If using multiple tight ends is a relic of past football offenses, Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell must be one heck of a historian.
In his fifth season as Iowa State head coach, Campbell has the Cyclones leading the nation in tight end production, utilizing a trio of imposing upperclassmen.
Simply The Best.
— Cyclone Football (@CycloneFB) December 1, 2020
Charlie Kolar, Dylan Soehner and Chase Allen have combined for 59 receptions this season for 764 yards and six touchdowns. Campbell uses all three tight ends in the Cyclones’ offense and will be some of the biggest offensive players West Virginia’s defense has faced all season when the Mountaineers travel to Ames, Iowa this weekend.
Soehner (6-foot-7, 272 pounds), Kolar (6-6, 257) and Allen (6-7, 240) are potential matchup nightmares for a WVU secondary whose tallest player is the 6-foot-1 Dreshun Miller.
“Their advantage at tight end is not going away, it’s not going to change,” WVU co-defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said. “They’re not going to go from 6-7 to 6-3 before Saturday. That’s something we’re going to have to deal with and we’re going to have to make contested plays.”
Lesley said one of the best ways to limit ISU’s tight ends is by effecting Cyclone quarterback Brock Purdy. That will be easier said than done, however, as WVU coach Neal Brown said the tight ends, Purdy and running back Breece Hall combine to make one of the most efficient offenses in the Big 12.
“I think we can get to some different looks, we can defend them multiple ways, but at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to one-on-one plays,” Brown said. “We’ve got to give Purdy different looks, we’ve got to attack the tight ends in the vertical passing game in different ways and we know, going into the game, they’re going to make some plays, we’ve just got to limit them the best we can.”
Purdy’s passing numbers are down from a season ago, averaging 225 yards a game with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions, but Hall is the second leading rushing in the nation and has taken a lot of pressure off of ISU’s passing game this season. The tight ends have combined for about a third of ISU’s passing production this season.
With a considerable size disadvantage, WVU safety Alonzo Addae said attacking the ball when it is in the air is a better strategy than trying to out-physical the bigger tight ends.
“First and foremost, you have to make sure you attack the ball when it’s in the air,” Addae said. “With bigger guys, if they’re able to go up and locate the ball and if you’re not challenging them for it, it’s going to be difficult. You’ve got to make sure you’re aggressive.”
Addae also said it will be important for WVU’s defensive backs to use their quickness and speed to their advantage when matched up against larger pass-catchers.
West Virginia and Iowa State will kick off at 3:30 p.m. EST on Saturday from Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. It will be senior day for the Cyclones and the game will be broadcast on ESPN