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Spring football wrap 2018

Hawk Talk

This is the final segment of a three-part series about spring football for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
This week, I’ll look at the quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs and special teams.
Nate Stanley has a chance to be one of the really good quarterbacks to play at Iowa. I’m not going to say great quarterback until he has two good seasons in a row.
First, look at his size. Stanley came to Iowa listed at 6-4, 212-pounds. In the spring football guide, he is up to 242-pounds.
That is a big dude playing quarterback.
To compare, Dan McCarney was a senior offensive guard starting for the Hawkeyes in 1974. He was all of 232 pounds.
All Stanley did last year was throw for 25 touchdowns.
Only two players, Chuck Long (27) and Brad Banks (26), had more.
Both Long and Banks were Heisman runner-ups their senior seasons.
Stanley threw five touchdowns twice last season. No other Iowa quarterback has ever done that.
He passed for 2,437 yards, completing 55.8 percent of his passes with six picks.
Can he get better?
Of course, especially running the ball. Stanley gained 75 yards but lost 190, including 18 sacks. That needs to change.
If Stanley could just tuck the ball and run on third down, when the receivers are not open, the offense would be better.
The Hawks lost two quarterbacks that transferred– Tyler Wiegers and Ryan Doyle.
That leaves three, including Stanley, on scholarship.
Redshirt freshman Peyton Mansell (6-2, 210) and true freshman Spencer Petras (6-5, 227), already in school, are the backups.
Walk-on junior Ryan Schmidt (6-5, 235) is also in the mix.
Schmidt was Second Team All-State as a senior from Linn-Mar.

Wide receivers

Nick Easley (5-11, 205) and Brandon Smith (6-3, 219) are listed as the top two wideouts for the Hawks.
Easley, a walk-on from Iowa Western Community College, led the Hawks with 51 receptions for 530 yards and four touchdowns.
Smith only had two catches last fall, but has the size and big hands to have a breakout year.
Backups include Ihmir Smith-Marsette (6-1, 175) and Kyle Groeneweg (5-10, 186).
Smith-Marsette played as a true freshman and on his first carry in the first game, fumbled against Wyoming.
He did catch two touchdown passes against Iowa State, the second in overtime for the win.
Groeneweg is a transfer from the University of Sioux Falls where he played in 36 games as a wide receiver, punt returner and returned kickoffs.
Look for juniors Dominique Dafney (6-2, 225) and Devonte Young (6-9, 203) to be in the mix.
Also, Max Cooper (6-0, 185) played in six games as a true freshman. He should play, because he can stretch the field with his speed.

Running backs

Akrum Wadley finished his Iowa career with a bang.
Wadley was named MVP of the Pinstripe Bowl, totaling 283 all-purpose yards (88 rushing, 24 receiving and 171 kickoff returns) and he had over 1,000 yards rushing for two straight seasons.
Only three other Hawkeyes– Sedrick Shaw, Ladell Betts and Fred Russell– accomplished this feat.
Shaw and Betts ran for over 1,000 yards three years in a row.
Wadley was great when he got in the open. He had four touchdown runs of over 50 yards in his career. He also caught two passes last season and went 70 yards for touchdowns. He tied a single-game school record with four touchdowns against Northwestern in 2015.
James Butler was a solid backup after transferring for his senior year.
Two sophomores are listed as the top two going into spring.
Toren Young (5-11, 221) and Ivory Kelly-Martin are the thunder and lightning for the Hawkeyes.
Young had 193 yards (4.3 per carry) and scored twice last year.
Kelly-Martin ran for 184 yards (9.2) and three touchdowns.
“Both of those guys give great effort and their attitudes are phenomenal,” said new running back coach Derrick Foster. “They come in every day and go to work. These are the two guys I can use as an example with Toren being the leader of the group.”
Sophomore Toks Akinribade (6-0, 208) and redshirt freshman Kyshaun Bryan (5-10, 198) are the only other backs on scholarship.
Akinribade is being held out because he is recovering from an injury.
Look for a couple of freshman to possibly step in.
Fullbacks
Drake Kulick is done after playing three years for the Hawks at fullback and special teams. His only score came on a touchdown pass against Ohio State last fall.
Junior Brady Ross (6-0, 245) and senior Austin Kelly (5-11, 245) are the top two fullbacks this spring.
Ross and Kelly played in every game the last two years.
Ross is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten. Kelly was Academic All-Big Ten last season.

Special teams

The bottom line is Iowa has to improve its punting game.
The Hawks were 114th in the country in punting with a 38.6 yard average last year.
Iowa averaged 42.5 yards in five games against ranked opponents.
The Hawks were 1-4 in those games.
Sophomore Ryan Gersonde (6-4, 198) is listed as the top punter with junior Colten Rastetter (6-1, 213) listed as No. 2.
Gersonde didn’t play until the sixth game of the season and punted 13 times in three games last fall, averaging 42.5 yards per punt.
Rastetter punted rugby style, as well as regular style, and had a 37.8-yard average on 55 punts.
The 42-yard average for the whole season would be a good start.
Where is Reggie Roby when you need him?
Senior Miguel Recinos leads the way for kicking duties.
The former Mason City prep was Academic All-Big Ten last season and was named the recipient of the Reggie Roby Special Teams Award.
Recinos was 44-44 on extra points, 11-13 on field goals and averaged 62.5 yards per kickoff. He had 32 touchbacks on 70 kickoffs.
Ivory Kelly-Martin and Ihmir Smith-Marsette have a shot at returning kickoffs.
Kelly-Martin had 19 returns with a 21.3 average while Smith-Marsette returned four kickoffs for a 33.6 average last fall.
Look for Kelly-Martin to get a shot at punt returner, as well as walk-on Groeneweg, who returned 38 punts for 508 yards at Sioux Falls University.
In 2016, Groeneweg was named All-NSIC first team as a return specialist.
Iowa plays its spring game this Friday at Kinnick Stadium, which still has its north end zone under construction.
I’m not a fan of Friday night college football for a scrimmage or a game, but the coaches and players seem to like it.