Iowa football notebook: Noah Shannon’s progress on the D-Line, state of the LB room, the ‘Tight End U’ Olympics

Spring practices feel like game days for Iowa defensive tackle Noah Shannon. Part of that has to do with lining up against perhaps the best center in the country.


Katie Goodale for The Daily Iowa

Iowa defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness (left) and defensive lineman Noah Shannon (right) run drills during Iowa football spring practice on Saturday, April 17, 2021 in Kinnick Stadium.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Noah Shannon still remembers his “Welcome to Iowa football” moment.

As a scout team player on the defensive line during his first year with the Hawkeyes back in 2018, Shannon was escorted away from the line of scrimmage by a punishing double-team block courtesy of former Iowa offensive linemen Ross Reynolds and Keegan Render.

Shannon still has a tough task in practice this spring. But the situation has changed.

Now a redshirt junior, Shannon is working with the first-team Hawkeye defense this spring. And lining up across from him is potentially the best center in the country — 2020 Rimington Trophy finalist Tyler Linerbaum

“I have to be at my best every day, because I know Linderbaum is going at it his best every play,” Shannon said during a virtual press conference Tuesday. “And I know the technique that he brings with him every play. I wake up in the morning and it almost feels like game day to me, going against Linderbaum.”

Shannon, a 6-foot, 288-pounder, appeared in all eight games Iowa played last season, starting once. With the departures of All-American defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon and starter Jack Heflin, Shannon’s time to take on a full game of snaps has come.

The same can be said for John Waggoner. With the departure of first-team All-Big Ten defensive end Chauncey Golston, Waggoner is listed as a starting defensive end on the spring depth chart opposite Zach VanValkenburg.

Waggoner and Shannon both entered the program in 2018. At the time, Iowa’s starters on the defensive line were Anthony Nelson, Matt Nelson, Sam Brinks, and Parker Hesse.

The next year, Golston, A.J. Epenesa, Cedrick Lattimore, and Brady Reiff took over on the line.

After serving as rotational players the past couple of seasons, Waggoner and Shannon feel they are ready to be anchors up front for the Hawkeyes in 2021, replacing the accomplished players that once were in front of them. And their head coach agrees.

“They’re demonstrating right now, they have a good feel for what it takes to play and play successfully,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said after last Saturday’s open spring practice at Kinnick Stadium.

Benson, Campbell prepared to take the field together

Iowa linebackers Seth Benson and Jack Campbell spent the second half of last season as sophomores splitting time at middle linebacker. In 2021, the plan is for them to dart into opposing backfields at the same time.

Benson is listed as the team’s starting middle linebacker, and Campbell fills in as the starting weak-side linebacker after Nick Niemann’s graduation (although Benson and Campbell are switching positions at times in practice).

Campbell missed the first three games of the 2020 season while dealing with mononucleosis. Benson missed Week 1 with an injury but started the final seven games of the season on his way to earning an honorable-mention All-Big Ten selection.

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In the final five games of the season, a stretch where Iowa’s defense allowed 15.2 points per game and the team went 5-0, Benson would start and Campbell would rotate in every couple of drives. The two of them could be seen on the sideline when Iowa’s offense was on the field, communicating about what they saw so the other could be more prepared when they entered the game.

Now, they’ll have to communicate on the field.

“It’s been super fun playing with Jack,” Benson said. “He’s really detail-oriented, has a high motor. He’s a fun guy to play next to. We’re just trying to take control and put people in positions to make plays.”

The “Tight End U” Olympics

Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta, who led the team with 27 receptions last season, spends chunks of his offseason watching film of standout former Hawkeye tight ends, including George Kittle and T.J. Hockenson.

But lately, the junior has been preparing for the Olympics. The “Tight End U” Olympics, that is.

Iowa is known for manufacturing productive tight ends. LaPorta and the rest of Iowa’s seven-person tight end room are preparing a competition to determine who among them is the best athlete.

LaPorta said being the top tight end on the depth chart at one of the most notable tight end schools in the country isn’t a source of pressure for him.

As for this competition with his peers:

“We have a dunk contest, some 1-on-1 basketball,” LaPorta said. “How far we can throw a football yardage wise. A few other things like that. Harmless things that shouldn’t get us hurt. It’s sort of a pride thing that we can base our room off of.”