Clinton Solomon had more than 900 receiving yards last year, and his tally was the seventh best mark in school history for a single season. After an October game in 2004, I said on ‘Soundoff', the radio program I co-host with Jim Zabel on 1040 WHO after Iowa's games, that Solomon might be the best receiver I had seen in my years of watching the Hawks.
'The Governor', Tommy from Des Moines called in to tell me I was crazy, but he has since ‘seen the light', which in this sense means that he is close to agreeing with me.
If Solomon can make the routine catches this year and keep his concentration at all times, he will be the best I have seen. He has perhaps the most pro potential of any Iowa receiver I can remember, and he worked his tail off this off season to improve. With no apologies to Ted Ginn, Jr., I think that Solomon is the best pure wide out in the league.
On the other side of the field is ‘Steady' Ed Hinkel. It seems that when he makes a catch, it's for first down yardage. He is sure-handed and has a flair for the dramatic; his catches against Iowa State and Michigan last year are both all time highlight reel plays.
Solomon and Hinkel compliment one another big time, and their excellence will help pave the way for a third receiver to perhaps have a breakout season.
Just who that third receiver will be is perhaps the biggest question facing this group.
Calvin Davis hurt his knee against Michigan State last year and did not return. Herb Grigsby had a solid spring and could be poised to step in and get some reps. He was listed as a backup on this summer's media guide depth chart. Matt Melloy is also a bankable receiver when the chips are on the table, but Grigsby has speed to burn. Herb's biggest obstacle is that he is just 170-pounds.
TE Scott Chandler had a solid season last year, and he had 122 receiving yards against Purdue on four catches. He finished the year with 324 yards and figures to see more passes come his way this year. TE Ryan Majerus was singled out by Kirk Ferentz this spring on more than one occasion, and that is a good sign, as Ferentz is not one to do that without justification. CJ Barkema will also play some TE this year, mostly in jumbo formations.
The biggest name here is that of Eric McCollom, the converted quarterback. McCollom began his Iowa career being asked to move over and help the team at receiver, as the position was plagued with injuries in 2003. He had a big gainer against Arizona State, but it was wiped out due to a penalty.
He would later fall to the injury bug himself, and after playing backup quarterback one year ago, McCollom was asked to try receiver again during the bowl prep and the latest off season. He is listed as a redshirt sophomore going into this season, and all reports are that he has a very, very bright future ahead of him at the position. Depending on how quickly he adapts to the change and the nuances of the position will dictate whether or not he will be in the mix with Melloy, Grigsby and Davis for reps at the third receiver.
Andy Brodell redshirted last year and he is probably another year away from impacting the offense. Tyler Fanucchi has yet to sniff any action, and the prospects for that happening do not look good this year, or down the line for that matter. Kyle Riffel, Kennon Christian and Chris Aldrich each has size, but the three walkons will have to be on top of their game and then some this fall to crack the two deep.
THE TRUE FROSH
Trey Stross was an All American last year, and he has been turning heads in Iowa City this summer. However, there is not a great enough need for him to consider burning his redshirt. It's safe to say that if he stays healthy, he is going to have a very, very healthy four year career at Iowa. I don't want to hype him too much. But after a couple of years with Doyle, this kid is going to put on a show at the NFL combine, health permitting. Marcus Wilson is also a big and athletic target, but a redshirt awaits him, too. He will start out as a wide receiver at Iowa and see where the chips fall.
Tony Moeaki was considered the best TE prospect in America by Scout.com last year and he could challenge for some playing time this season, perhaps at the ‘H' position.
THE TWO DEEP
Solomon and Hinkel are solid #1's, but who will be the three? Right now, I would say that Calvin Davis has a great shot if he steps up this fall. But if Herb Grigsby can show consistency, he is faster than Davis. You know what you are going to get with Melloy; a steady player who will catch the football. There will be a place for him in the rotation. Eric McCollom is the wild card here. How he handles the learning curve will tell the tale.
If McCollom can get in there and do what he is supposed to do, he might have the most athletic ability of any of the challengers.
The two deep could be a lot different in the second half of the season than it is in the first half. I expect E-Mac to make some big plays for Iowa this year.
If Majerus can carry over his strong play from the spring into the fall, that might allow Iowa to move Chandler out wide; that is where he began his career as a true frosh in 2003. His size presents mismatches with smaller corners. Chandler is not the best blocker in the Big Ten, so if Majerus can be consistent in that area, he is going to get some PT.