Iowa ball-catchers lack scoring experience
The résumés of Iowa’s ball-catchers aren’t exactly dazzling and impressive. The five wideouts and three tight ends listed on the most recent depth-chart have a combined 10 career touchdown catches.
Kevonte Martin-Manley and C.J. Fiedorowicz combine to own 9 of the 10. The former returns for his junior season as Iowa’s most experienced (and perhaps, most lethal) wide receiver; the latter comes in a senior and the leader of an experienced fleet of tight ends.
The lack of experience and depth at wide receiver is reason for concern — especially for an offense that’s planning on taking more shots downfield this season.
“We just don’t have a lot of depth, and we know that coming in,” Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said at Iowa’s media day. “Kevonte is our most experienced guy; certainly Jordan Cotton has played some and done a nice job on special teams; Tevaun Smith played last year; Jake Hillyer has played a little bit. So you start with those guys, and then we’re just working hard.”
Aside from Martin-Manley, senior Cotton is the only other wide receiver on Iowa’s depth chart who has found the end zone on offense. He was on the receiving end of the 47-yard flea-flicker touchdown against Minnesota last season.
But Hillyer, Smith, and even senior Don Shumpert flashed instances of speed and playmaking ability during the spring. Junior-college transfer Damond Powell, despite missing the spring — and who was also missing on the most recent depth chart — also brings electrifying skills that could help the Hawkeyes stretch the field.
“Ever since [last] season ended, we’ve been working hard,” Martin-Manley said. “We had a great spring ball and a great start in training camp. I’m really excited about our team. We have a bunch of good guys.”
Iowa’s tight ends, meanwhile, are more experienced than the wide receivers. Four lettermen return with substantial playing time under their belts.
Alongside Fiedorowicz is junior Ray Hamilton and sophomores Jake Duzey and Henry Krieger Coble. The latter three all played in at least nine games last season.
But, just like Iowa’s wide-outs, the tight ends don’t have much scoring experience. Only two of the four have found the end zone — Fiedorowicz has 4 career touchdowns to his name, and Krieger Coble scored a meaningless touchdown last year when Michigan bulldozed Iowa, 42-17. Krieger Coble wasn’t listed on the most recent depth chart.
Their experience, though, is what Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis is excited about. Jake Rudock, who was named Iowa’s starting quarterback for the season-opening game against Northern Illinois, hasn’t played a down of college football. Both Davis and Ferentz said Fiedorowicz specifically would act as a sort of safety blanket for Rudock, given his experience.
Fiedorowicz himself is hoping to be more than just a safety blanket, though. The Johnsburg, Ill., native plans on playing a major role in the passing attack.
Davis said his star tight end looked more comfortable throughout the spring and off-season. He’s more confident now that he was in the second year of Davis’s offense. And perhaps that confidence will translate to more touchdowns through the air — something Iowa did just 7 times last season.
“He’s been through it,” Davis said. “He’s more comfortable with what we’re asking him to do … He’s just playing at a better level because he can play faster.”
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