WIDE RECEIVERS & TIGHT ENDS
Some Hawkeye fans were worried in February when Iowa missed out on some marquee names like Dwayne Jarrett, Josh Morgan, Adrian Arrington, Jerrill Humphrey and Chris Vaughn.
In his signing day press conference, Kirk Ferentz had this to say about the receiver situation:
Q: Are you concerned that you landed just one receiver?
KIRK: "Not at all, because I think we have a lot of good young guys on campus right now. The way I looked at it, we took a shot at some guys that we felt were very good players. If we got one, two or three of those guys, that would have been wonderful. I think we were dealing from a position of strength. It would have been great to land one of the three guys that we targeted. But if it did not happen, that is OK too. Right now, the guys that we have, the potential they have in going into camp next year, I think we are going to be fine. I am OK there."
'Now' is the first step along the way to next year, the 2004 season. Here is a look at how the pass catching units look on this day in March.
RETURNING STARTERS: (1) Ed Hinkel, Junior, 6-1, 188
Hinkel caught 22 passes as a freshman in 2002 for 218 yards and entered the 2003 season as a starter, alongside Mo Brown. Hinkel was slowed early on with a groin injury he suffered in Iowa's fourth game of the season against Arizona State. He played in nine games during the 2003 season, catching just 10 passes for 108 yards and one touchdown.
Ramon Ochoa led Iowa's receivers last year with 34 receptions. He hauled in 477 receiving yards. Brown caught 33 passes for 507 yards. Both of those players have used up their eligibility.
Iowa's leading returning receiver from the 2003 season is sophomore Calvin Davis (6-1, 199). He caught 23 passes for 330 yards last year, playing in 11 games. Iowa's next two leading receivers after Davis were also seniors: FB Edgar Cervantes and TE Erik Jensen.
Junior Matt Melloy (6-3, 211) grabbed 10 catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns. TE's Tony Jackson (6-3, 265) and Mike Follett (6-5, 257) each caught one TD pass last year. Jackson had five catches and Follett had three. Iowa' three tight ends caught 24 passes between them, well below the 43 receptions recorded by Dallas Clark in 2002. Jensen and Jackson each caught two passes in 2002.
Iowa's offense is at its best when the tight end is an integral part of the play action passing game. While it is unrealistic to expect a ‘Dallas Clark' tight end each season, Iowa is looking for more production out of the position.
Will Jackson and Follett be able to pick up the pace in 2004? Will there be a new candidate at the position that can step in and make a difference this season?
Yes and maybe.
We feel that Jackson and Follett should be able to combine to catch at least 30 passes in 2004. But there may be two new candidates at the position: sophomores Champ Davis (6-2, 237) and Scott Chandler (6-7, 237).
It is still uncertain if one or both of those players will be making the move to tight end, but from what we have heard over the course of the last month, it would not surprise us to see these moves being made. If Chandler makes the move, expect him to redshirt this coming season. That could also be a possibility for Davis, but if he makes the move, he is almost too talented to have on the bench.
Iowa running backs coach Carl Jackson recently said at FanFest 2004 that Davis was perhaps too gifted to play fullback for Iowa, a position that is a glorified guard in the Hawkeye offense.
Davis played running back, tight end and wide receiver in high school in Plano, Texas and Des Moines, Iowa.
Davis showed decent pass catching abilities early last season from the fullback position before being injured. He played just five games in 2003.
As for the receivers, there are several players who will be fighting for the top three spots.
You can figure Hinkel into that mix, as well as the aforementioned Calvin Davis and Melloy.
Sophomore James Townsend (6-1, 183) might be ready to make his move up the depth chart this spring.
Townsend broke Carl Lewis' New Jersey state 100-meter record in track during his senior year of high school, so he has the jets. But being a good receiver is more about pure speed. A player also needs to run precise routes and be able to react as opposed to thinking while on the field, a skill that most receivers do not enter college with.
Townsend battled a stress fracture late in the year, but he healed in time to get in the bowl practice reps.
We figured that Matt Melloy would be in the receiver mix at some point during the 2003 season based on the fact that head coach Kirk Ferentz mentioned his name a few times in the spring of 2003.
Melloy did make his way into the lineup late in the year, partly due to injuries at the position, but when he played he did well, including on special teams.
Senior Warren Holloway will not just go gently into that good night, either. Though he had just three receptions last year, one of them was a big first down conversion near the goal line against Penn State. The play went for 20-yards and set up an Iowa touchdown. It was a tough, athletic catch, something that Ferentz would comment on in the post game.
A pair of redshirt freshman will be fighting for minutes as well: Tyler Fanucchi (5-10, 183) and Herb Grigsby (6-0, 170). Each of them has that extra gear and this spring will be crucial to their development for the future.
Calvin Davis made a breakthrough last season against Michigan.
He showed that he could take the hard hits and get back up and keep playing, something we feel he needed to prove to himself as much as proving that to the coaching staff. He caught seven passes in that game for 60 yards, including the first touchdown of his career. Weeks later against Illinois, he had his breakout game, catching five passes for 109 yards.
Davis may be nursing an injury this spring, so it is not certain how many reps he will see.
As for running backs catching passes this season, look for Jermelle Lewis and Albert Young to have their share of receptions. Perhaps they will not exceed the total of 35 receptions by Ladell Betts and Jeremy Allen during the 2002 season, but each player can catch the ball out of the backfield, something that will help the offense in 2004.
FALL OF 2004 SURPRISES?
Andy Brodell will be a true frosh, but we do not expect him to play next year.
One name that comes up frequently on the message boards is Clinton Solomon.
You will remember Solomon as a promising freshman on the 2002 Iowa squad. He played for Iowa Central Community College last season, as he did not make grades to remain at Iowa.
We spoke with Solomon in February and based on what he told us and what we have heard elsewhere, if he has a spring semester in the classroom like he did in the fall, expect him back in Iowa City this summer.
IF that is the case, and considering the number of players that will be fighting for playing time, Iowa's receiving corps will be deep and solid for at least the next three seasons, even if they do not add any more numbers to their ranks.