Nov 9, 2019; Norman, OK, USA; Iowa State Cyclones tight end Dylan Soehner (89) celebrates with wide receiver Sean Shaw Jr. (2) after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Don’t sleep on Dylan Soehner.
Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell has stressed that sentiment repeatedly when conversations veer toward his burly, talented, but oft-injured tight end.
The message is even louder now.
Soehner — who suffered a season-ending leg injury in the regular season-closing loss at Kansas State — proclaimed himself “100 percent, if not better than that,” heading into Saturday’s 11 a.m. season opener (ESPN) against dangerous Louisiana at Jack Trice Stadium.
All of which means the Cyclones’ uber-talented tight ends room will likely be even more potent and productive in a COVID-19-abbreviated 2020 season.
“That room probably has the most experience out of any position room on the team and they’re great guys,” said ISU quarterback Brock Purdy, who set 18 new single-game, single-season or career records for this program last season. “For them, to be able to lead guys on the offense who may not have stepped on the field yet during a game, they have a great ripple effect on them because they give great information. For them to make a play in the pass game and make a play while blocking in the run game — they’re guys that just do their job. When people see them do their job, it motivates them to be better and it lets them know how they should be like. They’re guys who can make plays through the air, or blocking. Dylan is going to be a key for that this year. And Chase Allen and Charlie (Kolar), they’re both guys who can make a play at any moment.”
The only thing that’s prevented Soehner from reaching his full potential thus far has been injuries. Now, as a fifth-year senior, he’s poised to make his mark on an offense that teems with talent and experience at quarterback, running back and in his tight end group — but needs some seasoning up front and at receiver.
“I think that we obviously provide a good option for Brock in the pass game,” said Soehner, who caught his first career touchdown pass in the one-point loss at Oklahoma last season. “It’s kind of a mismatch anywhere on the field, which is good for him, good for us, good for the offense. The receivers, I mean, there’s incredible talent in there. And they’re coming along just like we had to come along, too. We’re involved in a lot of the pass game, obviously, and we continue to be. Getting those two, three tight end sets, we kind of live in that receiver world a little bit sometimes out there. I think that us being so mature is going to help bridge the gap kind of and I think you’ll see those guys just roll with it from the start. They’re really talented group. They’re young in some spots, but I think they’re ready to go and I don’t really think that you’ll see much of a lag from last year.”
Purdy will likely lean on Soehner, Kolar, and Allen in a long-awaited season-opener that could turn into a shootout.
Louisiana averaged 37.9 points last season and ranked seventh among FBS teams in total offense (6,918).
“You’re talking about a really unique challenge from the beginning of the season, but the fact of the matter of it is you’re not going to get better any other way than to truly test yourself and to truly test yourself against really talented competition,” Campbell said. “We’re certainly getting that this weekend.”
The Cyclones’ defense gets that every day in practice when squaring up with the tight ends. Kolar is the top playmaker. Allen is perhaps the best all-around talent. Soehner — when healthy — shines in the area Campbell values the most: the margins.
“Man, I feel great,” Soehner said. “Going into (this season), I feel better now than I did going into my redshirt freshman year and I hadn’t played a snap here yet, so that’s been huge for me and kind of something I wanted to focus on this offseason.”
So far, so good. Now it’s game week — and Soehner’s happily engaged in a friendly, yet fierce competition for snaps in one of the best tight end rooms in the country.
“Yeah, that’s a that’s a really cool room — a really cool environment that we’ve kind of built in there,” Soehner said. “The biggest thing, I think, or the most important thing about it for us, is there’s not a guy in that room that feels like he has a secure job. So we push each other in that sense. Nobody’s out to get anybody or anything, but nobody’s like just kind of cruising along, thinking that they’ve got it made, so I think we kind of complement each other well on the field, but we obviously push each other off the field, too. And it’s a group of characters. Charlie, man, he’s something else. You guys know that if you’ve talked to him. A lot of intelligence in the room and it’s good for the young guys. We try to bring them in and kind of spread whatever we know over them, because we didn’t really have that coming in — no scholarship tight ends when Chase and I got here. So we’re trying to make sure that they have the older guys to kind of learn from.”