QUICK LOOK BACK: The Iowa receiving corps is losing reliability. Tight end Brandon Myers averaged 13.0 yards on 34 catches. I wonder how many first downs that was (four were TDs). I know it was three on the opening drive of the Outback Bowl. Iowa eventually scored and set the tone for a day of domination. Wide receiver Andy Brodell caught 36 passes for 533 and four TDs. He was a reliable receiver capable of big days. He was also a reliable-to-pretty darn good punt returner. Reliability is key for Iowa receivers. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos found that in his game at the end of the season. Reliability is the first step with playmaking the next. Myers and Brodell were certainly reliable.
FOURTH DOWN — CONCERNS: Reliability is the main concern. Experience is next. DJK grew up last season and is now Iowa’s go-to receiver. In a stretch of four games, DJK had two, zero, three and two receptions for 57 yards. This happened around the time he was banned by coach Kirk Ferentz from Tuesday interviews after wearing a hat and sunglasses on camera. He got the message and responded with 17 catches for 296 yards and two TDs in Iowa’s final three games. In the victory over then-No. 3 Penn State, DJK caught seven passes with a TD. At Minnesota, DJK went nuts, catching seven for 181 and one TD.
After DJK, Iowa’s next leading returning receiver is . . . TE Tony Moeaki. He missed four games with a leg strain and concussion, but was effective when he played. Still, he had only 13 receptions. WR Trey Stross missed two games but was limited in others with a lingering hamstring injury. He also caught 13 passes. He suffered a broken collarbone in the Outback Bowl.
Junior Allen Reisner has positioned himself as the No. 2 TE this season, behind Moeaki. He had 11 catches for and a team-high 18.2 yards a catch. And he had that Wisconsin catch.
No. 3 wideout is a race between Colin Sandeman (6 catches, 76 yards, two TDs) and Colin Sandeman. Other possibilities: Junior Paul Chaney Jr. spent ’08 in the doghouse for whatever reason. After burning his redshirt, he saw action in just five games. DeMarco Paine, who burned his redshirt, disappeared after a Clearinghouse issue sent him to Iowa Central after semester. Sophomore Marvin McNutt will be in his first full year as a receiver after switching from QB. EDIT: The incomparable poster Jebus showed me the light in my omission of redshirt freshman Shane Prater, a 6-1, 170-pounder. I don’t know much about him. I have heard that he has great wheels. If he sees regular playing time this season, it will be because he takes advantage of those wheels.
THIRD DOWN — ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Expect an incoming freshman (Keenan Davis) to get a look here (Keenan Davis).
Davis, 6-3, 200, was fabulously productive at Cedar Rapids Washington, catching 117 passes for 1,745 yards and 20 TDs. Iowa coaches have told him they want him to compete for a starting spot, but nothing will be handed to him. Temper expectations, but Davis is a good score for Iowa, a school that seems to have trouble bringing in top-flight receivers.
Also, Mount Pleasant’s Jordan Cotton (6-1, 170) could nudge in. But this will be his first full season as a WR. As a running back, he gained 3,043 yards and 42 TDs. He also had 925 return yards and three TDs.
I’m not adding Sioux City Heelan’s Brandon Wegher to this list. Iowa recruited him as a running back. He wants to play running back. He’ll get a shot at returning kicks next season. So, he’s not a receiver, at least not now.
I am adding Josh Brown, a 5-11, 200-pound athlete who did just about everything for Dixie Hollins High (St. Petersburg, Fla.). On signing day, Ferentz said this when asked if coaches saw him as a slot receiver, “We think he has that capability. If we were going to pinpoint, I think you could for several positions, but that is what we’re thinking about right now and I think he is receptive to that.
“He could probably do some things on defense and probably help us at running back, too, but we’re going to start him out as a receiver.”
Stephane N’goumou also belongs here. The 6-4, 201-pounder emerged late last recruiting season. For Wootton High School (Rockville, Md.), he caught 101 passes for 1,510 yards and 14 TDs. As a senior his numbers were 71, 1,060 and nine TDs.
I don’t see incoming tight ends, Dakota Getz and Anthony Schiavone, seeing the field this year.
Barring injuries, I see TE going Moeaki, Reisner and sophomore Brad Herman, who dropped a redshirt last season after impressing during camp. Redshirt freshman J.D. Griggs could punch through here.
SECOND DOWN — STRENGTHS: DJK is a strength. He became a consistent player in the last half of the season. It was something to build on and it’s something that should drive him in ’09. Also there’s this: DJK has 82 receptions for 1,121 yards in his first two seasons. Kevin Kasper’s receptions record (157) and Tim Dwight’s yardage record (2,271) aren’t out of the question.
A healthy and hungry Moeaki would be a weapon. The man is 6-4 and a legit 250 and can run. A healthy and hungry Stross could be a weapon. He’s a 6-3, 200-pounder with excellent leaping ability.
After that, it’s potential. Potentially, the freshmen group of receivers contributes. Potential isn’t a strength until it learns to block downfield.
FIRST DOWN — THE PLAY: The first receiver to show reliability — receiving, blocking, playbook — jumps into the rotation with DJK. You could argue the rotation shortened to two last season — DJK and Brodell. Receivers coach Erik Campbell would probably like to see that expand. Iowa does use some three-receiver sets. It also uses double-TEs, depending on particular strengths. And let’s look at that quickly: Iowa loses an all-American RB, its top two O-linemen and returns a QB who finished 8-3 as a starter. Could the passing game be a strength of the offense? I’m not saying 2004 and Drew Tate, but Iowa passing game will be leaned on for some numbers.
The starters — DJK, Sandeman/Moeaki
Next — Davis, N’goumou/Reisner, Herman, Griggs
Incoming — Davis, N’goumou, Cotton, Brown/Getz, Schiavone
Surprise — Someone in this group earns first-team all-conference.