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2022 Position Previews: Tight Ends

This should be an area of strength for Iowa’s offense

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Vrbo Citrus Bowl - Iowa v Kentucky
LaPorta balled out in the bowl game
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Iowa Hawkeyes are often called Tight End U by national talking heads. And it’s for good reason. Naming a top 10 list of Hawkeyes would also be a who’s who of some of the best tight ends to play at the collegiate level. Marv Cook, Johnathon Hayes, Scott Chandler, Dallas Clark, George Kittle, TJ Hockenson, and Noah Fant are just a few of Iowa’s best ever at the position. Hayden Fry made the position sexy with his standup tight ends. A special shoutout to Lon Olejniczak who hailed from my hometown of Decorah, Iowa. Lon would have been on this list had he not suffered a severe leg injury. He still had a very nice Hawkeye career. This year’s group of Hawkeyes has another that may be added to this list. Senior Sam LaPorta has received numerous preseason accolades and he’s poised to have a big year. Some of his stats:

95 Receptions. 1129 Yards. 4 Touchdowns.

As a comparison Marv Cook (the Granddaddy of TEU) caught 112 balls for 1660 yards and 6 TD’s.

LaPorta ended 2021 with a tremendous performance against Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl. He had 7 receptions for 122 yards and one score.

LaPorta will continue to be the number one target for Iowa’s quarterback(s). Spencer Petras loves him some Sam LaPorta and it has worked out well for the most part.

Iowa’s second tight end, Luke Lachey, looked good in 2021 as a redshirt freshman. The 6’6”, 252 pound sophomore is an excellent blocker and has shown good hands. Lachey’s numbers: 8 receptions, 133 yards, 16.6 yard average. Luke’s dad, Jim, was a star at (the) Ohio State University and went on to have a ten year career in the NFL. Luke will continue to improve and like many players, the more reps he gets, the better he will perform. Look for an excellent year from this Hawkeye.

Luke Lachey is a big, athletic human
Jim Slosiarek - The Gazette

The Grad Transfer

Some Hawkeye fans would like to see Iowa involved more in the transfer portal. The Hawks did dip their proverbial toe in the water and pulled out a quality addition to the tight end room. Steven Stilianos (6’5”, 264 pounds), a junior transfer from Lafayette, comes in with a wealth of experience.

From Lafayette to the B1G. Steven Stilianos.

Stilianos has 65 receptions, 434 yards, and 5 touchdowns to his credit. If Iowa brought him in, you know he can block, and you know that the coaches believe he will play and provide depth. Three tight end sets? Yes, please!

The Next Wave

Iowa will be developing the next crop of tight ends this year. Some of these younger players may see some time on special teams, but it is not very likely that they will see the field on offense this season. Kyson VanVugt, Cael Vanderbush, Johnny Pascuzzi, Addison Ostrenga, and Jackson Frericks will use this year to put on good weight and fine-tune their craft.

Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz is a former offensive lineman for the Hawks. He was a tight end coach for Bill Belichick. Under Ferentz the New England Patriots had two excellent tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (football excellent, not a good person excellent). Iowa football is at its best when tight ends are involved. With our suspect quarterback play, I’d love to see the Hawks utilize two tight end sets, downhill running, and play action. That’s a recipe for success for anyone, but that is Hawkeye football. As always, Go Hawks!