If there has been one position of greatest recruiting concern for the Iowa football program during the past decade, it’s probably that of wide receiver.
I realize that there hasn’t been an AIWRHG, but as it relates to recruiting? There is no doubt that this position has been very, very tough for the Hawkeyes and fora number of reasons. I won’t sit here and say that I am an absolute authority on why or that I have the answers, but one factor stands out in my mind as the largest recruiting inhibitor:
Lack of NFL Lineage: Prior to Marvin McNutt in the 2012 draft. the last Iowa wide receivers who were selected in the NFL draft were Kahlil Hill in the 2002 (Round Six) and Kevin Kasper in 2001 (Round Seven). Neither Hill or Kasper were recruited to Iowa during the Ferentz era. So in 14 recruiting classes, Iowa produced ONE NFL Draft pick at receiver. That’s stark, but add in that McNutt was recruited to Iowa to play quarterback and didn’t make the transition to receiver until 18 months after he arrived on campus.
Looking at things before Ferentz arrived as head coach, you had Tim Dwight drafted in 1998, Danan Hughes in 1993, Quinn Early in 1988 and Keith Chapelle in 1981. Chapelle was not recruited to Iowa by Hayden Fry. Iowa didn’t have one wide receiver drafted in the decade of the 1970’s. So between Fry and Ferentz, whose eras comprise the last 34 years of Iowa football, the Hawkeyes have seen a grand total of seven wide receivers taken by NFL teams.
That’s what is referred to as a hard sell. It’s compounded by the lack of NFL success those players had; only Dwight and Hughes did much of anything as a receiver in the league. McNutt, a sixth round pick, didn’t make a roster this year.
Being that there are only seven rounds during the NFL draft now, you’d think that a few Hawkeyes would have had some sort of impact at the position as undrafted free agents (UFA) but that just hasn’t been the case, either.
Having said that, does this bring into question the level of teaching that takes place at that position at Iowa? I have absolutely no way to gauge that other than taking a look at the most productive receivers Iowa has had in the Ferentz era and then look at their post-Iowa football success. Even then, this is a slippery slope and I cannot point to it and say ‘there’s a smoking gun’.
McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos are the two most productive receivers in Iowa football history, yet neither has played in an NFL game. Clinton Solomon is #9 on the Iowa all time list and he signed a UFA contract with St. Louis. He got looks from the Titans and Bears and maybe even the Chiefs before his NFL shot was over. He never caught a pass in the NFL.
Ed Hinkel might not have had eye-popping YAC numbers but he is 8th all time in receptions at Iowa and I feel he’s one of the most valuable players of the Ferentz era in my opinion. You think Iowa could have used an Ed Hinkel on this year’s team? I do. He signed a UFA deal with Baltimore and failed his physical. One year later, Indianapolis gave him a look but it was short lived. CJ Jones had a nice 2002 for Iowa and wound up getting four years in at the NFL level. He was used primarily as a kick returner. Maurice Brown might be the most physically gifted receiver to play during the Ferentz era and he barely got a sniff in the NFL.
Has Iowa had talented players who weren’t coached up? Again, that is impossible for someone like me to say. I can only look at the end game data, with the NFL as the judge and make a conclusion, but quite frankly that would be an unfair measuring stick as there are probably less than 170 receivers on NFL rosters in a given year and likely more than 300 available for draft in each and ever draft class. Receivers have an average NFL career length of around three years, so there are not a lot of job openings. This would be an unfair way to judge how players are coached up at a school.
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Iowa receivers coach Erik Campbell held the same position at Michigan and they certainly had their share of NFL receiving talent but that has not been the case at Iowa. Was he a great teacher at Michigan and not a great teacher at Iowa? My guess is it has more to do with the talent; Michigan gets it at that position and has for a long time due to historical success, where Iowa has not in part due to the lack of historical success.
Even if Iowa had elite WR coaching, they still have the recruiting issue to overcome. The state of Iowa doesn’t produce a great deal of highly touted wide receivers. Keenan Davis is the most highly rated receiver to sign with Iowa and he is from Cedar Rapids. Adrian Arrington was an elite high school receiver, but he went to Michigan as did Amara Darboh last year.
After a year like 2012, it may be an even harder sell to get receivers to want to come to Iowa after seeing the 5.6 yards per attempt, which was the Ferentz era low point by a half yard (which is quite a lot in this statistical category)
Here is a list of Iowa’s leading receivers by each year of the Ferentz era along with some recruiting information:
2012: Kevonte Martin-Manley: Two-stars, led Iowa with 52 grabs, tied Keenan Davis with 571 yards. 82 receptions in first two years, has a shot at some records.
2011: Marvin McNutt: Recruited to Iowa as a quarterback, changed to receiver and left as the single season leader and career touchdowns record holder.
2007-2009: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos: Recruited to Iowa to play receiver, but played quarterback in high school. Holds the school record for most receptions in a career.
2006: Andy Brodell: Two-star player from Ankney, solid Iowa career
2004-2005: Clinton Solomon: Played quarterback in high school, two-star
2004-2005: Ed Hinkel: Recruited as a safety, switched to offense due to injuries at the position, very good player at Iowa.
2002-2003: Mo Brown
2001: Kahlil Hill: Recruited to Iowa under Hayden Fry
1999-2000: Kevin Kasper: Former walk on, recruited to Iowa by Hayden Fry
Here are some other Ferentz era recruits at wide receiver:
Keenan Davis: Four-star prospect, highest rated receiver to commit to Iowa during Ferentz era.
Ed Hinkel: Recruited as a safety, switched to offense due to injuries at the position, very good player at Iowa.
Jhante Jones: Florida (Bielema) recruit, never saw the field, left early
Calvin Davis: Three-stars, played but not a huge impact.
Scott Chandler: Two-stars, 6-6/212 out of high school, Iowa converted to tight end and he had a very good career as a Hawkeye
Tyler Fanucchi: Two-stars, rare California commit, left school early
Herb Grigsby: Three-stars, message board legend Higby, left early
James Townsend: Three-stars, left school early
Trey Stross: Three-stars, US Army All American, often injured
James Cleveland: Three stars, left school early
Dominique Douglas: Three stars, excellent freshman season (49 grabs), encountered serious legal issues, not in good standing
Paul Chaney: Two-star, converted defensive back
Colin Sandeman: Three-stars, played through senior season
DeMarco Paine: Three-stars, left early
Shane Prater: Two-stars, left early
Khalif Staten: Three-stars, never made it to campus
Stephane Ngoumou: Two-stars, never made it to Iowa
Don Shumpert: Three-stars, slated as a safety when he signed with Iowa, passed over on depth chart this season.
Jordan Cotton: Three-stars, had a solid 2012 but had been off the radar prior to this year.
Marcus Grant: Three-star, left after redshirting last year
Jacob Hillyer: Played some this year as a freshman, three-stars
Tevaun Smith: Played some this year as a freshman and would appear to have a jump on sliding in for Keenan Davis next year. Three-stars
Ramon Ochoa: Walk on, Mr 2003
Matt Melloy: Walk on
Warren Holloway: One career TD catch. You know the one.
CJ Jones: Key player in 2002, Juco transfer, cousin to Brad Banks
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Maurice Fleming: Three-stars. Will he play defense or offense?
Cameron Wilson: Three-stars
Greg Mabin: Three-stars
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Derrick Willies: Three-star, had roughly 50 catches for Rock Island in 2012
Andre Harris: Three-star athlete
Derrick Mitchell: Three-star athlete
As with most of these type of analytical pieces, I certainly don’t have the answers. If I did, I’d be in the coaching profession in some way, shape or form.
You see the data and the history. Iowa has had some solid players play this position for them, good guys who made winning plays and contributions. But the Hawks have had to work extremely hard at this position to ‘make it work’, oftentimes seeing something in players at the high school level who played positions other than receiver and trying to convert them to that position at the Big Ten level. They have had some success with that, but have rarely fielded two dangerous playmakers on the field at the same time in the same season.
Perhaps only the elite teams actually do this and even then, they are not immune to some off years. Ohio State has not had their traditional pull at this position the last two seasons and Michigan’s issues are probably more about getting the ball to their playmakers so they can make plays.
What are your thoughts?