Hawkeye coaches deal with improved receiver, running back depth

2014-04-09T16:37:00Z 2014-04-10T12:39:27Z Hawkeye coaches deal with improved receiver, running back depthSteve Batterson The Quad-City Times

IOWA CITY — Crowded meeting rooms and heightened competition are welcomed byproducts of improved depth at the wide receiver and running back positions at Iowa this spring.

Position coaches in both areas don’t mind having more players competing for snaps as the Hawkeyes work toward a 1 p.m. public practice Saturday in West Des Moines which will move Iowa beyond the midpoint of its 15 spring practices.

“I think it’s going to be a little tougher around here to play and I think with some of the guys we think or hope we have a chance to get (in recruiting), it’s going to be even tougher," wide receivers assistant Bobby Kennedy said.

“I tell our players all the time that competition is a good thing. I get it that it’s no fun to stand on the sideline, but the way this program is built and the way it’s set up, you have to earn your way in."

Running backs assistant Chris White could be working with as many as nine running backs and two fullbacks in fall camp, providing plenty of competition.

“We have experience, and we have some young guys who are trying to make a move and earn their niche at the running back position," White said. "… We have great competition. Our guys are really driven, they’re hungry."

White said redshirt freshmen Akrum Wadley and Jonathan Parker add explosive speed to the mix of backs Iowa already has on its roster, showing the ability to “turn a 10-yard run into a touchdown."

Calling it “a good problem to have," White said Iowa coaches are trying to figure out this spring just how to best use the depth the Hawkeyes will have at the skill positions.

Kennedy finds himself in a similar, yet somewhat different situation.

He has plenty of players to work with, but Iowa has limited experience at receiver behind returning starters Kevonte Martin-Manley and Tevaun Smith and backups Jacob Hillyer and Damond Powell.

They are being pushed by a group that includes Matt VandeBerg, who saw time last fall as a true freshmen, and a talented group that redshirted a year ago, including Derrick Willies of Rock Island, Andre Harris and Derrick Mitchell of the St. Louis area and Texan A.J. Jones.

“I’m really pleased that we decided to redshirt some of those guys because I think they’ve got the ability to really change the, not necessarily the face of our program, but our ability outside to make plays," Kennedy said.

He has encouraged Iowa’s younger receivers to follow the daily work ethic of Martin-Manley, who led the team last season with 40 receptions covering 388 yards.

Kennedy has also encouraged each to work to develop additional strength and knowledge which will ultimately allow them to fill multiple receiver positions within the structure of the offense.

He used Willies as an example of the potential he sees.

“He obviously has a tremendous upside with his size and speed, but he’s not yet fully developed," Kennedy said. “… He still has a lot of work to do, but the thing that encourages me about Derrick is I have seen him make great strides since he first stepped on campus."

Over time, Kennedy has watched Willies develop a greater understanding and comfort level with the Hawkeye offense.

“He’s made some really good plays and some really big plays this spring, so it excites us because here’s this kid who is big, fast, can run and has a really good demeanor about him," Kennedy said. “I see him being a key player for us in the future."

For now, it is the daily progress which will help Kennedy sort it all out as the Hawkeyes work to a manageable six-player rotation at the receiver positions.

“What we do is find the first guy, then the second guy, then the third, the fourth, the fifth and the sixth," Kennedy said. “So, to keep them engaged, they know they’d better start producing and better start playing well in practice. It all starts in practice."

Copyright 2015 The Quad-City Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Football schedule

2015 Hawkeyes (0-0)

Date Opponent Time/result
9/5/2015 Illinois State TBA
9/12/2015 at Iowa State TBA
9/19/2015 Pittsburgh 7 p.m.
9/26/2015 North Texas TBA
10/3/2015 at Wisconsin TBA
10/10/2015 Illinois TBA
10/17/2015 at Northwestern TBA
10/31/2015 Maryland TBA
11/7/2015 at Indiana TBA
11/14/2015 Minnesota 7 p.m.
11/21/2015 Purdue TBA
11/27/2015 at Nebraska TBA

Past schedules

2014 Hawkeyes (7-6)

Date Opponent Time/result
8/30/2014 Northern Iowa W 31-23
9/6/2014 Ball State W 17-13
9/13/2014 Iowa State L 20-17
9/20/2014 at Pittsburgh W 24-20
9/27/2014 at Purdue W 24-10
10/11/2014 Indiana W 45-29
10/18/2014 at Maryland L 38-31
11/1/2014 Northwestern W 48-7
11/8/2014 at Minnesota L 51-14
11/15/2014 at Illinois W 30-14
11/22/2014 Wisconsin  L 26-24
11/28/2014 Nebraska L 37-34
1/2/2015 Tennessee L 45-28


Trophy case: Empty

Hawkeyes bowl history

1957 Rose   Oregon State W 35-19
1959 Rose   California W 38-12
1982 Rose   Washington L 28-0
1982 Peach   Tennessee W 28-22
1983 Gator   Florida L 14-6
1984 Freedom   Texas W 55-17
1986 Rose   UCLA L 45-28
1986 Holiday   SDSU W 39-38
1987 Holiday   Wyoming W 20-19
1988 Peach   NC State L 28-23
1991 Rose   Washington L 46-34
1991 Holiday   BYU T 13-13
1993 Alamo   California L 37-3
1995 Sun   Washington W 38-18
1996 Alamo   Texas Tech W 27-0
1997 Sun   Arizona State L 17-7
2001 Alamo   Texas Tech W 19-16
2003 Orange   USC L 38-17
2004 Outback   Florida W 37-17
2005 Capital One LSU W 30-25
2006 Outback   Florida L 31-24
2006 Alamo   Texas L 26-24
2009 Outback   South Carolina W 31-10
2010 Orange   Georgia Tech W 24-14
2010 Insight   Missouri W 27-24
2011 Insight   Oklahoma L 31-14
2014 Outback   LSU L 21-14
2015 TaxSlayer   Tennessee L 45-28