Oct. 14, 2015
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy likes the progress his receivers have made at the midway point in the regular season. But, for veterans and newcomers alike, he feels there is room for continued improvement.
“Tevaun Smith, Jake Hillyer, Matt VandeBerg, and Riley McCarron are guys that have been with me for three years. They are showing great leadership in the room, showing the young guys how to do things,” said Kennedy. “Hopefully that will carry over in the future. The young guys are learning how to practice, so when they get in the game, it’s not moving so fast for them. Andrew Stone understands his role as well, and has taken a leadership role. They are really good guys who want to do well each and every week.”
Smith has missed Iowa’s two Big Ten games due to injury, but is expected to return for the final five games of the season. In four games he has 12 receptions for 235 yards and two touchdowns. He ranks 31st in career receiving yards with 1,172 yards on 82 receptions. He has six career touchdowns. Stone, the only other senior in the group, has one reception in four games.
VandeBerg, a junior, is putting together a career season, with 33 receptions for 313 yards and two touchdowns. In his first two seasons, he combined for 22 catches for 315 yards and just one score.
“I think we are getting better each week, we’re not a finished product at this point in the season,” said Kennedy. “A lot of guys have been asked to step up in their role. Jake has been an invaluable guy for us thus far. Riley constantly does his job.” Sometimes the progress made by the group shows up in the final stats, sometimes it is more about the other parts of the game.
“Obviously, Matt has had a big role thus far,” said Kennedy. “Jerminic Smith continues to make progress on a daily basis. He is not a finished product yet, and continues to come along. I feel good about the group; they are taking steps, getting better. They are doing better job blocking on the perimeter, which is something we preach on a daily basis. I am encouraged with the progress the group has made and where they are headed.”
Jerminic and Adrian Falconer are true freshmen, and like Matt and Tevaun, are seeing the field in their first college season. Jerminic has started the previous two games and responded with four receptions for 118 yards in the win over Illinois.
“When your number is called, it’s good when guys step up and make plays in the passing game,” said Kennedy. “But it is more than the passing game. On Jordan’s long run last week, we had guys down field blocking. That is what creates explosive runs, guys doing their job down field. We are doing those things right now, but we can get better each game. That is what excites me about this group, each week I see them growing in different ways.
“Consistency every day and every week is something I look for, along with effort. Jerminic did have a nice game with a couple keep plays last week. But we have to look for consistency and effort on a daily basis. You can’t get in the game if you don’t do it on the practice field; hopefully the young guys will continue to grow and get better.”
Kennedy is in his third year on the Hawkeye staff, and says any adjustment period has been completed, both for him and the receiving corp.
“I really have been more comfortable,” said Kennedy. “The neat thing, the older guys have been around me for three years; they understand what I expect, and I understand their ability, and what they are likely to do in pressure situations. I feel comfortable from that standpoint, but we have to keep plugging and continue to move ahead.”
The Hawkeyes return to action Saturday at Northwestern (11 a.m., ABC) before their only open week on Oct. 24. Iowa hosts Maryland on Saturday, Oct. 31 (11 a.m.), in Kinnick Stadium.
Tickets are on sale for Iowa’s three remaining home games, and are available online at hawkeyesports.com, by calling 1-800-IA-HAWKS, or in person at the UI athletics ticket office located in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. A $25 youth ticket is available for the Maryland game and the home finale against Purdue (Nov. 21).