Iowa position preview: Why TE T.J. Hockenson repeating his big spring is best for the Hawkeyes

Iowa football is back. The Hawkeyes are in camp, and the season is approaching. Land of 10 is here to keep you informed and get you prepared for the season. In August, we are breaking down position groups. In this edition, we look at tight ends. 

IOWA CITY, Iowa — If anything, Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson knows how to make a good impression. He needed only 15 spring practices to become one of two starters.

Now, he must find a way to make a lasting one. A few good April practices is one thing, but the Hawkeyes need verification that Hockenson is more than a one-hit wonder if they are to rely on him.

The preseason isn’t about holding on to his position. Hockenson must also prove he’s ready to handle it.

“Things are still coming at him fast, but he is progressing well,” tight ends coach LeVar Woods said. “He had a really good spring. He competes. He is physical. He makes the play when we call on him.”

What can T.J. Hockenson do?

Hockenson is an unknown. At 6-foot-5, 248 pounds, he’s a potential matchup nightmare for Big Ten foes. Catching the football comes natural to the former high school wide receiver and he’s the type of playmaker offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz wants to highlight in the passing game.

The question is if he’s ready.

Hockenson is young and untested. Woods is still figuring out what he has in Hockenson.

A strong work ethic is apparent. So are two good hands. The rest is a work in progress.

“He is eager to learn and he’s eager to put in the work,” Woods said. “So when you do those kind of things good results usually happen.”

What must T.J. Hockenson do to earn playing time?

Hockenson is in a unique situation. Most players are just doing their best to prove they are worthy of playing time.

As a potential starter, that is certainly the case for Hockenson. But he also needs to convince the Hawkeyes his spring is repeatable. He is yet to face a Big Ten defense. There is no track record of consistency here. Earning the trust of the coaching staff is a must.

So is growth. He is still figuring out to how to play the position. It’s going to be hard to stay atop the depth chart without becoming an all-around tight end threat.

“I need to get better at blocking,” Hockenson said. “That’s a role right now in mind. We have Noah [Fant] out there catching balls and obviously he’s fast. Probably blocking is my biggest coaching point.”

It always is for converted wide receivers, but he is proving to be a quick study. The 23 pounds Hockenson packed on in his first 14 months on campus is helping him hold his own with defensive ends.

“[Strength coach Chris] Doyle did a really good job of increasing my weight,” Hockenson said. “Spring ball really showed that. I was able to block a lot better.”

What can T.J. Hockenson add to the offense?

Right now, the Iowa offense is the Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line, wide receiver Matt VandeBerg and running backs Akrum Wadley and James Butler. The rest is unknown.

Iowa wants the tight ends to fill some of the void and be a bigger part of the passing game. Fant and Hockenson are the two best bets to do so. Each entered camp a starter and can make the aerial attack more versatile, multiple and tougher to defend.

Tight ends give Iowa options. The best option is if Hockenson is ready to take on a bigger role, taking pressure off the wide receivers while serving as a security blanket and downfield threat for a new starting quarterback.

Hockenson put together a big spring. It was impressive, but a killer encore is more important.

The post Iowa position preview: Why TE T.J. Hockenson repeating his big spring is best for the Hawkeyes appeared first on Land of 10.

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