That's not to say that I expect that third receiver to come in third in yards and receptions. Entering last season, the question was certainly pertinent and applicable before the season began, and the name that came up first on most lists, Herb Grigsby, wound up leaving the program this past winter after a season full of dropped passes, among other things.
Douglas, a true freshman in 2006, wound up leading the team in receptions and yardage. He was 1-2 in those statistics nationally for a freshman.
So that is not what I am wondering here.
Who will be the player who steps up to become that third receiving option to go along with the established Douglas and getting closer to being established Andy Brodell?
RS Frosh James Cleveland received a lot of work during spring drills, and he is among the first names that come to mind. He and Doulgas are similar in stature and build, and he turned some heads this spring and during the winter.
Another name that will come up is Trey Stross, the former US Army All American. Stross had 13 catches for 189 yards last year, and he made some brilliant catches in addition to one spectacular play against Northern Illinois on a Jake Christensen bomb into the wind. But dropped passes in practice have plagued Trey. In fairness to him, dropped passes have been far too common for Iowa over the past two seasons. Come to think of it, and I don't know how to be certain about this, but doesn't it seem as though Iowa has dropped more passes the last two seasons than any time you can remember?
Dropped passes should count as half a turnover, in my opinion, or at least some percentage of a turnover. They can be flat out driver killers, and most often are. When you combine the high number of drops from just last season with Iowa's 112th in the nation turnover margin ranking, that'll get you into trouble, and Iowa was in trouble last year in games when it should not have been in trouble (Indiana) and a game where things should have been much closer (Minnesota) were it not for the giveaways.
A name that has been all over the message boards from the minute he walked onto campus is that of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. He arrived at Iowa with some acclaim, having selected the Hawkeyes over a late offer from Michigan. He was unable to get into Ohio State, or at least that is the common wisdom on the topic. When ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit said that ‘DJK' was the best high school player in Ohio for the 2005 season, a crop of players that included the nation's #1 prospect, that sent some Hawkeye fans over the top…and the expectations placed on DJK from some corners of the fan base are right there; over the top.
Do I think that he can be a difference maker this year? Sure. I think a lot of players have a shot to be difference makers. If he is consistent in practice in making the routine plays as well as the spectacular plays, he is going to get his shot. Remember, he has four more years of eligibility remaining. If he doesn't break through into the two deeps this year, that is not the end of the world and that is not the end of his career. Some folks need to give this kid a little bit of breathing room, no matter how electrifying his highlight tape was coming out of high school.
This will be his second year at wide receiver, after moving over from quarterback coming out of the prep ranks. Keep that in mind.
The great news about that group is that there seems to be a lot of names that have the make up to step up. Not all of them will do that this year, but that's fine; Brodell is the ‘old man' of the group, and he is going into his junior year. The rest are sophomores and redshirt freshmen.
The future of the position looks incredibly bright…and maybe, just maybe, we could see Iowa use some four wide down the road. Wouldn't that be a hoot.
My early bet is that Cleveland or Stross will be the players that step up and become the third receiving option. But fall camp has yet to begin, and DJK, Bowman and Chaney will not just go gently into that good night without a fight. And steel sharpens steel; or competition is a great, great thing.