When the University of Iowa Hawkeyes football team takes the field this Saturday, it will have not only quarterback Jake Rudock making his first start ever, but a flock of Hawks at wide receiver that have little experience as well. Junior Kevonte Martin-Manley‘s 14 starts in 25 games is almost more action than the rest of the Hawkeyes’ receivers combined. If this flock and Rudock are to build any chemistry, it will have to be on the fly as they play the games.
Seniors Don Shumpert and Jordan Cotton and sophomores Jacob Hillyer and Tevaun Smith are the only other wide receivers on Iowa’s roster with any collegiate experience. They have one start and 53 games between them. Until another target emerges, Martin-Manley is sure to get most of the coverage from opposing defenses when the Iowa offense is on the field. The Hawkeyes need at least one of the crowd to take the role as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver as early in the season as possible. Iowa’s offense also gives plenty of opportunity for a third wide receiver in many sets.
Someone standing out of the crowd will not only benefit Rudock in his first year and Martin-Manley in getting open, but also senior tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. He is the latest in the line of Iowa tight end products, which includes past and current NFLers Dallas Clark, Scott Chandler, Tony Moeaki and Brandon Myers. If Cotton, Fleming, Shumpert or Smith emerge as a No. 2, that would make life easier for Fiedorowicz.
Among the crowd with no collegiate experience, redshirt freshman Maurice Fleming looks to have the most potential. A quarterback and defensive back at Curie Metropolitan High School in Chicago Ill., Fleming garnered a trunk full of awards. There should be plenty of opportunity for Fleming and the other nine redshirt or true freshmen on the current roster to get some playing time if they earn it.
It’s unlikely that two of the players in this crowd will turn into legitimate receiving threats in the Big Ten this season, but the opportunity will be there. Someone has to be in those positions. Outside of Martin-Manley, the wide receivers that run the routes for Rudock will be going through the same growing pains as Rudock is this season. While the wins may not fall on their side, every play can be a learning experience.