Marvin McNutt opens some eyes

BY RYAN YOUNG | APRIL 15, 2009 7:30 AM

Nearly a year ago, sophomore-to-be Marvin McNutt left spring practice as Iowa’s No. 3 quarterback behind former starter Jake Christensen and sophomore Ricky Stanzi.

Now he has become the Hawkeyes’ primary receiver, listed ahead of former starting wide out Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on the team’s most recent two-deeps.

On Tuesday, Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe said the switch is partially due to a lackluster spring thus far by Johnson-Koulianos and a rapid progression by McNutt.

“You know, Marvin has really had a good spring,” O’Keefe said. “He’s a big target. We’ve been looking for a big guy like that for a while. He has tremendous hands, outstanding ball skills, and he’s running a little better than he has in the past.

“Marv is still getting used to being able to get right back into the starting blocks and fly out of there at the same speed. But he’s having a really good spring. He brings us a lot of leadership at that position and is a sharp guy who really works hard.”

Last season, Johnson-Koulianos led the Iowa receiving corps in both receptions and receiving yards, amassing 44 catches and 639 yards for three touchdowns. Only Andy Brodell yielded similar numbers in 2008 with 36 catches, 533 receiving yards, and four touchdowns.

Meanwhile, as a once-heralded prep quarterback from St. Louis, McNutt signaled in the majority of Iowa’s offensive plays from the sideline.

“Again, it’s where [Johnson-Koulianos] is right now in this situation — where he’s at due to the competition that’s out there,” O’Keefe said. “It’s as simple as that.”

But with virtually five months left before Iowa’s 2009 season-opener against Northern Iowa on Sept. 5, O’Keefe said neither McNutt or Johnson-Koulianos have been permanently cemented in where they currently stand.

“Competition is open at every position on our side of the ball for sure,” O’Keefe said. “One of the things that will help you compete at a position and be successful in football, or anything else in life, is discipline.

“Guys have to be disciplined in order to be able to play their positions and certainly to be able to improve at their positions as well,” O’Keefe said. “That’s something that Marvin has been able to show us.”

Hampton leading running-back race

As expected, with Shonn Greene deciding to turn pro two and a half months ago, sophomore-to-be Jewel Hampton stands as the Hawkeyes’ leading candidate at running back nearing the end of spring practice, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz affirmed in a teleconference on Tuesday.

“The way we finished the season, we finished with Jewel Hampton as our second-team guy, so he moves up a line,” Ferentz said. “We don’t expect to replace Shonn. That’d be like trying to replace a guy like Bob Sanders or Dallas Clark, or for that matter, [Mitch] King and [Matt] Kroul — guys who have really had tremendous careers here and great production.

“We don’t expect any one person to fill that void, but I think that we’ve got a capable group back there, and at the end of the day … I think you’ll probably see several guys contribute as opposed to Shonn being the featured guy a year ago.”

During the 2008 season, Hampton rushed for 463 yards and seven touchdowns — the most ever by an Iowa true freshman.

Behind him, though, is junior-to-be Paki O’Meara and redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson, who O’Keefe praised for being a proficient tenderfoot in his first spring with a Divison-I program.

“I think he’s put himself in position to really improve,” O’Keefe said. “We’d like to see him take the next jump over the next three days — especially now that he has these practices under his belt.”

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