IOWA CITY — Could Friday’s regular-season finale against Nebraska be the final Kinnick Stadium appearance for two Iowa tight ends?
It’s a question Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson expect to contemplate in the not-too-distant future.
Iowa’s tight end tandem both said Tuesday they plan to submit their names to the NFL Draft Advisory Board, gauging where they might fit into the 2019 NFL Draft if they were to forego their final seasons of eligibility with the Hawkeyes.
Neither has put much thought into it at this point, but both expect to meet with coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Brian Ferentz following Iowa’s bowl game and explore the possibilities from there.
As third-year players, both are draft-eligible. Fant is a junior while Hockenson is a sophomore after redshirting as a freshman in 2016.
“Mostly, at this point I’m just interested in the feedback,’’ Hockenson said. “I’m curious about what they might have to say.’’
For now, he said his focus remains on Friday’s 11 a.m. matchup with the Cornhuskers and helping send Iowa’s 14-player senior class off with a win.
“That’s the only things that matters this week, winning another football game. Honestly, getting that eighth win is the only thing I care about right now,’’ said Hockenson, named Monday as one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award presented to college football’s top tight end.
He called the selection “surreal,’’ but is pleased with his production for the Hawkeyes this season.
Fant, who joined Hockenson on a list of eight semifinalists for the award, isn’t in any hurry to think too far down the road.
“We’ll see what happens,’’ Fant said. “A lot of people kind of expect me to leave, but that just kind of all depends on what feedback is given back to me. We’ll see what happens from there.’’
Both are highly regarded by Iowa coaches and draft analysts alike.
The reasons are multiple.
Hockenson leads Iowa with 41 receptions and 663 receiving yards and has been on the receiving end of six touchdown passes this season.
Fant leads Iowa with seven touchdown receptions this season and his 19 career scoring catches are the most by any tight end in Hawkeye history. This season, he has caught a career-high 35 passes covering 507 yards.
With their combination of size and quickness, they have been the receivers on 15 of the 20 passes Nate Stanley has thrown this season that have gone for 25 yards or more.
“T.J. is not your average bear by any stretch and Noah, … there aren’t many tight ends I’ve ever seen or been around that can run like he can,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s almost effortless in the way he runs so it puts him in a little different category in my mind as a tight end.’’
Ferentz said the ability of both tight ends to finish plays the way they do makes both unique.
In the case of the 6-foot-5, 241-pound Fant, having a 42-inch vertical jump doesn’t hurt and the 6-5, 250-pound Hockenson has consistent blocking skills which put both athletes on the radars of NFL draft analysts.
“I feel like we’re totally different types of players,’’ Fant said. “He does his thing and I do mine. We have two different jobs to do in our offense and we both do them well.’’
Last week, Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Fant as the top prospect in the 2019 draft if he chooses to leave Iowa early. He also has Hockenson fifth on the same list.
Fant is aware of that, but he wants more concrete information before reaching any conclusion.
“A lot of them have me going in the first round, but that’s just all mock drafts and you never really know what could actually happen,’’ he said. “Right now, I’m more interested in finishing up the season the right way and then we’ll go on from there.’’