Making sense of using Fiedorowicz
C.J. Fiedorowicz looked more like a basketball player than a football player when he hauled in his first touchdown catch of 2013 against Northern Illinois. He showed his strength and size in a shifty post-up move and snatched the ball from the air.
The touchdown gave the Hawkeyes a 17-10 lead. The 67,000-plus in Kinnick erupted. Even more Hawkeye fans took to social media in delight. Iowa’s biggest ball-catcher finally got the ball, in the red zone, for a touchdown.
The collective reaction bordered a massive sigh of relief, knowing that quarterback Jake Rudock found Iowa’s giant, athletic tight end.
Still, through the celebration were some Iowa fans and football experts who pondered why Fiedorowicz hasn’t gotten the ball more in the red zone more — or, just more in general.
“Where the ball goes is dictated by the defense,” Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said on Tuesday. “[The tight ends] will get their share of balls.”
The score on Aug. 31 was just Fiedorowicz’s fifth of his career and second in four games dating back to last season — the other in that span came against Purdue on Nov. 10, 2012.
Before the Northern Illinois game — where his TD came from 11-yards out — each of Fiedorowicz’s touchdown catches came from no farther than 8 yards out. Three of those four scores were 5-yard catches.
This lends itself to the idea that Fiedorowicz should be a consistent red-zone threat for the Iowa offense. Rudock saw this as he took the snap on that scoring play — noticeable by how he eyed Fiedorowicz nearly the entire time he ran his route.
His tight end was matched up with Northern Illinois’s 5-10 linebacker Jamaal Bass. Rudock placed the ball where only Fiedorowicz, who stands at an intimidating 6-7, could get it. The play itself seemed like a no-brainer.
“Obviously, he’s a big guy — good tight end,” Rudock said. “When you have the trust in the guy where you can give him a shot, he’ll protect the ball. He’s not going to let the other team take it away.”
In essence, Rudock let the ball fly and allowed Fiedorowicz’s size do the rest. And it’s no surprise Iowa’s quarterback figured that out.
Fiedorowicz was the tallest player on the field against Northern Illinois, and he will be again when Iowa takes on Missouri State in two days. Fiedorowicz will have about a 5-inch advantage, on average, against the Bears’ linebackers and defensive backs.
But even then, he only caught two passes in the season’s opening contest. Rudock did spread the ball around, hitting nine different receivers (Kevonte Martin-Manley led the way with 9 catches; three other ball-catchers tied Fiedorowicz with 2, and four more had 1 each).
Fiedorowicz, as of this writing, has tallied 63 career receptions in an Iowa uniform, with 45 coming last season. If there is one more case to make for getting Fiedorowicz the ball at a more consistent clip, it’s that he averages nearly 10 yards per catch.
The volume of catches and number of touchdowns could change this season, because there are still 11 games left on the schedule. But as Ferentz noted on Tuesday, there are more variables that go into getting Fiedorowicz the ball.
“I’m not the one throwing the ball. Jake sees what he sees, and he’s going to throw the ball to who he thinks is open,” Fiedorowicz said. “That’s not one of my goals, to score one touchdown a year … the balls will come. We’ll see what happens.”
In today's issue: