Last week Iowa picked up a pair of offensive line commitments for their 2023 recruiting class (including one really big get). This week Iowa followed up that momentum with another key addition on the offensive side of the ball: tight end.
On Indepedence Day, Iowa picked up a verbal commitment from Zach Ortwerth, another strong addition to Iowa's already very solid 2023 class. Ortwerth, listed at 6'5", 220 lbs, was one of Iowa's top targets at tight end in this class. He's rated a 3* recruit by Rivals and 247 Sports and chose Iowa over a lengthy list of offers, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue, Louisville, West Virginia, and more.
In comments to Hawkeye Report, Ortwerth praised his relationships with Iowa coaches as well as the fit he felt with other players when he made his official visit.
"I’ve liked talking to the coaches and when I got to be around the players during my official, it was great," Ortwerth said of his decision to commit to Iowa.
But a key factor is also what the hashtag he used in his commitment tweent: #TEU. Iowa's reputation as a tight end factory is well-establishd and, understandably, making them very attractive to tight end prospects. Tight end has been a money position in the Iowa offense since Kirk Ferentz arrived in Iowa City (just ask Dallas Clark), and its importance has only increased since Brian Ferentz has taken the reins of the offense. There are a lot of things to complain about when it comes to the Iowa offense, but tight end usage is rarely one of them. Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson developed into first round NFL Draft picks at Iowa and Sam LaPorta led Iowa in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns last season. He projects to be a possible All-Big Ten performer this year and could be yet another Iowa tight end who hears his name called in the NFL Draft. If you're a high school tight end, the development track record at Iowa has to be extremely appealing.
What kind of tight end is Iowa getting in Ortwerth? Per an interview with his high school coach at Hawkeye Insider ($), a very physical player who has considerable athletic upside, among other things.
How has Iowa said it sees Zach fitting in at tight end?
“They use tight ends all over and the nice thing with Zach is that he can do it all. I know that’s what attracted Iowa to Zach is that he doesn’t have a set spot at tight end. With Zach being 6-foot-5, 230-pounds, and being able to move like he does, there is versatility there. Zach loves all things football. When you play the tight end spot, sometimes you get guys that are a little more finesse and sometimes you get guys that are just glorified linemen that can catch a little bit, so you just put them out there. With Zach, he is a combination of all things, and that really fits Iowa with how it uses them. He can catch the ball, he can split outside, he can be inline, he can be in the backfield, and his kind of diversity of skill fits the diversity of how Iowa uses him at the tight end position.”
One interesting note about Ortwerth is that he's still pretty raw as a football prospect. He didn't play football until his freshman year of high school and he only played on the freshman team that year. His sophomore year was wiped out due to COVID and a broken collarbone, which also limited his offseason opportunities. His junior year (last fall) was his first and only full season of football so far, so he may have considerable room to improve as he gets more experienced at the tight end position.
Here are some highlights of Ortwerth in action as a high school junior:
His highlights literally start off with him blocking a dude 15 years downfield. Ferentz & Co. probably offered him immediately after seeing that.
Welcome to Iowa, Zach. We're excited to see the Zach Attack in action in a few seasons.