Nov. 1, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — There will be two outstanding wide receivers wearing jersey No. 4 in Saturday’s football game between the universities of Iowa and Wisconsin. One is a consensus first-team All-Big Ten performer; the other is Hawkeye sophomore Tevaun Smith.
Both are valuable weapons for their teams.
The “elder” No. 4 is Badger senior Jared Abbrederis, whose journey has taken him from walk-on quarterback to rushing, receiving, and returning his way into one of the most dynamic players in the Big Ten Conference.
“If our four can become like their four, that would be a good thing,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I would like to see that happen, it’s possible.”
This season Abbrederis has caught 43 passes for 752 yards and five touchdowns; he has returned five punts for 28 yards.
“Abbrederis is a great receiver, he had a great game against Ohio State (10 catches, 207 yards, 1 touchdown),” Smith said. “Whatever I see in his game I try to implement it into mine to make myself better.”
Smith has emerged from a jumble of Hawkeye pass catchers to become what head coach Kirk Ferentz calls the No. 2 receiver on the team behind junior Kevonte Martin-Manley.
So important is Smith, that even though he wasn’t the primary option on the first play in overtime against Northwestern on Oct. 26, quarterback Jake Rudock found him for a 14-yard gain, setting the table in a 17-10 victory.
“If our four can become like their four, that would be a good thing. I would like to see that happen, it’s possible.”
UI head football coach
“It was one of the plays we didn’t run all game and we practiced it all week,” Smith said. “I was able to get open because they bailed their corners and I tried to get as much (yardage) as I could after the catch.”
Smith caught three passes for 41 yards against Northwestern, giving him 15 receptions for 154 yards on the season. That total is third on the team behind Martin-Manley (32) and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (17).
Rudock and Smith are developing in the lineup together. Both are sophomores, but while Rudock did not take a snap last season, Smith caught three passes for 31 yards from James Vandenberg. This season Rudock has completed better than 60 percent of his passes to 17 different targets. The 6-foot-2 Smith is becoming one of his preferred options.
“He’s climbing, he’s coming on,” Ferentz said of Smith.
Ascending to second on the depth chart among receivers isn’t important to Smith. Doing what coach Ferentz asks has always been his objective.
“I feel like I’m playing the role he needs me to play,” Smith said. “I’m doing whatever he asks. If he says I’m the second receiver, then so be it. I’m trying to do my job.”
With the Hawkeyes averaging 188.9 yards on the ground per game and 4.4 yards per rush, it makes sense to go for the near-certain positive yardage on first down. Against Northwestern, the Hawkeyes ran 20 times and passed eight times on first down. Because of that ratio, it isn’t uncommon for the Iowa offense to occasionally see eight defenders within a few yards of the line of scrimmage.
“I love it,” Smith said with a smile. “I kind of want them to load the box so the receivers can have a chance to catch the ball.”
Kickoff on Saturday is at 11:06 a.m. (CT). A limited number of single tickets remain for the annual “Blackout Game.” Student tickets are $50 (two allowed per student) and general public tickets are $65. Tickets can be purchased at hawkeyesports.com, by calling 1-800-IA-HAWKS, or in person at the UI athletics ticket office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.