Hawkeyes at the NFL Combine

The NFL Combine begins in just over a week and five Hawkeyes were invited to participate in the annual event. Four of the five come from Phil Parker’s top-rated defense. At linebacker, Butkus Award winner, and Campbell Trophy recipient Jack Campbell will work out on March 2nd. At defensive line that same day, Lukas Van Ness will also complete his combine activities. Riley Moss and Kaevon Merriweather will participate in on-field workouts on March 3rd with the defensive backs. On offense, tight end Sam LaPorta will work out inside Lucas Oil Stadium on March 4th. 

Hawkeyes at the NFL Combine

Defensive Showcase

The Hawkeye defense in 2022 was among the best in the nation. They had the country’s second-best scoring defense, allowing 13.3 points per game. The group also led the country in defensive scores. Iowa’s defense scored six touchdowns this season, and also recorded two safeties. Four of their touchdowns came off of interceptions, and two were fumble recoveries taken back for six. Merriweather gathered one of the fumbles for a touchdown in September against Rutgers. Campbell recorded Iowa’s first defensive points of the season in week one against South Dakota State with a safety. 

As a whole, the defense had 15 interceptions on the year. Eight different Hawkeyes got their hands on an interception including Merriweather with three, Campbell with two, and Moss with one. That was not a one-off performance either. In 2021, the Hawkeyes led the nation with 25 total interceptions. Eleven different defenders caught interceptions that season including each of the three Hawkeye defensive backs participating in the Combine next week. Moss had four interceptions that season, taking two back for touchdowns. Campbell had two and Merriweather had one. These three defensive backs have been among the nation’s best at their respective positions, and they’ll get to showcase their skills in Indianapolis. 

On the line, Van Ness is off of a huge season himself. He was not listed as a starter for a single game in 2022, yet he led the team both in sacks with nine, and in quarterback hurries with 31 last year. In fact, he has never started a game in a Hawkeye uniform and many mock drafts have him as a top-20 selection in April. The last Hawkeye to record that kind of performance off of the bench was AJ Epenesa in 2018. The defensive end led the team with 10.5 sacks that season. Van Ness is sure to impress at the Combine for the Hawkeyes.

Tight End University

There are currently four tight ends on NFL rosters that played at Iowa. The oldest of which, George Kittle, was drafted in 2017. That makes four tight ends in seven seasons from Iowa that have found careers at the next level. LaPorta will be the next to play on Sundays from “Tight End University.” Iowa’s offense has been trending down since LaPorta’s freshman season in 2019. Their passing offense was ranked 68th nationally that season. It has declined every year since, ranked 123rd in what was LaPorta’s senior season of 2022.

However, that has not hindered his production. His reception numbers have actually increased every season since 2019. He caught 15 passes as a true freshman, 27 as a sophomore, 53 in 2021, and 58 last year. LaPorta also tallied north of 650 reception yards in both of his final two seasons in Iowa City. On average over four years, LaPorta gained 11.6 yards per catch as a Hawkeye while catching five total touchdowns. In an offense that struggled to progress during his career, the Highland, Illinois native put together an NFL Draft-worthy career as a pass-catcher. 

Dec 31, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Jack Campbell (31) waits for the snap during the first half against the Kentucky Wildcats in the 2022 Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium. Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports


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