So far this season, to say the Iowa Hawkeyes’ offense has left a bit to be desired would be understating it. They rank dead last in total offense and rank close to the bottom in offensive touchdowns, yards per game and yards per play.
But there is one area of their offense that remains a threat — one that has been a threat for as long as most can remember — their tight end corps.
Stifling the tight ends has been a focus of Michigan’s defensive game-planning this week, and safety R.J. Moten discussed his position group’s preparation Tuesday evening during his time with the local media.
“Physicality, being able to use your hands at the top of routes,” Moten said. “They like to push off a little bit or use their body, being able to box out. So really just stopping them at the line and getting in their head just a little bit.”
The Wolverines are certainly familiar with Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta. In last year’s 42-3 blowout of the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Championship, LaPorta claimed the lion’s share of receptions and receiving yards (six for 62) and generally was a lone bright spot for Iowa.
“It’s a big responsibility, especially this week,” Moten said on defending LaPorta. “Most of our safeties are lined up against tight ends in certain situations and knowing that they like to single (Sam LaPorta), put him backside, backside-x, it will be a big challenge this week.”
Despite LaPorta’s threat as a pass catcher, it’s clear Iowa focuses on the run game, using the pass threat only in short yardage situations. With the lone exception of a 44-yard catch against the Scarlet Knights, none of LaPorta’s other receptions this season have been for more than 15 yards.
It’s something Michigan has noticed will certainly be a key factor in its mindset.
“Our focus is to stop the run this week and get them to throw the ball,” Moten said. “They only got a certain amount of pass plays, we know who their quarterback favors, so we just want to stop the run and get them to those second-and-long, third-and-long situations.”