2014 Position Previews: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends


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Ahead of the 2013 season, Kirk Ferentz talked more about the depth he had at receiver than the experience. He had a lot of guys to use, sure, but for most of them, actual playing time was few and far between, save for a couple of guys.

This year, Ferentz is even more optimistic about his receiving corps. The depth is still there, but the competition is better, given that more guys earned valuable playing time last season.

“Yeah, I think we’re healthier than we’ve been the last couple years,” Iowa’s head football coach said during the team’s media day. “… When you have more depth, that means competition, which I think makes all of them better certainly, so keep our fingers crossed there.”

Leading this year’s group of receivers is, once again, Kevonte Martin-Manley. He was the most-experienced receiver a year ago and returns in the same position with a chance to cement his place in Hawkeye lore: He just needs 52 receptions to become Iowa’s all-time leader in the category.

Martin-Manley will lead a younger, but experienced group of receivers in Tevaun Smith, Jacob Hillyer, Damond Powell, Derrick Willies, and Derrick Mitchell Jr., among others.

Smith, Hillyer, Powell, and Martin-Manley combined for 87 catches, 1,124 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013, while Willies and Mitchell Jr., showed flashes of great athleticism and explosive skills in the spring.

“We worked extremely hard over the summer,” Martin-Manley said. “We caught a lot of balls over the summer. We worked with the tight ends and running backs, we all worked with Jake [Rudock] and C.J. [Beathard], and those guys. We ran a lot of routes, and we’re just trying to connect at a better rate than last year.

“Those guys are really hungry right now, and I think we’re going to have a great year.”

The biggest loss for Iowa, in terms of pass-catchers, was tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, who graduated and is now playing for the Houston Texans. He caught 30 passes for an average of 23 yards per reception and scored 6 touchdowns last year.

But the loss of Fiedorowicz doesn’t bother Ferentz, who said he has confidence in his current crop of tight ends.

“Not to minimize anytime you lose an NFL caliber player — which C.J. certainly was, that’s hard to replace — but the good news is we have a good core group there,” he said. “The other thing, as you know, we like to use numerous tight ends in our attack, and I don’t see that changing unless we don’t have enough players out there. But I think we have four guys that we have confidence in coming out of the spring.

“Ray Hamilton is a guy, in my opinion, who is probably better than we think maybe he is. Ray’s made some nice plays for us. He’s done some really good things, and I think we’ve seen him grow last spring.”

Hamilton — along with Jake Duzey, Henry Krieger Coble, and George Kittle — will play an integral role in Iowa’s offense at tight end, especially now that Fiedorowicz is gone.

Tight ends have always been a huge part of Iowa’s offense, and a lot of players are optimistic that Hamilton might be the guy who steps up and does big things in 2014.

“I came in with Ray,” quarterback Jake Rudock said. “We were suitemates the first summer here. He works his butt off. He’s proven he can go out and catch passes and that he can put his nose in the dirt and block somebody. Hopefully, he has a big year.”

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