Who Wants to Emerge?

Aug. 10, 2015

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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.

By JAMES ALLAN
hawkeyesports.com

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Junior C.J. Beathard is the University of Iowa football team’s starting quarterback in 2015, but who seizes the opportunity in the wide receiving corps is still up in the air.

Throughout his coaching career, third-year wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy has utilized six to seven players in his rotations. The Hawkeyes have a core of three returning in seniors Tevaun Smith and Jacob Hillyer, and junior Matt VandeBerg, but there is playing time (and receptions) to be had.

“It starts with a guy like Tevaun, and VandeBerg and Hillyer are two guys we are counting on” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “After that it’s wide open right now. There are a lot of wheels in motion; it’s wide open, and we’re all eager to see how it pans out.”

Smith has shown glimpses of being a special player, and has experience and upside. The Canadian led the team in receiving yards as a junior, making 43 catches for 596 yards with three touchdowns. He is a highlight waiting to happen.

“Tevaun has become a good player, but he has just scratched the surface of how good he can become,” said Kennedy. “The thing I talk to him about on a daily basis is how is he improving? How can he push himself forward?

“He has shown the ability to make plays, now we need that on a more consistent basis.”

With fluidity on the depth chart, VandeBerg says the daily competition keeps the players engaged and it is only making the position group better in the long run.

“It keeps everyone on our toes; we know every day we have to go out and give it our best,” said VandeBerg, who had 14 catches for 256 yards and one touchdown last season. “That helps us to grow together as a group because we’re fighting for one another, but we’re also fighting against one another. That makes everyone better.”

Kennedy is excited about the future of redshirt freshman Jay Scheel, who rose to No. 2 on the depth chart entering fall camp. He’s also not counting out any of the first-year players like sophomore Ronald Nash or freshmen Emmanuel Ogwo, Jerminic Smith, and Adrian Falconer.

“Right now they’re still swimming,” said Kennedy of the freshmen. “The main thing for them is getting lined up and doing the right things. My job is to catch them up and push them forward.”

With the amount of information the freshmen are being asked to digest on a day-to-day basis, Kennedy says newcomers typically begin to emerge by the second or third week, like VandeBerg did when he was a freshmen.

“(VandeBerg) went in when Kevonte (Martin-Manley) was down against Michigan State and made some good plays,” said Kennedy. “That stage wasn’t too big for him. It will be interesting to see the next couple of weeks, how (the freshmen) respond; is the stage too big? Does their mind lock up their athletic ability or are they able to break through the wall.”

Outside of the core three, there isn’t an agenda of who plays or where.

“We have some flexibility with moving guys around, but we need some guys to emerge,” said Kennedy.

The Hawkeyes open the 2015 season Sept. 5, hosting Illinois State at 11 a.m. (CT) at Kinnick Stadium. Tickets are available by calling 1-800-IA-HAWKS.

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