Last week, we rated the Iowa Hawkeye offensive linemen who will be with the team in 2004.
This week, we take a look at the wide receivers.
To remind you, this ranking is not a system, it's not scientific and it's not anything else other than the opinion of Hawkeyenation.com Publisher Jon Miller. It's certainly debatable, and we hope that you do choose to take us up on a debate.
These rankings are also not necessarily based on potential, rather what we expect to see at the start of the 2004 season. If we feel a player has a shot to move up the charts during the season, we will certainly mention it.
#1: ED HINKEL
Easy Ed is one of the elder statesmen among the WR's for the Hawkeyes. This junior to be has 32 career catches for 326 yards and one memorable touchdown. That came against Penn State at Happy Valley during the 2002 season. You all remember the play…Brad Banks found Hinkel in the back of the endzone, and Ed laid out and made a remarkable catch and somehow came down in bounds. I have watched that play over and over again and am still not sure if he was actually in bounds when he came down. But the points will stay on the board.
Hinkel is one of those players that produce when he touches the ball. It seems like every one of his catches goes for a first down.
He was injured last year and had just 10 receptions, but he is a quality receiver to have in the stables. Not the most athletically gifted of Iowa's 2004 receiving corps, Hinkel might be the most sure handed. Therefore, we rate him at #1 on our list.
#2: CALVIN DAVIS
Calvin had a solid freshman season, catching 23 passes for 330 yards and a touchdown. That score came late in the first half against Michigan as the Hawkeyes were rallying to get back into the game after trailing by 14 points.
Davis' 14.3 yards per catch average was solid for a rookie, and he showed signs of real progress after that Michigan game, including Iowa's route of Illinois where he had more than 100 yards receiving, including a pretty over the shoulder catch.
But it was the Michigan game where Calvin came into his own. He took several big hits from the Maize and Blue defenders on that day…on the sidelines as well as across the middle.
I think his ability to get up from the turf after those hits answered a lot of personal questions, and he went on to gain confidence as the season continued.
I was tempted to rate him as the #1 receiver, but Hinkel seemed the safer bet.
Davis was hampered this off-season with leg injuries, but we understand that he is finally ready to go with the start of summer workouts that took place on Monday, June 7th.
Davis is a player that by year's end, might have his hands firmly around the mythical ‘top dog' slot among Iowa receivers. But we want to see him go through the loop one more time.
Here is a ‘Did You Know': Calvin Davis is the leading returning receiver for the Hawkeyes in career receiving yards.
#3: CLINTON SOLOMON
This pick might get the keyboards rolling. Then again, slots one through three are certainly up for debate.
Solomon told HN.com on Friday that he would be reporting to Iowa City on Saturday and would begin working out with his former teammates on Monday the 7th.
So if all of that came to fruition, Solomon is now back in Iowa City getting ready for the 2004 season.
Solomon had 14 catches for 159 yards as a freshman, including a scintillating one-handed grab on the sidelines against Utah State that went for 43 yards.
One play does not a projection make, but then again, when you look at the rest of the receivers that Iowa expect to have on the roster come August, there isn't a lot of past production to choose from.
So Clinton gets a spot in the top three, and he certainly has the raw talent to make a move up the charts by season's end, as long as he continues to work hard. He might start out behind some other names like Matt Melloy or Warren Holloway, but we think he will be at least in this position by the end of 2004.
#4: MATT MELLOY
The former walkon from Mt. Pleasant, Iowa made some big plays in 2003, including his fine work on special teams that was there for all to see at the Outback Bowl against Florida.
But we don't rate on special teams play in this category…they will have their due soon enough in future rankings.
Melloy caught 10 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns in 2003,l giving him the most career TD receptions among returning receivers.
If you haven't picked up the theme warning by now, let me tell it to you: The Hawkeyes are green at WR for 2004. But you knew that already.
Melloy proved to be a sure-handed target last year, and he made a move during the 2003 off season and was mentioned by Kirk Ferentz on a few occasions. That led writers like me to predict a breakout year for Melloy in 2004.
While his numbers might not be ‘break out' material in light of what Ramon Ochoa did, they were still respectable and just behind Solomon's 2002 output, with a better average. Melloy hauled in a 37-yard reception against Michigan State and a 31 yarder against Minnesota.
He does not possess breakaway speed, but he is a solid route runner and catches whatever is thrown at him. There is always a place on the team for a player that does the little things well. Plus, Melloy is not afraid to come across the middle.
Melloy might be the ‘least talented' among this foursome as far as natural ability is concerned, but I doubt that any of them have worked as hard as Melloy has to get where he is today, and that is in the Iowa two-deep roster coming out of spring ball.
#5: JAMES TOWNSEND
Given the lack of experience among the remaining WR's on the Hawkeye team, we had to go with at least one pick that was based on projection. Townsend is a speed burner, but he has gotten a rap as a player that does not run the best routes and that does not catch the ball consistently in practice.
He was the second receiver in New Jersey state history to record back to back 1,000+ receiving yards in a season. He has decent size at 6-1, 183-pounds, but still needs to hit the weights.
He went home for the summer to be reunited with his infant daughter. It's hard enough for players to leave home and travel half a country away to play college football and make the social and academic adjustments to college. But when you add in the fact that he was away from his child for several months and missed countless ‘firsts' that he will never be able to get back, that has to be excruciating.
Some people wonder whether or not he will be back at Iowa this fall. You can count me among that group. I have an 18-month old daughter, and I cannot bear being away from her and my wife for even one day, let alone months at a time.
But James has said that he is all about playing college football and getting his education for his child. Selfishly, many of us hope that he does that in Iowa's black and gold.
But if he should choose to transfer closer to home, I will wish him nothing but the best.
To Be Continued….
THE BEST OF THE REST
Senior Warren Holloway made a fantastic catch against Penn State last year when the Hawkeyes really needed a conversion. It came on the sideline near the southeast corner of the end zone, about at the three-yard line.
Holloway made just two other grabs all season, but he is a senior and he should know the drill inside and out. If he is called upon, he might be this year's Ramon Ochoa.
6-foot-8 Scott Chandler never hooked up with his brother for a reception last year, but he is an intriguing prospect, if due to nothing else other than his size.
He can create mismatches whenever he is on the field and could develop into a dangerous weapon down around the goal line. Once he and the quarterbacks get their timing down on corner fade routes, that is.
Herb Grigsby made a big splash at the spring game and during the spring, I heard that he may have been the hardest WR to guard. But like all of the young receivers, he needs to be consistent with his pass catching and route running. Plus, he needs to add on some more pounds. However, he is name to mark down.
There are a couple of walkons that you should keep in mind. 5-11, 190-pound Chris Aldrich from Oelwein, Iowa had a solid spring. He was first team all state in 2002 and set state of Iowa all-time records with 81 receptions and 1,550 yards. He hooked up with quarterback Eric Sanders as one of the state's best-ever passer-receiver duos.
6-2, 205 Kennon Christian of Davenport also had a good spring. He was a state qualifier in the 110 and 400-meter high hurdles in 2003. Kyle Riffel (6-3, 185) of Wichita, KS is another name to keep in mind.
There will undoubtedly be a receiver that comes out of nowhere from amongst this group to make some key contributions on the field in 2004.
And those stories are almost always the most fun to write.
Brodell has speed to burn, having run a sub 10.4 100-meter dash this year and a sub 10.8 electronically timed 100-meters. He played running back for Ankeny in each of the past two seasons, but he will make the move to WR at Iowa.
Fletcher might be the true frosh with the best chance to figure into the two deeps. He played running back and defensive back for his high school in Youngstown, Ohio, and he was not a highly rated recruit.
Part of that was due to the fact that he committed to Iowa just after the 2003 Spring Game.
But I have had a few Hawkeye coaches tell me that he could play one of three positions at Iowa, and receiver is one of those.
Given the 'state of flux' that Iowa finds itself in at this position, Fletcher is going to get a look.
One has to hope that out of all of the names we have discussed here, the Hawkeyes have a fair to middlin chance of putting together a solid WR corps for 2004.