IOWA CITY – Iowa’s young receivers are catching on.
At least that how “Pops’’ sees it.
Sporting that new nickname while surrounded by pups in the Hawkeye receiving corps, the only veteran of the bunch says the young receivers on the Iowa roster are making progress as the team nears the midpoint of fall camp.
Matt VandeBerg said following Saturday’s Kids at Kinnick open practice that returning receivers are building off of their work from spring practices while the five new receivers on the Iowa roster are discovering what playing the position at the college level is all about.
“The thing I’m seeing is that they are eager to learn. That tells me that they care about what they’re doing and that is only going to help them as they gain experience,’’ VandeBerg said.
The fifth-year senior, returning to work this fall after undergoing foot surgery twice in the last nine months, has 106 catches on his collegiate resume.
That is the extent of the Iowa experience the Hawkeyes have on the roster at the receiver position as junior Adrian Falconer and sophomore Devonte Young have yet to record a reception for Iowa.
VandeBerg said both have shown growth this fall, something Young demonstrated with touchdown receptions of 54 and 22 yards that were among the offensive highlights of Saturday’s practice.
True freshmen Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Max Cooper, Brandon Smith, Henry Marchese and Camron Harrell, who shifted from defensive back to receiver during the first week of camp, are all working to become factors in the Hawkeyes’ rotation of receivers.
“Those guys understand the opportunity that is out there for them and it is providing them with good motivation,’’ VandeBerg said.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Harrell will remain at receiver for the time being, saying the entire group mirrors the rest of the team.
“They aren’t game ready, but they’re working to get there. The guys who were here and practiced with us in the spring are better. They look more like Big Ten football players,’’ Ferentz said.
“The new guys, they are learning as fast as they can and the hope is we will be able to push things up for them over the next couple of weeks and help them come along quickly.’’
VandeBerg believes it is something the group can handle.
He said the freshmen seem to be catching on quickly to what they are asked to accomplish.
“When new guys come in, they get a lot thrown at them right away and it takes some time, but after one, two weeks, you start to get things down and are ready to take that next step,’’ VandeBerg said. “I feel like that’s where those guys are at right now. Getting out in front of a crowd was good for them. They’ll take this and learn from it.’’
VandeBerg didn’t see many snaps Saturday by design.
Known commodities like VandeBerg and running back Akrum Wadley spent much of the practice watching, giving coaches an opportunity to see how younger Hawkeyes would respond.
He said his own return to the practice field has been going well.
“I’m ready to go,’’ VandeBerg said. “It’s been a good couple of weeks. I’m anxious to get back out there in a game. Things feel good. I feel ready.’’
And about that new nickname?
“Don’t let that one stick,’’ VandeBerg said.