Nov 9, 2019; Norman, OK, USA; Iowa State Cyclones tight end Chase Allen (11) catches a touchdown pass past Oklahoma Sooners cornerback Parnell Motley (11) during the fourth quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Iowa State tight end Chase Allen grinned as he listened.
He was being asked about three Cyclones tight ends — himself included — scoring touchdowns in Saturday’s narrow 42-41 loss Oklahoma and the question morphed into a perspective-based answer.
“That was something we’ve been working on a long time now,” said Allen, a talented, but oft-injured 6-7 junior who’s scored both of his career touchdowns this season. “From about three years ago, us — the tight ends — being completely off the field during critical moments in the game, to us all being on the field and even in the most critical moments, having all three of us out there running routes. So I was super proud of our guys. We’ve just got to keep going on this trend.”
Those other guys: Charlie Kolar and Dylan Soehner join with Allen to form a deeply-talented trio for the Cyclones (5-4, 3-3 Big 12), who have turned a three tight-end set into one of their most versatile and productive formations entering Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. (FS1) matchup with Texas (6-3, 4-2) at Jack Trice Stadium.
Kolar, who stands 6-6, ranks in the top 10 among FBS tight ends in receiving yards per game (57.2, tied for fourth); receptions per game (4.0, ninth); and touchdown catches (six, tied for fifth nationally).
Soehner, who like Allen is 6-7, snared his first career touchdown catch in the loss to the Sooners and blends brute force in blocking schemes with surprising speed and skill in route running.
“Obviously, Chase, you know his dad (Terry) was a football coach and I think with that you’re probably hyper-aware of your performance and what you have to do to prepare,” ISU offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. “Charlie’s a great competitor and he’s an emotional guy. He takes it to heart, the way that he plays. And Soehner, he’s a workhorse. I think he just comes to work every day and I think that’s what I appreciate about that group. We’ve been fortunate that they’ve been able to make some plays throughout the year and then, a little bit of a coincidence that they — and it was Dylan’s first touchdown; it was a little bit of a coincidence that (they all scored) in the same game.”
To Allen, it was a long time coming.
Cyclones tight ends totaled 18 catches from 2015 to 2017 — Allen’s first season as a redshirt freshman. They scored zero touchdowns in that span and became a largely forgotten component of the offense, though that started to change in 2017, ISU head coach Matt Campbell’s first season at the helm.
The group broke through last season with 25 catches and four touchdowns (all by Kolar) and took another potent step forward this season, where they own a combined 54 receptions for 735 yards and nine touchdowns through nine games.
So it was probably only a matter of time before all three burst into the end zone like they did last week in Norman — as unlikely or “coincidental” as it may seem.
“You’re the second person that told me that three tight ends scored,” Manning said when I asked him about it this week. “(Tight ends coach (Alex) Golesh told me, as well. But, no, those guys, they’re very intelligent guys. They’re very aware and it’s really important to how they play and how they perform. Their development — not only does coach Golesh coach them really hard and coach Campbell likes to poke around with the tight ends and we’re always on top of them. We ask them to do a lot of things, but I think those guys just have a sense of awareness of their progress all the time and it’s really important to all those guys.”
Whether blocking or catching, they’ve certainly come a long way — as individuals and as a trio.
“Coach Campbell’s philosophy is players, formations, and plays,” Manning said. “And we just feel like those guys are good football players.”