Brad Herman feels the eyes on him and his running mates at the tight end position. It’s a hot spot for concern after Brandon Myers and Tony Moeaki left Iowa for the NFL after the last two seasons.
“We just have to reload,” Herman said. “I feel like I’m ready. (Allen) Reisner is ready. We’re teaching the younger guys, getting them ready.
“With coach (Chris) Doyle, you can look at one guy one season and the next season he’s put on 15-20 pounds. It’s just developing the younger guys, getting them out there. It may not look as good on paper but you never know who is going to come out of the bunch.”
We hear a lot about “the next man” in at Iowa. Well, Herman represents that person at tight end.
The true junior from Metamora (Ill.) High is listed as the second-team tight end behind Reisner, a senior, on the most recent depth chart. As anyone who follows Iowa football knows, basically that means he’s a starter.
“I think I’m ready to step into that role,” Herman said. “I’ve learned what I can from (Reisner and Moeaki). I’m still learning every day from the coaches and the players around me.
“Now, it’s my time. It’s sink or swim. I’m ready mentally and physically and I feel like I’ve made a huge improvement with spring ball and from last year. I’ll be ready to go.”
Despite playing as a true freshman, Herman has seen limited reps in his first two years on campus. He played in eight games as a sophomore, catching one pass for three yards. Blocking has held him back to this point.
“I’ve really worked on my technique,” the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder said. “I’m a leaner guy so blocking hasn’t been the easiest thing for me. But I’m going against Adrian (Clayborn) every day. He’s the best in the country. If I can block him, I can block anybody. Just knowing that in my mind is comforting.
“I’m just trying to improve whether it’s my footwork or keeping my pads square through the block or bringing my knees, there’s something you can improve every day. That’s the mindset you have to come out with here at practice.”
Herman’s progress has caught the attention of Iowa Tight Ends Coach Eric Johnson.
“Brad, throughout the spring, made tremendous strides,” Johnson said. “He really gained a good knowledge of the offense . You can see him play fast now. He’s starting to play more physical. He’s still got a long ways to go, but I’m really happy with his work ethic on the field right now.”
Reisner followed a similar career path as has Herman. They played as true freshmen and blocking was where they needed the most improvement before seeing extended reps.
“He’s full of insight,” Herman said of Reisner. “He’s been playing four years. There’s nothing he hasn’t seen. He and Tony have just been great mentors. Ultimately, it’s paying off right now.”
The Kansas City Chiefs selected Moeaki in the third round of April’s NFL Draft.
“Tony is about as explosive as they come but probably what made him that good at blocking was his attitude,” Herman said. “That’s the main thing I picked up from him is just the mindset that you’re going to go out there and kick that guy’s butt. It doesn’t matter who they put in front of you.
“He was just determined to knock them out, beat them up. That’s the mentality you’ve got to have. Football is basically a controlled fight. That’s the kind of mentality you have to take. That’s what I learned from Tony.”
When Moeaki left, many Iowa followers felt that opened the door for incoming freshman C.J. Fiedorwicz to jump in behind Reisner.
“I’ve always been that unknown guy,” Herman said. “I’ve been that my whole career. It will be interesting to see who comes out. Maybe C.J. being here will push those other guys as well as me and Allen, too.
“C.J., I mean, I’d kill for that frame. He is massive. He’s young, he’s athletic and he’s willing to learn. I think that’s going to take him far here.”
Reisner, Herman and Moeaki played in their first years on campus. The latter was the only one who saw significant playing time.
“It’s hard for an incoming freshman to play,” Johnson said. “Tony was a special player in that respect, picking up the offense and having the physical ability to play. Allen picked up the offense but there were certain things we needed to do with him because he wasn’t the most physical guy as a freshman.
“C.J., physically he’s ready to go. We’ve just got to see if he can pick up the mental aspect. That’s a huge part in our offense. The things we do with our tight ends there’s a lot of mental gymnastics for them.”
Jonathan Gimm received reps with the second team at the Kids Day scrimmage on Aug. 14. He appeared to have improved since last season when he also got some time at fullback.
Although he’s taken his lumps the last two seasons, Herman is glad he played as a true freshman. He believes it’s prepared him for the position in which he finds himself.
“There are very few things I don’t know now because of that,” Herman said. “Some people said I wasn’t ready. I was behind Brandon (Myers), Allen and Tony. Really, I was just a safety valve in case Tony would have gone pro.
“Ultimately, it’s benefited me. People have questioned it. But it made me a much smarter player, forced me to grow up quicker and learn fast.”