116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — There’s no question who has the lead role in the tight end room this season.
Honorable mention All-Big Ten junior Sam LaPorta is ready for it.
“I think it's awesome that Iowa can be ‘Tight End U,’ and it's cool to be the No. 1 tight end at the moment,” LaPorta said this spring. “I feel like attributing a lot of the past success that I've had to older guys. I'm trying to do that with the younger guys in the room too, because I've had that on-the-field experience.”
LaPorta’s role is not by accident — he’s climbed a steady ladder since his freshman year. Last season, LaPorta played all eight games, with five starts, leading the team with 27 receptions and coming in second in receiving yards, with 271. He had one touchdown. As a true freshman in 2019, LaPorta played in 12 games, collecting 15 receptions for 188 yards. As part of his first spring ball, LaPorta spent a lot of time studying his past film, seeing how he’s improved.
“The idea as a player is hopefully you can always turn on that tape, look at a prior version of yourself and think, ‘Man, I can't believe I was that bad,” Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said in spring. “Even if you were good.”
Redshirt freshman Luke Lachey, the next man up in the lineup, played in one game last season, so spring was an opportunity to gain experience.
“I know Luke was able to show up a couple times in the open practice and that was a real positive thing,” Ferentz said. "He catches a ball, makes a big catch on the third down in a fairly competitive period, then he comes back on the next play and goes the wrong way and kills a run play.
“These are important steps for guys like Luke, for all our young players, to go out there and experience a little bit of success and some of that failure, because that's how you learn.“
Iowa also has senior Bryce Schulte, a walk-on from Cedar Rapids who played in all eight games last year.
But there were still a lot of unknowns that were left unanswered from the spring season. Redshirt Elijah Yelverton was out due to injury. Sophomore Josiah Miamen sat out for a week following an arrest.
Sophomore Jackson Frerichs, a walk-on from Cedar Falls in 2019, red-shirted then did not see game action last year. He did see action in spring practice.
Ferentz said Iowa still is feeling the trickle-down effect of the losses Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, both third-year players, to the 2019 NFL Draft, which means the Hawkeyes could look into the transfer portal to fill the void in the future.
“Not only do we have a lot of inexperienced players, we only have one experienced player,” Ferentz said. “I think Sam's provided really good leadership in that room. He got thrown in the fire pretty early, we may have to do that with some of these younger guys here.“
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