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Spring Football

Hawk Talk

This is the second part of a look at Hawkeye spring football.
Last week, I talked about the offensive line and tight ends.
This week, I’ll look at the wide receivers, running backs and full backs.
Jordan Cotton and Don Shumpert are gone at wide-out.
Jordan, who caught 15 passes and one touchdown in his career, will be missed as an All-Big Ten kick returner.
The former Mount Pleasant prep led the Big Ten in kick returns as a junior, averaging 28.2 yards per return, including a 92-yard return for a touchdown against Penn State.
In Jordan’s last game, he returned a kickoff  96 yards against LSU, which set a bowl record. He didn’t score though, so it went down as the longest non-scoring kickoff return in school history.
Don had 21 catches in his career, 15 of them last year.
Kevonte Martin-Manley (6-0, 205) is back for his senior year.
Kevonte led the Hawks with 40 receptions, 388 yards and five touchdowns.
The 388 yards are the fewest yards for a leading receiver since Kirk Ferentz took over.
In Kevonte’s junior year, he had 52 catches, 571 yards and two touchdown receptions.
Tevaun Smith (6-2, 200) is listed as the top split-end.
Tevaun played in every game last year with six starts.
The junior from Toronto had 24 catches, 310 yards and a highlight 55-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter against Michigan, which helped in the come-from-behind win.
Jacob Hillyer (6-4, 205) is also listed as the number-one wide receiver.
Jacob played in every game last year, had 11 receptions for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
That included a 26-yard score against Iowa State in the third quarter on a key third-down conversion.
Back-ups include senior Damond Powell (5-11, 180), sophomore Matt VandeBerg (6-1, 175) and redshirt freshman Derrick Willies (6-4, 210).
Damond, a junior college transfer, burst on the scene last fall, catching a 49-yard pass in Iowa’s opening 30-27 loss to Northern Illinois.
Damond finished the season with 12 catches for 291 yards, two touchdowns and a team-leading 22.4 yards per catch.
Iowa needs to find a way to get him the ball more.
In the Minnesota game, he caught a pass in the flat on Iowa’s 26-yard-line and exploded for a 74-yard score.
“He’s got a real energy to him,” said coach Ferentz. “It’s been fun to watch him in the out-of-season program. He looks like a college player now instead of a skinny kid. We’re here to see what he does out on the field in the spring.”
Matt VandeBerg played as a true freshman last year, appearing in 11 games with two starts and eight catches for 59 yards.
Matt reminds me of the really good possession receivers Iowa has had, including Ed Hinkle, a four-year letterman, and Jon Filloon, who lettered three years in the 1980s.
Derrick Willies is one of the five freshman wide receivers Iowa brought in last season. Matt VandeBerg is the only one that didn’t redshirt.
Derrick was first-team all-state as a senior at Rock Island, Ill. He also competed in track, running the hurdles and winning the 300-meter dash state title as a junior.
Andre Harris (6-0, 180) brings more speed to the receiver position.
Andre was first-team all-state as a senior at Kirkwood, Mo., and was also a sprinter on his high school track team.
Derrick Mitchell, Jr. (6-1, 205) is a good all-around athlete. He played wide receiver, running back, quarterback and defensive back at Vashon High School in St. Louis, Mo.
Derrick also competed in basketball, baseball and ran track.
A. J. Jones (6-3, 200) is also a good athlete, lettering in track and basketball while playing high school ball in Dallas, Texas.
Coach Ferentz said they were thinking about bringing one or two more freshman receivers out last year but decided to wait.
There is some good depth and talent at wide receiver. It would be good to see one or two freshman step up and make some plays.
Running Backs
They Hawkeyes have four solid running backs that should produce a really good running game.
They all have experience, talent and each add a different dimension.
You start with Mark Weisman, who has totaled 1,790 yards rushing, which ranks 14th in career rushing.
The 6-0, 240-pound senior came to Iowa as a walk-on. He started out in the Air Force but got tired of making his bed the right way.
The Air Force’s loss is Iowa’s gain.
Mark ran for 815 yards as a sophomore with a 5.1 average. Last year he led Iowa with 975 yards rushing (4.3 average), scoring eight touchdowns both seasons.
Damon Bullock (6-0, 205) is also a senior and is a great third-down back.
For his career, Damon has rushed for 1,000 yards, caught 39 passes for 351 yards and scored five touchdowns.
Jordan Canzeri (5-9, 192) has that breakaway speed that makes him very valuable.
Jordan rushed for 481 yards last year, scoring twice and averaging 5.1 yards per carry. The junior from New York had 165 yards in 20 attempts and scored a touchdown against Purdue. The 165 yards was the most in a game for an Iowa running back last season.
LeShun Daniels, Jr. (6-0, 230) played in seven games last year and rushed for 142 yards on 36 carries.
LeShun was first-team all-state in Warren, Ohio, and when this kid gets going, should be fun to watch.
Barkley Hill (6-0, 215), Jonathan Parker (5-8, 180) and Akrum Wadley (5-11, 180) and some depth and speed.
Barkley, a redshirt sophomore, was a top recruit from Cedar Falls High School where he was named ESPN Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. Barkley rushed for over 6,000 yards and scored 89 touchdowns in three seasons at Cedar Falls.
Jonathan is in the Jordan Canzeri mold with great quickness. He played running back, wide receiver, linebacker and returned kicks growing up in St. Louis, Mo.
Akrum, who grew up in  Newark, N.J., holds the school record for touchdowns in a season with 25. He also rushed for 1,548 yards and caught 11 passes in his senior season.
Hopefully the depth at running back will not be tested, but if it is, the Hawks have some weapons to fall back on.
Fullbacks
The Hawkeyes have two solid fullbacks they can rely on– Adam Cox (5-11, 230) and Macon Plewa (6-2, 236).
Both are juniors and both threw big blocks last year.
Adam played in every game last year and started three times. He ran the ball four times, caught three passes and returned two kickoffs.
Macon played in 11 games last fall, caught three passes, ran the ball once and had two kickoff returns.
These guys probably won’t be on too many highlight reels, but when they knock over a defensive end or take out a linebacker, they sure can make a running back look good.
Next week I’ll talk about the quarterbacks and the defense.
Will Jake Rudock be the number-one signal caller for the Hawkeyes?