Sam LaPorta

Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

The Iowa football program needs a new receiving leader after former Hawkeyes Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette left Iowa to pursue NFL careers.

The Hawkeyes need a consistent threat — someone who looks to make clutch first-down catches and have reliability going deep.

A sleeper candidate for leading receiver on the 2021 Hawkeye squad is junior tight end Sam LaPorta. The Highland, Illinois, native started at tight end for the first time in 2020 — his sophomore season.

Before the Hawkeyes’ 2020 season finale vs. Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium, LaPorta led the team in total receiving yards — that is, until Smith-Marsette recorded 140 receiving yards and two touchdowns against the Badgers.

LaPorta finished the 2020 season first on the Hawkeyes with 27 receptions and second with 271 receiving yards, averaging 10 yards per catch.

Now, after former Hawkeye Shaun Beyer left Iowa and signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Denver Broncos, LaPorta is the undisputed leader of the Hawkeye tight end room.

Preceding the 2021 season, LaPorta is listed as the Hawkeyes’ No. 1 tight end on the Week 1 depth chart, with redshirt freshman Luke Lachey backing him up.

As the only experienced tight end on the Hawkeye roster, LaPorta will receive most of the reps at tight end.

This year, LaPorta earned preseason third-team All-Big Ten honors by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele — junior wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. did not garner any preseason honors.

This year, LaPorta will be Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras’ go-to guy for receiving plays — giving LaPorta the most receiving yards on the Hawkeyes.

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