Iowa TE Luke Lachey returning in 2024: ‘It’s really just about leaving a legacy’

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ORLANDO, Fla. — The biggest news for Iowa connected Friday didn’t travel from wrong a news convention aliases a broadside question and reply session, but from a tight extremity who won’t moreover play successful nan Citrus Bowl.

Luke Lachey, arguably nan Mackey Award favourite for adjacent year, chose to return adjacent autumn alternatively than spell done nan NFL Draft process. Lachey missed nan past 10 games since breaking his limb successful nan first 4th of Iowa’s 3rd game. But he has remained a squad skipper for astir each contest, prevention for nan Hawkeyes’ travel to Penn State nan week pursuing his surgery.

“I deliberation it’s really conscionable astir leaving a legacy,” Lachey said Friday night. “That’s thing that I’ve ever dreamed about. I felt for illustration if I came back, I could person a large effect there. And it’s besides being capable to play pinch your brothers for different season.”

Lachey said he leaned connected respective people, including his father, Jim, who was a three-time All-Pro pinch San Diego, and erstwhile teammate and Detroit Lions tight extremity Sam LaPorta. His begetter told him if he could play 1 much crippled astatine immoderate level, it would beryllium successful college.

“I conscionable emotion it here,” Lachey said. “There’s nary different spot for maine to be. I felt for illustration I could usage different twelvemonth to create and hone my skills.”

Back For More.@luke_lachey x #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/qzrwHAIELQ

— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) December 29, 2023

In 9 quarters, Lachey (6-feet-6, 253 pounds) caught 10 passes for 131 yards this year. His accumulation came 1 twelvemonth aft starring nan Hawkeyes pinch 4 touchdown receptions competing alongside LaPorta, who leads NFL tight ends pinch 9 touchdown catches this year.

Of Iowa’s NFL prowess astatine that position group — T.J. Hockenson sits 2nd successful catches (95) and yards (960), while George Kittle has nan astir yards per reception (16.0) and ranks 2nd successful touchdown receptions (six) — Lachey mightiness person nan top upside. He’s taller and heavier than Iowa’s 4 NFL starting tight ends (LaPorta, Hockenson, Kittle and Noah Fant), and Lachey matches their diversion ability. Lachey’s velocity is adjacent to his predecessors, and he has made akin strides arsenic nan others arsenic a blocker.

Lachey worked toward playing successful nan Citrus Bowl and conducted broadside workouts astatine Celebration High School. But coach Kirk Ferentz ruled him retired earlier making nan trip.

“He mightiness beryllium close, but it conscionable didn’t make immoderate consciousness correct now,” Ferentz said.

With Lachey’s return, Iowa’s tight extremity portion appears arsenic a spot for 2024. Sophomore Addison Ostrenga has filled successful for nan injured Lachey and Erick All (torn ACL), and is tied for nan squad lead successful receptions (29). That operation could rank among nan nation’s champion adjacent season.

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Scholarship count, much returnees

As of Friday afternoon, nan Hawkeyes now guidelines astatine 88 scholarships for 2024 pinch 5 much players group to determine successful nan coming days. All-American protect backmost Cooper DeJean, a junior, is simply a imaginable first-round pick. Fellow protect backs Sebastian Castro, Quinn Schulte and Jermari Harris are debating astir returning for an other season, arsenic is linebacker Nick Jackson. Castro, Schulte and Jackson each said this week they haven’t finalized their choices.

Harris said he’ll make his announcement, “For judge aft nan vessel game.”

“I’ve sewage to onslaught this situation correct successful beforehand of me,” he said.

Iowa already has violative lineman Nick DeJong, backmost Cade McNamara and linebacker Jay Higgins returning for an other season. Higgins, who earned first and second-team All-America honors and leads Power 5 shot pinch 155 tackles, said staying astatine Iowa was geared toward improving successful each phase.

“Over nan past 4 years, I built a awesome narration pinch evidently my teammates, and evidently nan coaching unit that nan University of Iowa has,” Higgins said. “Just nan situation that puts nan players first; I felt for illustration if I came backmost different year, I could beryllium a amended shot player. Having Coach (Phil) Parker, having Coach (Seth) Wallace being nan 2 guys I walk astir of my clip with, I felt for illustration that was an easy determination for me.”

The only defenders guaranteed not to return are protect extremity Joe Evans and protect tackle Logan Lee. On offense, only 3 starters are group to leave, and each 3 were rotational players. All still has a twelvemonth disposable but is apt to move to nan NFL. Guard Rusty Feth and receiver Nico Ragaini are retired of eligibility.

Keeping those athletes astatine Iowa serves successful nan staff’s champion interest, but Ferentz cautions nan players must stay invested if they return.

“Ultimately, it’s astir them doing what they request to do, what they consciousness is successful their heart,” Ferentz said. “It does america nary bully for a feline to travel backmost if he’s not afloat invested. (Cornerback) Riley Moss chose to travel backmost (in 2022). It amazed each of us. He was afloat invested and played unbelievably well, practiced retired of sight. So that’s an illustration of a feline who made nan correct decision. Hopefully, they’re enthused either way.”

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Remember that tackle?

In 1 play during nan Big Ten Championship Game, backup information Koen Entringer put connected a show of effort that shot coaches everyplace will usage arsenic an illustration for years.

Entringer, a redshirt freshman, missed a tackle astatine nan 8-yard statement connected a punt against Michigan, past sewage up disconnected nan turf wrong Michigan’s 5-yard statement and chased Wolverines returnee Semaj Morgan down 87 yards later astatine nan Iowa 5-yard line. It didn’t forestall Michigan from scoring a touchdown 2 plays later, but it sent shot coaches abuzz connected societal media astir ne'er giving up connected a play.

“That full game, I was really huffy that I missed nan tackle. And I’m still huffy and upset,” Entringer said. “It’s cool that I sewage each nan recognition. But I’m much focused connected trying to make that tackle adjacent clip that opportunity comes astatine nan 5 alternatively of astatine nan other end.”

Still not complete this hustle from Koen Entringer 👏👏@HawkeyeFootball pic.twitter.com/Z2ixrxX85a

— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) December 3, 2023

Special teams coordinator LeVar Woods and protect coordinator Phil Parker highlighted nan missed tackle arsenic captious but besides praised Entringer for getting up and ne'er giving up connected nan play.

“It’s decidedly a teachable moment, I deliberation for each levels of football, but it’s besides a metaphor for life,” Woods said. “When you screw thing up aliases you messiness thing up, you get yourself up, you bust your tail and you finish. And that’s what that play is.

“As nan years spell by, we’ll spell backmost and look astatine those plays; it’s a small caller for maine correct now to beryllium overly excited astir that play because I besides consciousness for illustration we could person made it nan beforehand end. But I deliberation agelong word that’s decidedly a awesome play. It’s a play that group should show often erstwhile you’re talking astir effort.”

No Marco … astatine slightest correct now

True freshman backmost Marco Lainez III moved up to No. 2 for nan season’s last month, but violative coordinator Brian Ferentz shrugged disconnected immoderate proposal that his young pupil will spot immoderate pre-planned action connected Monday against Tennessee. For nan ninth clip this season, sophomore Deacon Hill will commencement for Iowa.

“Deacon is nan starting quarterback,” Brian Ferentz said. “Deacon has played really bully shot for us. Deacon has led this shot squad to a batch of wins, and we expect Deacon to spell nan region connected Monday.”

Although Lainez is considered a pro-style quarterback, he has dual-threat capability. As a elder astatine The Hun School successful Princeton, N.J. successful 2022, Lainez threw for 2,182 yards, 23 touchdowns and 5 interceptions while completing 78 percent of his passes. He besides rushed for 573 yards and 5 touchdowns. In 2021, Lainez completed 80.2 percent of passes for 1,761 yards, 21 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

“One point that stands retired to maine astir him is really bully of an jock he is,” Ragaini said. “When he scrambles pinch nan ball, he for illustration looks for illustration a moving backmost moving nan ball, which is impressive. So I’m excited to spot that style of play pinch this discourtesy and what it could do.”

(Photo: Jeffrey Becker / USA Today)

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