Iowa State working to fill big shoes at tight end spot

Iowa State Cyclones tight end Jared Rus gets pushed out by Oklahoma State safety Kolby Harvell-Peel after gaining first down during the first quarter at Jack Trice Stadium Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

Few teams in college football have done a better job of utilizing their tight ends over the last two seasons than Iowa State.

In 2021 alone, the Cyclones’ tight ends combined to catch 96 passes for 1,125 yards and eight touchdowns. Obviously, that production is a lot easier to come by when the team’s top two tight ends rank among the nation’s best.

But, All-American Charlie Kolar and multiple-time All-Big 12 selection Chase Allen are gone as Iowa State continues its preparations for the 2022 football season during spring practice.

Iowa State’s ability to use three tight ends at a time each of the past two years is what has made their offense truly unique.

While Breece Hall was great, the group’s ability to play 13-personnel without sacrificing explosiveness in the passing game or minimizing the ability to block the run is what made it a mismatch for opposing defenses.

Finding a way to recreate that versatility with nearly an all-new cast of characters will be one of the biggest keys for a unit going through significant changes with new faces at some of its most key spots.

“Certainly spearheaded by Jared Rus, who’s played a bunch and Jared certainly serves a role at the tight end position,” Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning said of the returning tight ends earlier this week. “Really good competition I feel like in that group. Easton Dean has done a good job. DeShawn Hanika, we thought has really come on, and then Tyler Moore, those are the guys that have really have gotten the bulk of the work there.”

Rus was named first-team All-Big 12 at fullback in 2021 while playing a key role in Iowa State’s power packages, starting six of the team’s 13 games, and catching seven passes for 67 yards.

Rus’ contributions in the short backfield will be a crucial piece to anything Iowa State does offensively this year with Hunter Dekkers expected to slide in at quarterback and Jirehl Brock replacing Hall.

Dean and Hanika each appeared in all 13 games for Iowa State last season, playing primarily on special teams, but only Dean, a converted quarterback, has caught a pass to this point in his career.

Both of Dean’s college receptions — one a 25-yarder in 2020 and an 18-yarder in 2021 — came in blowout wins over Kansas, and were also thrown by Dekkers.

Moore might just be the most intriguing player in the group. The redshirt freshman and former four-star recruit out of Johnston chose Iowa State over Arizona State, UCF, Boise State and numerous other programs when he signed with the 2021 class.

He caught 45 passes for 571 yards and six touchdowns as a senior for the Dragons back in 2020, proving to be one of the state’s most dynamic talents.

Moore finding a way to translate that to the college gridiron in 2022 could help Iowa State in a big way as the program looks to recreate the mismatch that has allowed it to thrive the past two years.

“I think it’s certainly something that we’d still like to have the ability to do,” Manning said of the 13-personnel. “You’ve probably heard this a million times from us, it’s still going to be about players, formations and plays… We have the opportunity to do that, and once that group proves that we’re better off to have more tight ends than not, we’ll go that route when it comes.”

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.