Player Interviews

Chargers May Pluck a Couple Hawkeyes on Day Three


The meat and potatoes of any draft class arrives between Rounds 4-7. It is critical for GM Tom Telesco to score on the third day of this year’s draft, as his squad lacks depth on both sides of the ball.

As Telesco aims to improve depth at vulnerable positions, he’ll take a hard look at a couple of Iowa products.

The first Hawkeye on the radar is Henry Krieger-Coble, a two-way tight end who would replace John Phillips and/or David Johnson, both of whom are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.

“I pride myself on being able to do all of what a tight end is asked to do in the NFL,” Krieger-Coble told me during Senior Bowl week. “I played in a pro-style system in college, so I’m comfortable run blocking, pass blocking, being a downfield threat and being able to run routes across the middle and make tough catches. That’s one of the main things I’ve been talking to scouts about.”

Krieger-Coble made huge strides as a receiver during his senior season, catching 35 passes for 405 yards after totaling just seven receptions in his first three seasons combined. But it is his ability to do the dirty work that intrigues the Chargers.

In short, he’s more Justin Peelle than Antonio Gates.

“In the NFL there’s still a demand for guys who can do everything,” he explained. “Not just run down the field and make catches, but there need to be guys who can get in there and run block and pass block and be in the trenches a little bit, too. It’s still a multidimensional position.”

Krieger-Coble can upgrade the H-back position, which is where Johnson struggled mightily last season.

“Just being able to be put in different positions is something I have experience in and confidence in myself going forward, that I can go and play an H-back in certain plays and be able to be a good asset playing a fullback-type position, too,” he said.

In addition to contributing on offense, Krieger-Coble believes he can help on special teams, too. He did not get much experience covering kicks at Iowa — that was not something he was asked to do — but he jumped in on special teams during Senior Bowl week and looked like a natural.

He realizes he will have to cut his teeth in the third phase as a rookie.

“That’s what I’m going to be asked to do in the NFL, and if I’m lucky enough to make a team I’m going to have to go out there and show I can cover kicks and be on return teams and everything like that,” he said.

Another Iowa product on San Diego’s radar is center Austin Blythe. San Diego’s need at center is almost as great as its need at tight end, as last season’s starter (Chris Watt) has struggled with injuries and inconsistencies.

Blythe was a highly productive player for the Hawkeyes. He started the final 45 games of his college career, being named first team All-Big Ten by league coaches and media following his senior season. His biggest issue is his weight, as he arrived in Mobile, Ala., weighing just 291 lbs.

“I’ve gotten a few questions about whether or not I can weigh 300 lbs. I respond with ‘yes,’ obviously,” Blythe told me. “I’m really comfortable with the weight I’m playing at now. If they want me to get up to 300 lbs. when they draft me that’s fine. I will happily oblige. But at this point in time, I’m very comfortable with the weight I’m playing at — I don’t think I’ve lost any strength with the weight I’m playing at.”

It helps that Blythe comes from a college program known for putting quality offensive linemen into the NFL. One of those linemen, Pro Bowler Marshall Yanda (Ravens), still comes back in the offseason to work out at his alma mater. Blythe stays in contact with a couple other former Hawkeyes, as well, including Brandon Scherff (Redskins) and Andrew Donnal (Rams).

“Those are guys I keep in touch with,” he said. “Obviously, I pick their brains whenever I can.”

He also picks the brains of head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive line coach Brian Ferentz, the father-son duo with ties to some elite NFL coaches, including New England’s Bill Belichick.

“They have lots of offensive line knowledge and lots of wisdom they can impart on us players,” Blythe explained. “I took everything to heart over my five years there and am really grateful for the opportunity they’ve given me through their coaching.”

Blythe not only won over the coaches during his time at Iowa, but the players, as well.

As Krieger-Coble said of Blythe: “He’s an incredible player, just a guy that comes to work every day. He’s a very reliable player, great in the run game and the pass game. He’s very intelligent and able to play center and guard. He’s a great player and he’ll have a great career.”

Krieger-Coble and Blythe enjoyed playing together at Iowa and on the North Team during Senior Bowl week. They may get the chance to reunite once in San Diego, where they could provide the Chargers with some much needed depth and grit.

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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