By Dylan Burn
IOWA CITY, Iowa – All one has to do is look at Noah Fant and you see his potential.
The 6-foot-5, 232 pound sophomore from Omaha, Neb., was one of 10 true freshmen to play for Iowa last season, catching nine passes for 70 yards and one touchdown.
But what a difference a year of experience makes because Fant is now Iowa's top tight end and a favorite target for new starting quarterback Nate Stanley.
“It takes more focus,” Fant said of his expanded role. “You have to be locked in the game the whole time. You have to be aware of the situations, and it was a little bit different, but it was fun.”
Based on what happened during Iowa's 24-3 victory over Wyoming in the season opener last Saturday, it shouldn't take Fant long to surpass his numbers from last season.
He caught just two passes for 29 yards, both of which resulted in touchdowns. And if it weren’t for one drop early in the game, Fant would’ve finished with three catches for over 50 total yards. His drop came on a play in which he was hit hard by a Wyoming defender.
“I had the one drop early in the game,” Fant said. “If anything, I need to catch those balls, but we’re just going to keep working.”
New Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz has to be excited about what Fant brings to the passing game. Fant has the size to withstand the power and strength from linebackers and the speed to compete with defensive backs.
Iowas was dominant on the ground on its first scoring drive against Wyoming, but couldn’t punch it into the end zone until Stanley connected with Fant for a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth down.
“We had the run game going a little bit (on that scoring drive), so we just ran a play that we’ve always gotten a few yards on in practice and we had a lot of confidence in that play call,” Stanley said.
Fant says he already feels a strong chemistry with Stanley.
“You can’t develop chemistry without practicing,” Fant said. “I think Nate has good chemistry with the whole offense. He knows the different ways our receivers move, he knows the routes the receivers can get to faster. He did a really good job today.”
Stanley completed 8-of-15 passes for 125 yards and three touchdowsn in his first start last Saturday. However, he also struggled with ball security, losing two fumbles and throwing one interception.
He did get stronger as the game progressed, though, completing eight of his final 11 passes after misfiring on his first four attempts.
Stanley also feels a strong connection with Fant on the field.
"Noah is a great player,” Stanley said. “He’s just a mismatch nightmare for a lot of people and he had a great game. He just played great the whole day and got open.”
Fant will look to stay hot on Saturday when Iowa faces Iowa State in Ames.
The Cyclones are coming off a 42-24 victory over Northern Iowa last Saturday.
Iowa’s vaunted rushing attack, with seniors Akrum Wadley and James Butler carrying the load, is expected to lead the way on Saturday, but the Hawkeyes don't want to be one-dimensional.
Fant and his cohorts also will have to contribute in order to keep the Iowa State defenders from loading the box to stop the run.