Talent aplenty in young receiving corp

by Sean Neugent

IOWA CITY — A talented group of youthful receivers is looking to make life a bit easier for sophomore leader Jake Christensen, the heir apparent at quarterback for the University of Iowa.

The Hawkeyes are led at receiver by junior Andy Brodell and sophomore Dominique Douglas. Brodell, the elder of the bunch with the most experience, came out of his shell in the latter part of last season when he broke free for 318 yards and three touchdowns in the last two games. He exploited the Texas defense in the Alamo Bowl for six receptions, 159 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, Brodell hauled in 39 passes for 724 yards and five scores.

“Brodell was a high school running back and the transition to wide receiver is not real easy,” said Lester Erb, UI special teams and receivers coach. “I think the more and more he played, the more he became comfortable at the receiver position.”

Brodell is an Iowa native who starred at Ankeny High School. Last season he also returned 13 punts for 138 yards (10.6 average) with a long of 31 against Iowa State.

“Every receiver will have a role and I feel that my role is to be the leader because I am the oldest guy and have had the most experience,” Brodell said.

Douglas returns after a stellar freshman season when put on a show of his own as he led the nation’s true freshmen receivers with 49 catches. His 654 receiving yards was second nationally among rookies. He also led the team in yards per catch at 13.3.

“Douglas came in as a pretty polished wide receiver, nothing really phases him,” Erb said. “He just came in and played — he wasn’t worried who he was playing against or who the competition was, he just came out and played football.”

Douglas compiled a season-high with seven receptions against Northwestern and he had six catches in a game against Iowa State, Michigan and Minnesota.

“I’m not perfect, so I believe I need to improve on everything,” Douglas said.

Sophomores Trey Stross and Anthony Bowman look to be utilized in the offensive scheme, but they will have to battle a strong group of first-year players for field time. Iowa recruited a talented group of freshmen who could make an immediate impact. That class is led by James Cleveland, Paul Chaney Jr., Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Ben Evans. All of the options are appealing to Christensen, who started one game last season against Northern Illinois and completed 19 of 30 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns. He also saw action against Montana, Purdue, Minnesota and Texas.

“Brodell can stretch the defense, Cleveland is more of a possession receiver, Douglas is sure-handed and runs good routes and Trey is very speedy and also runs good routes,” Christensen said.

The quarterback situation is as good as it can get with Christensen, freshmen Arvell Nelson and Richard Stanzi and junior Adam Farnsworth. Christensen has earned the top position on the depth chart.

“He’s got a heck of an edge obviously,” UI Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “When Jake was called on last year I thought he did a good job given the circumstances, and the big thing is he had a good spring. He’s got a great head on his shoulders, so we’re real confident he’ll do well.”

“One of the most important things you need in college football is depth and I think that is something we are going to have this year.”

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Cleveland is itching to be on the receiving end of more than a few aerials from any of the talented Hawkeye quarterbacks.

“It was evident throughout the summer how hard the quarterbacks were working and how much better they became,” Cleveland said. “The job was up in the air and they all stepped up and rose to the occasion. I can’t complain about the quarterbacks, they all throw a good ball.”

The UI offense has only three seniors — all running backs. The ground game will have a solid 1-2 punch with seniors Albert Young and Damian Sims leading the way. The Hawkeyes also have one of the top fullbacks in the country in senior Tom Busch. If Iowa is able to get the running game going, opposing teams will be hard-pressed to stop Christensen and the rest of the offense from firing on all cylinders.

“One of the most important things you need in college football is depth and I think that is something we are going to have this year,” Brodell said. “The talent we have at receivers is as good as it has ever been.”

Don’t forget the tight ends —Just when opposing defenses try to slow the Hawkeye passing game by covering the receivers and backs, they might get burned by the UI tight ends. Junior Tony Moeaki has been placed on the Mackey Watch List as one of the nation’s top tight ends. Last season he caught 11 passes for 140 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Brandon Myers is listed as No. 2 on the preseason depth chart.

By the numbers —There are 15 returning letterwinners on the UI offensive two-deep roster, including Sims and Busch who have both earned three letters. In 2006 the Hawkeyes averaged 383.3 yards of total offense with a season-high 546 against Minnesota.

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