It is no secret that the Iowa football program has very little experience at the wide receiver position this upcoming season. The spring didn't give us a good look at what we might see considering Matt Vandeberg re-injured his foot and Jerminic Smith - who has since mutually agreed to part ways with Iowa - was not suited up.
That left Devonte Young and Adrian Falconer as the only two scholarship receivers after Jay Scheel announced his retirement, Riley McCarron graduated, and Ryan Boyle made the jump back to QB. Nick Easley should see some time as well, but he's still a JUCO walk-on guy learning the Iowa offense. Ronald Nash could factor in as well, but he's just played sparingly in his time at Iowa.
The Hawkeyes did however go out and get themselves some pretty nice pieces at WR in the 2017 recruiting cycle. The biggest name is probably Mississippi native, Brandon Smith, but he'll be joined by Henry Marchese, Max Cooper, and Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Cooper looks more like a slot guy, which is still filled by Vandeberg assuming he is healthy, but there will be plenty of reps to go around for the other 3 who are all 6'2" or above.
The question this week is; a true freshman starts at least half of the games this fall at WR for Iowa, fact or fiction?
The only scholarship returnees are Matt VandeBerg, Adrian Falconer and Devonte Young. Young seems like a bright young player but is unproven, Falconer has not been viewed highly yet in his two years within the program, while VandeBerg has been marred by injuries in the past year. Nick Easley was ahead of some of these scholarship guys in the Spring which isn't a flattering endorsement of their status headed into the Fall.
Add that to the fact that there's always going to be a few injuries, most likely, that impact things. I don't see it difficult for a true frosh to start in at least six games. I don't think it will be 12 like some may want, but I do think it'll be a number in between. I have full expectation that a true frosh will start around eight or nine games and it may be a combination of a couple different guys.
I think the most likely freshman to seize this playing time is Brandon Smith. VandeBerg is the most proven receiver returning. That means the outside positions are the most vulnerable, leaving Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette in prime position to strike for playing time. I think Smith makes the most sense and has the college-ready body to do so now. He's raw himself but probably not to the extent of Smith-Marsette.
Have to agree with Derek here and say fact.
If the problems with Jerminic Smith had not come about, I would've probably said fiction because I thought we saw some good things from him last year, but they did and now he is no longer in the picture. I have to say Brandon Smith is the most likely of the bunch here because of his size and skill set at this point in time. He just looks like the more college ready guy from what I have seen.
We didn't get much last year from Young or Falconer considering neither one of them caught a pass, but like Derek alluded to, the staff does like Young a lot. I believe there even could be some instances where we see Noah Fant or maybe a guy like Shaun Beyer split out considering the athleticism they possess. Fant is definitely known more for his pass catching than his blocking entering his sophomore season. And when you consider Iowa's depth at TE, this could make even more sense.
Smith-Marsette also looks like the second guy in line for me. He's a good playmaker and showed off his versatility in HS considering he found success on both sides of the ball.
At the end of the day, the Hawkeyes are just too thin at the position for this not to be reality when he get there in the fall. The only question mark will be who gets the reps. That will all begin to shake out here fairly soon when the class of 2017 gets to campus this summer.