Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads remembers the day well. It was shortly after the 2012 season ended and the Cyclone head man was busy making last-minute pitches to recruits for the 2013 class.
One of his main targets was E.J. Bibbs, one of the nation’s best junior college tight ends. Bibbs grew up in Chicago as a prep star at Bogan High School, but made a name for himself at Arizona Western C.C.
Rhoads’ first stop that morning was Yuma, Ariz.
“He was a fun young man to recruit,” Rhoads said. “He was at Arizona Western and his family was back in Chicago. Due to NCAA rules, I had to make both of those stops on the same day because as the head coach you only get one opportunity. It was one of the highlights of my recruiting year because I got to spend the morning with E.J. and get to know his personality, then fly to Chicago and sit down at the dining room table with mom and dad and build their trust.”
Rhoads’ selling points that day worked. Bibbs signed with the Cyclones, spurning offers from Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas Tech.
The No. 2-rated junior college tight end came to Ames with much fanfare and he’s done little to disappoint.
The sure-handed receiver has quietly put together one of the best seasons by a tight end in Cyclone history. Bibbs is second on the team in catches (36) and receiving yards (387), and is the only player on the team to have multiple receptions in all 11 games.
Bibbs’ 36 receptions this year is the second-most ever by a Cyclone tight end in school history. That’s an impressive stat when considering the company he is going up against.
Top-10 Season Catches By Cyclone Tight Ends
1. 54, Collin Franklin (2010)
2. 36, E.J. Bibbs (2013)
3. 35, Jeff Wodka (1985)
4. 34, Keith Krepfle (1971)
T5.30, Keith Krepfle (1972)
T5.30, Keith Krepfle (1973)
T7.27, Mike Banks (2000)
T7.27, Mike Busch (1988)
T9.26, Ernst Brun (2012)
T9.26, Dave Smoldt (1984)
ISU has a solid tradition of outstanding tight end play with the likes of NFL players Keith Krepfle, Al Dixon, Dan Johnson, Mike Banks and Collin Franklin, plus two-sport All-American (football and baseball) Mike Busch.
ISU tight ends coach Bill Bleil credits Bibbs’ off-the-charts athleticism for his strong start.
“If you look at the background of E.J., he was a tailback in high school who grew out of the position,” Bleil said. “He has kept his skills and athleticism to become a great tight end. He is just scratching the surface on how great he can be.”
The speed of the game was the biggest difference Bibbs noticed in his transition from junior college to Division I.
“It’s way faster,” Bibbs said. “You have to learn to play faster and pick up the plays faster. It’s a hard job playing tight end. You have to understand the fronts and understand everything that is going on in the plays.”
With a year under his belt, look for Bibbs to continue to make plays for the Cyclones as a senior in 2014.