If you want to call sophomore Kevonte Martin-Manley a possession receiver, he won’t get upset about it.
“I’ll take that, possession receiver,” Martin-Manley said. “That’s something that I pride myself on. If I want to go to the next level, which I do, if I want to be successful … that’s what I have to do.
“I’m not a 4.3 guy, to be honest. That’s how I’m going to make my money.”
Martin-Manley had his best game as a Hawkeye last week at Indiana, catching seven passes for a career-high 131 yards.
“I think the last few games, when the ball comes my way, I’ve been able to make some yards for my team,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll keep doing it.”
Martin-Manley emerged last season as the slot receiver who complemented Marvin McNutt (82 catches) and Keenan Davis (50). He had 30 catches for 323 yards and three touchdowns.
Knowing McNutt wouldn’t be back, Martin-Manley worked over the summer to prepare for a bigger role in the Iowa offense.
“I feel I’ve been able to do some things to get open technique-wise,” Martin-Manley said. “I’ve learned from people about how to get open. That’s the biggest thing.”
Martin-Manley has 43 catches for 482 yards. Davis leads the Hawkeyes with 44 catches for 543 yards.
Davis sees the difference in Martin-Manley.
“Anything (Greg Davis) calls, we should be able to execute it,” Davis said. “Especially Kevonte, the route-runner that he is.”
The Pontiac, Mich., native worked on routes outside on the turf, but also by watching other receivers and the techniques they used.
“I watch a lot of YouTube videos,” Martin-Manley said. “One of coach (Erik) Campbell’s old receivers, Jason Avant, I watch him a lot.
“I look at guys like Wes Welker and, of course, Jerry Rice.”
Martin-Manley — listed at 6-foot, 205 pounds — said it doesn’t do him much good to watch tape of receivers like 6-5 Calvin Johnson.
“I respect what he’s doing, but I can’t relate,” Martin-Manley said. “I can’t learn too much from him.”
It was Campbell who brought Martin-Manley to Iowa in December 2009, several months after Martin-Manley had committed to Bowling Green.
A Michigan fan growing up, Martin-Manley knew the reputation of Campbell — a receivers coach at Michigan — and quickly learned more about Iowa.
“They were on the way to the Orange Bowl,” Martin-Manley said. “And coach Campbell, his history with receivers is crazy.”
McNutt became the first Hawkeye receiver drafted since Kahlil Hill in 2002 after setting nearly every record in the Iowa book last year. But Davis and Martin-Manley haven’t had similar success in the first season with first-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis.
“We definitely haven’t been taking as many shots as we did last year,” Martin-Manley said. “If you look at last year’s film, Marvin and Keenan, they were getting a lot of deep balls. I even had a few.
“We’re not doing that as much this year. The plays being called, they are good plays. They work. We’ve just got to execute.”
Despite an emphasis on shorter routes, Davis and Martin-Manley are both ranked in the top 10 in the Big Ten in receptions per game and receiving yardage per game.
Only Penn State (Allen Robinson and Kyle Carter) can make the same claim.
“I think we’re really close to having a breakout game on offense,” Davis said. “The next three games we’ll keep plugging away, hopefully it’ll show out on the field.”
Martin-Manley — who had catches of 18, 24, 39 and 26 yards against Indiana — is starting to become a weapon.
“It can get tough sometimes,” he said. “The defense likes to play in front of the sticks so you have to make someone miss. We feel we have playmakers like that.”
A few big plays in the passing game might be the difference over the final three weeks in getting Iowa (4-5) to a bowl game.
Martin-Manley still has a friend at Bowling Green, the school he almost played for.
“They’re going bowling,” he said. “I guess it’s not too bad of a place.”
Reach Ryan Suchomel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 339-7368.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football