said he thinks expectations might be too high for Allen, who was a 3-star recruit in high school with reported offers from Florida State, Nebraska and Michigan.

“I think we put so much pressure on a kid that’s never taken a snap,” Golesh said. “I’m just excited to see him grow in the offense and see what he can do.”

Allen’s height and wingspan make him an ideal target in the passing game, specifically in the red zone and on third downs. That’s the role he envisioned himself having last year, he said.

“Going into it, especially near the end of camp I saw myself in some third down packages and a lot of opportunities like that,” Allen said. “Now I feel like I’m much more relaxed and I’ve learned so much more and I feel much more prepared to take the role on.”

Allen won’t be alone, however. Allen said he and Harms have developed a better relationship this year.

Harms had just two catches last season but after gaining weight and getting over 240 pounds, he could see an increased role in 2017.

According to Harms, he’s not the only tight end who has put on weight in the offseason.

“We’re a lot bigger,” Harms said. “I feel like we’re a lot more athletic and a lot more competitive in the room. But it’s all good competitive. We all love being around each other and love competing against each other.”

That level of competitiveness and the increase in size could result in more catches for the tight end unit.

But at the end of the day, height only gets you so far. After all, Bibbs was just 6-foot-3, which would make him the shortest tight end on scholarship if he was on this year’s roster — just like he was the shortest tight end in 2014 when he led the offense in receiving touchdowns.

In the end, it will be up to Allen, Harms and the rest of the crew to turn their height and potential into production. That starts with Chase Allen, who has a very high ceiling according to Golesh.

“I think it’s probably a little too much hype for someone that hasn’t played yet,” Golesh said. “I think he can handle it, he’s just got to set realistic expectations and I’ve got to push him beyond those.”