Football

COORDINATORS’ NOTEBOOK: On ISU TE Charlie Kolar’s importance, improving the run game and more

Nov 27, 2020; Austin, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones tight end Charlie Kolar (88) tackled by multiple Texas Longhorns defenders in the third quarter at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to quantify two-time All-American tight end Charlie Kolar’s importance to Iowa State’s offense.

It’s hard to put into words.

And as of Wednesday night, it remained unclear if Kolar would be able to start in Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. Cy-Hawk matchup between the No. 9 Cyclones and tenth-ranked Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium.

Kolar sat out the No. 9 Cyclones’ 16-10 season-opening win over Northern Iowa with a lower-body injury but participated in pregame warmups. ISU’s all-time leading tight end in terms of receptions (106), receiving yards (1,425) and touchdown catches (17) did practice early this week, as well, which buoys hope that he should be able to return for Saturday’s ESPN College GameDay-framed clash before 61,500 fans.

“Certainly it was a challenge (with him sitting out), but we still felt like we were able to get in some multiple tight end things and certainly looking forward to Charlie continuing to get healthy and being the best he can to help our offense,” ISU offensive coordinator Tom Manning said.

Kolar missed his second straight season opener and obviously — when healthy — provides the Cyclones with a veteran playmaker with a penchant for making clutch plays while commanding constant attention.

 Kolar caught 15 passes that resulted in successful third-down conversions last season alone, while 35 of his overall 44 catches turned into either first downs or touchdowns.

 “I think historically there’s been a lot of people that have, maybe not particularly double-covered Charlie, but have found a way to maybe get help underneath or over top, or somehow someway,” Manning said. “Any good player, I think certainly people know where he is on the football field. I think that’s something that all coaches and players are alert to — where are the players that have historically done really well? Where are they lined up and what are they asking them to do? Certainly, he’s a guy that does get a lot of attention in terms of what he does in the passing game historically.”

 MANNING ON IOWA’S DEFENSE …

 Iowa won the last meeting with ISU, 18-17, in 2019 despite being outgained by more than 100 yards.

 The Cyclones totaled 418 yards of offense in that game but obviously found translating moving the sticks into putting up points extremely difficult.

 Manning expects more of the same from the Hawkeyes’ defense on Saturday. 

 “I think you have to be really good and disciplined and sound to have the ability to have any success on offense,” Manning said. “I think from our standpoint, we’re trying to get first downs and trying to have the ability to make plays if those opportunities present themselves.”

 BACK TO BASICS FOR THE RUNNING GAME

 Manning echoed head coach Matt Campbell’s assessment of the Cyclones’ performance on the ground in the season opener. There were both good and not-so-good elements to that 136-yard effort. How best to improve it?

 “Fundamentals and techniques,” Manning said. “Probably a little bit rusty in terms of what we were doing. There were certainly some really good (parts). … We had very few assignment problems. I think for us, it’s continuing the growth on our fundamentals and techniques and trying to go from there.”

 DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR JON HEACOCK ON IOWA’S OFFENSE …

Heacock said Iowa’s offense is impressive because of its bedrock consistency. The Hawkeyes — like last week’s foe, UNI — rarely beat themselves and rely on a punishing running game to grind down opponents.

 Still, Heacock’s ISU defense has held Iowa to 31 combined points in the past two meetings. And still, the Cyclones lost. How can that scoreboard situation be improved? Simple. 

 “We’ve got to do our jobs,” Heacock said. “Everybody has an assignment and we’ve got to be where we’re supposed to be. That’s first and foremost. … I think at times, and I share this with our players, when you’re trying to make plays sometimes, you get caught up in your eyes being in the wrong place and getting in the wrong spots. I think for us, it’s really critical that we stay locked into details and precision and be where we’re supposed to be. All offensive plays are designed to score a touchdown and all defenses are designed to stop every play. Now, one of those two things has to give. I think for us, whether it be running backs, wideouts, quarterbacks in this league, our whole season, this week — you’re playing against really good players. And we have to be where we’re supposed to be.”

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