IOWA CITY, Ia. – There is little doubt about Iowa’s primary target.
The starting quarterback, whoever it may be, will always take at a least a passing glance toward tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz.
The 6-foot-7, 265-pound senior possesses all-America skills and will draw most of the attention from defenses.
But who is the Hawkeyes’ best secondary option?
“Obviously it comes down to guys going out and making plays,” receivers coach Bobby Kennedy said recently. “You know, it’s not necessarily the X’s and O’s. It’s the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s.”
The Iowa roster is dotted with lesser known pass catchers, but a go-to receiver will have to emerge if the Hawkeyes want to stretch defenses.
It’s one of the most discussed position battles this spring.
“We don’t really listen to the talk about us,” sophomore receiver Jacob Hillyer said. “I think we’re going to be ready to go.”
A quick look at the early front-runners:
• Kevonte Martin-Manley, a 6-foot, 205-pound junior, led Iowa last season with 52 catches for 571 yards.
• Jordan Cotton (6-1, 192 senior) started once last fall and finished with 12 receptions for 172 yards.
• Don Shumpert (6-3, 200 senior) and Tevaun Smith (6-2, 200 sophomore) saw limited action a year ago.
“Kevonte has obviously had some success and he’s been a playmaker around here,” Kennedy said, “but those other guys are going to have to grow and develop.”
Hillyer (6-4, 205 pounds) gives the Hawkeyes size. Riley McCarron (5-9, 182 redshirt freshman) showed promise during last week’s open practice in West Des Moines.
“Riley did some good things on the scout team last year,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That’s always encouraging, but it’s a little like playing pick-up basketball and organized basketball. Sometimes, guys lose something in the translation.
“This has been a spring for him, a big spring for a lot of guys.”
All the returning receivers are benefitting from a second year under offensive coordinator Greg Davis.
In Davis’ debut season, Iowa ranked 99th nationally in passing offense, out of 120 major college programs, averaging 187.4 yards per game.
Departed quarterback James Vandenberg threw for just seven touchdowns, and Martin-Manley was the only receiver to reach the end zone twice.
“It’s a lot different from last spring,” Hillyer said, “because last spring we had just put the offense in.
“We’ve had a whole year going through it. We get to do a lot more things with it, now.”
The Hawkeyes’ most recent recruiting class included five new receivers: Andre Harris (6-0, 170 from Kirkwood, Mo.) A.J. Jones (6-3, 190 from Dallas, Texas); Derrick Mitchell (6-1, 190 from St. Louis, Mo.); Derrick Willies (6-4, 205 from Rock Island, Ill.) and Damond Powell (5-11, 180 from Snow Community College).
“The best guys are going to play, and if it’s a freshman, if it’s a redshirt freshman, those guys coming in are going to have an opportunity,” Kennedy said. “It also depends on how quickly they can pick up the offense, how well they execute the offense and those things. But those guys are going to get a look early in camp and throughout camp next fall.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football