Two true freshmen have played in all three Iowa football games this season. With game four Saturday, the Hawks have to make a decision on each’s future.
The new redshirt rule truly is fantastic. It allows players to play up to four games in a season and still maintain their redshirt status allowing coaches to get true freshman a bit of playing time in some of their cakewalk games if needed or fill in for an injured player for a game or two. With the Iowa football team, it becomes especially interesting because the Hawkeyes aren’t typically known for playing true freshman early and often, instead preferring to preserve eligibility and let the kids develop.
However, there are always a few players who see playing time early in the season, and when they’re about to hit their four-game mark, a decision needs to be made. Do the Hawkeyes feel that player adds enough value to warrant losing a year of eligibility or do they feel that player could benefit from an extra year with Chris Doyle so they can make a bigger impact down the line? Sometimes there’s an added grey line of separating out the classes a bit too, but we’ll get to that in a second.
Iowa football fans might not even have realized that LaPorta was getting time in each game as he has yet to touch the ball, but they definitely know who Tyler Goodson is.
If and when both of these kids play Saturday, the staff will then be faced with the decision of keep playing these guys or let them sit and both situations are a bit different.
Let’s start with the easier one.
For LaPorta, the tight end position just isn’t as talented as it has been in past years with the Iowa football team, but because of that, the tight end position hasn’t been a focal point of the offense either. As it stands right now, LaPorta is the fourth tight end on the depth chart behind Nate Wieting, Shaun Beyer, and Drew Cook.
Behind those four though, it’s either former walk-ons or true freshman, and next year the Iowa football team is already adding two more tight ends (possibly three if Theo Johnson decides the Hawks are the best fit for him), which means the tight end group is about to get real crowded.
Because of this, I think they are going to keep playing LaPorta, partially to space the tight end classes out a bit and to get him experience for when both Cook and Wieting graduate after this year.
Goodson’s case isn’t so simple. The Iowa football team already has a trio of running backs who have a significant amount of experience led by the current starter Mekhi Sargent.
But Goodson has been so good. He might be the most explosive and dynamic back on the roster. I’m not saying best or most complete, but most dynamic and explosive, which for a team with College Football Playoff hopes, is valuable.
The idea of more years with Goodson as the feature back when Sargent, Toren Young, and Ivory Kelly-Martin graduate is quite enticing, but if I am the Iowa football team, I am getting Goodson the ball in every game at least a few times.
Before all of that happens, we first need to see if they get into the game against Middle Tennessee State (which I would be surprised if they didn’t) and then see if Kirk Ferentz has any light to shed on it during the following week’s press conference.
At this point though, I think the Hawkeyes will make the decision to keep getting these two players game-action and burn those redshirts.