Who’s ready for TE U to be BACK, baby?!
Highland, IL (Highland)
6’4”, 255 lbs
2020 Projection: Starting tight end
One season removed from the electricity that was the combination of Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson, Iowa found its tight end cupboard... bare. There were guys who could block and make a catch here and there, but nobody that opposing defensive coordinators had to gameplan around.
As last season matured, the Iowa coaching staff moved on from the cupboard and opened up its drawer, burning the redshirt on newcomer Sam LaPorta, simply out of necessity. Cracking that egg paid dividends, as LaPorta became a reliable target down the stretch for Nate Stanley, and could develop into a security blanket as Iowa breaks in a new QB this year.
LaPorta started just two games last season, and didn’t even record a catch until the Northwestern game midseason. He was pivotal in that game, despite having a huge catch called back, for some Godawful reason.
His overall stats from his greenhorn year aren’t impressive. Just 15 catches for 188 yards and no touchdowns. Nine of those catches resulted in first downs, however. And 4 went for 15 or more yards. He’s a volume pass catcher, and ended the year with a career-high six grabs for 44 yards against USC in the Holiday Bowl.
With the graduation of Nate Wieting, Shaun Beyer is the only other tight end on the roster who saw serious action last year. And in all likelihood, LaPorta will take over No. 1 duties while Beyer will be able to fill in elsewhere.
There are some younger guys who we’re supposed to be excited at the position: true freshmen Elijah Yelverton and Luke Lachey, and redshirt frosh Josiah Miamen to name three. But I suspect the lion’s share of playing time will go to LaPorta, Beyer, and either junior walk-on Bryce Schulte or Miamen.
And finally, Iowa’s most important position: the long snapper.
Rolling Meadows, IL (Fremd)
6’1”, 235 lbs
2020 Projection: Starting long snapper
Iowa lost the guy who handled every long snap the past two years with the graduation of Jackson Subbert, but now is likely the time for senior Austin Spiewak, who’s waited his turn.
Or maybe not.
Though he’s the longest-tenured long-snapper on the roster, there’s still a chance redshirt freshman Zach Kluver outperforms him. I’m not going to pretend to know what a snap-off looks like during football practices. I’m confident one of those two guys will be handling long snap duties this season, though.