STARTER: MATT VANDEBERG, JERMINIC SMITH, RILEY MCCARRON
BACK-UP: ADRIAN FALCONER, JAY SCHEEL
OTHERS: JONATHAN PARKER, ANDRE HARRIS, EMMANUEL OGWO
INCOMING: DEVONTE YOUNG
2015 GRADE: B-
ANALYSIS: This grade is as low as it is just because it was a group that, by and large, did not create a lot of explosive plays for the offense. A lot of the explosive plays came from the improvisation and creation of quarterback C.J. Beathard, and the three running backs. Tevaun Smith provided some fireworks, VandeBerg was reliable, but they were scratching and clawing for any other kind of production.
It gets boosted above a 'C' though because they did come through in the clutch. VandeBerg was a common recipient of passes that turned third downs into first downs. Tevaun Smith had a few big catches on the year that lead to the few explosive plays they did have or at least in meaningful situations.
As a group, they also brought a lot of intangibles. It was a position full of solid leadership between VandeBerg, McCarron, Tevaun, and Jacob Hillyer. They blocked well. They were never selfish. Despite the inconsistent production and lack of explosion, this group did their jobs and didn't let anything affect them. They were very emblematic of the team as a whole.
OUTLOOK: You first look at what they have to replace. They have to find someone to fill the shoes of Tevaun Smith. He had the most big plays out of any of the wideouts. That's a big void. They'll look to sophomore Jerminic Smith to fill that role and he'll need some help. It'll have to be a team effort to replace Tevaun's contributions. Jerminic did play very, very well for a true freshman when he spelled Tevaun while he was injured. He showed promise but there wasn't much of a spot left for him when the senior Tevaun Smith returned since Jerminic only had learned the one receiver spot.
They also have to replace Jacob Hillyer. Everything he brought to the table was more unnoticed. He didn't catch a lot of passes but he was one of the better blockers, set a great example, was a great leader, and was very responsible for the growth and maturity of the entire team. His presence will more than likely be missed far greater than his production. It just wasn't the type of player that he was.
The depth chart released after the Rose Bowl says that Riley McCarron will take over for Hillyer. I don't quite see that happening. I think McCarron will stand pat at the #4 or #5 receiver role. He did have the big go-ahead TD reception against Iowa State in Ames. He'll see time but I don't think he'll take over any of the starting spots. The third spot will likely go to Falconer or Scheel in my opinion.
That will be a big storyline in the Spring, to me. Who is able to separate and emerge the most, Adrian Falconer or Jay Scheel. Falconer probably makes more sense for the position that Hillyer plays, just because of style of player and size. Scheel actually makes more sense for VandeBerg's role because he's about the same size and is a short space operator much like VandeBerg.
I also wouldn't completely rule out Jonathan Parker. I don't think he settles into any of the starting spots but they're going to need some explosion from this group, and outside of Jerminic, there isn't a lot of that. That's what Parker can bring to the table so I see a role for him to supplement that category.
I think Devonte Young redshirts. We're probably a year away from seeing Emmanuel Ogwo on a regular basis as well.
"Number one, (Jerminic Smith) caught onto the offense really well and was learning as things go on. He contributed midseason in the Wisconsin game and Illinois game. He was behind Tevaun when he got healthy and came back. It was a lesser role. (Jerminic) is a guy we feel like we can put in at anytime and he'll be fine. I always like to start them in one spot and soak there. I expect him to be able to play all three spots next year. It'll be a big leap for him, absolutely. He'll be asked to do a lot more." - Wide Receivers coach Bobby Kennedy
"We're really pleased with Jonathan Parker. He's done a nice job transferring from the running back position to wide receiver. Adrian Falconer has done a nice job. Those are the two right now. We'll see how the others come along." - Wide Receivers coach Bobby Kennedy
"(Adrian Falconer) can work on consistency. He needs to take that Matt VandeBerg approach where every play is important. Matt always wanted to perfect his craft. Adrian needs to get a little bit of that in him." - Wide Receivers coach Bobby Kennedy
"Jay Scheel is on the upward tick. He's been up with us for the last three weeks ever since the Big Ten Championship Game. I see big things and a bright future for Jay Scheel. He can also right now play two of the three positions so that is making his stock go higher and higher. That's really big for him. We've seen really good progress from him. He had some (health) issues out of high school. It's taken him a little while to get his legs under him." - Wide Receivers coach Bobby Kennedy
"Kind of like talking about (Matt) Nelson or Parker (Hesse). Jay Scheel's biggest thing, two things, he was a quarterback in high school, and then that injury is really sticky. He has had a long, windy road. Late this fall and then during December, we think we really saw him playing kind of the way he can play, you know, moving faster and doing the things he did in high school. It's been a long journey for him and he's a tremendous young man. Again, a little bit of adjustment playing outside and doing some things that he didn't block much in high school, but most guys have to learn that anyway." - Head Coach Kirk Ferentz