Editor's note: The Iowa State Daily Sports Desk will have a spring preview of each position group for the Cyclones heading into the 2021 season. You can find other position group stories here.
First Team All-Big 12. John Mackey Award Finalist. Big 12 leader in receiving yards (591), catches (44) and touchdowns (7) for a tight end. Charlie Kolar produced at a high level for the Cyclones during the 2020 season.
Thing is, that was all without any sort of real offseason.
And now as the Cyclones prepare for the highly anticipated 2021 season, all in- person this time around, Kolar's position coach, tight ends coach Taylor Mouser, is ready to see what having a true offseason again can do for the Cyclones' record-setting tight end.
Like the rest of college football last spring, COVID-19 sent everyone at Iowa State packing and back to their respective homes. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown orders across state lines last spring made any sort of training program insufficient for the Cyclones.
When you're confined to living rooms, basements and garages, Mouser said there was only so much players could to do in an attempt to create a valuable offseason training program.
Practice time and true one-on-one work can't be replicated in Mouser's opinion, which left many players on the roster at a severe disadvantage when everyone returned to ramp up for the fall.
“Charlie missed so much time with the contact tracing piece before fall camp, so he really didn’t get any kind of strength program and work program with Coach [Tom] Manning going into the season last year," Mouser said. “He treats himself like a pro and has for a while now so it was really hard for him to be at home and detached from our football team.”
But when it came time for the 2020 season, Kolar's stats would show he didn't miss much of a beat.
Kolar put up his second consecutive season with at least seven touchdown receptions and 590 receiving yards, all while pacing the Big 12 and ranking in the top five nationally for tight ends in catches, touchdowns and receiving yards for a second-straight season.
His seven touchdowns in 2020 tied for second by a tight end and tied for 10th all time on Iowa State’s season record list.
But Mouser said that might just be the beginning. This spring has allowed Kolar to truly fine-tune his body and technique and Mouser is impressed by the amount of work he's been able to get in from last year to now. And he admits that sounds crazy to hear.
“I’m almost embarrassed to stand next to him now. All these muscles that I feel like he didn’t have before. He’s healthy," Mouser said. "Last year, it looked like he was held together, he was wrapped and all this stuff. He's confident right now, he looks good, he's moving really well right now, he's so fluid in his movements, he's so strong in the run-blocking piece of it."
I wasn’t that fat before cmon https://t.co/9nF4xVHElS— Charlie Kolar (@charliekolar_) April 17, 2021
Kolar, listed at 6-foot-6, 257 pounds, has taken a one-day-at-a-time approach so far this spring and said if he continues to work at a steady pace, he'll be able to perform at an even higher level than what fans saw a season ago.
"I think I’ve had a good spring strength-wise," Kolar said. "Coach Campbell is always talking about, 'Bigger, Faster, Stronger,' and I've tried to improve in all of that so far."
Kolar wants to keep his head down, grind out snaps one day at a time, one week at a time as to avoid overlooking any details he might need come time for the fall.
Mouser loves that mindset and expects Kolar to continue to learn all he can to help the Cyclones reach their goals for this upcoming season.
There's still five months before Iowa State's 2021 opener against Northern Iowa on Sept. 4 at MidAmerican Field at Jack Trice Stadium, but Mouser said in the few weeks of spring training the Cyclones have gotten, Kolar is already miles ahead of where he began last offseason. Actually, make it light-years.
“He’s light-years ahead of where he was going into last season and we’re only in April right now, so I feel like the steps that we could take over the next [few] months before the season there’s still a lot of areas we can get better at, as crazy as that sounds," Mouser said.