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McNutt has a shot at making Iowa history

[ 0 ] August 11, 2011 |

Marvin McNutt remembers those days when he felt like a fish out of water at wide receiver.

He was a third-string quarterback trying to learn a new position and a new way of life on the Iowa football team. Conditioning no longer consisted of five- and seven-step drops.

Iowa receiver Marvin McNutt is healthy again after undergoing shoulder and thumb surgeries during the offseason. / Getty Images

McNutt ran the 40 in 4.72 seconds, and endurance certainly wasn’t his forte at the time, either.

“He’d take one rep and have to sit out five,” Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg said. “He’d always come up to me and say, ‘Vandy, you don’t know how much worse it is having to run every day.’”

“I had to lose some weight. I started playing when I was about 218 … but (it was) a different type of 218. That was an out-of-shape, not-being-able-to-run 218.”

McNutt now carries 215 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame. He’s been clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40, and he runs routes and catches passes with the polish of a lifelong wideout.

In two seasons as a full-time receiver, McNutt has posted a pair of the most prolific seasons in Iowa history. He caught 34 passes for 674 yards and eight touchdowns in 2009 and backed that up with 53 grabs for 861 yards and eight scores last season.

With similar production as a senior, he could leave Iowa with more touchdown catches than any player in school history — Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes hold the record with 21 — and finish near the top of the program list in receiving yards.

McNutt played well enough last season to at least consider leaving school early for the NFL before opting to return for his senior season at Iowa. Now he’s the anchor at receiver for a team that must replace four of its top five pass catchers from a year ago.

“In a perfect world,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said, “we’d like to get the ball to Marvin.”

The Iowa coaches would like to tell you this is the type of player they envisioned in 2008 when decided McNutt was best suited for a career catching passes. And maybe some of them did.

The Hawkeyes saw the athletic skills that made McNutt a St. Louis high school standout in football, basketball and baseball. They saw the big frame, the large mitts that swallow a football and all of the requisite skills to play receiver.

“There was no question,” Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle said. “Totally. One hundred percent. You could see as a freshman and sophomore that this guy could be a receiver. … He clearly had the athletic qualities you would seek in a receiver.”

McNutt was ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 13 dual-threat quarterback nationally in the Class of 2007. When he committed to the Hawkeyes, his high school coach told stories of how McNutt could sit on both knees at the 40-yard-line and throw a football through the uprights, how McNutt could fire a ball 75 yards.

But when Iowa settled on sophomore Ricky Stanzi as its starting quarterback early in the 2008 season, it became clear McNutt’s best path to playing time was taking an alternate route.

“That year I decided to move to receiver, there’s a lot of stuff that goes through your head as a college student,” he said. “You start thinking: Is this the place for me? I prayed about it and God presented me with a new challenge, and it was a blessing.”

“It was a lot of work,” Iowa receivers coach Erik Campbell said. “He knew the system more coming in because he was a quarterback.”

McNutt appeared in two games at receiver as a freshman. He caught one pass for 11 yards late in a 45-9 victory against Indiana. He noticed subtle improvements in his transition to the position, but he wondered if he’d ever be conditioned to play receiver.

“If this was going to be the path I took, I was hoping I’d finally get to play and make plays to help the team,” he said.

“I really started feeling (like a receiver) after the Orange Bowl year. I started noticing I was really a receiver then. Your body was starting to tell you that you don’t look or feel like a quarterback anymore and you kind of know what you’re doing as a receiver.”

Wide receivers
» WR Marvin McNutt
6-4, 215, sr., St. Louis
Currently tied for fourth in Iowa history with 16 touchdown catches.
» WR Keenan Davis
6-3, 215, jr., Cedar Rapids
Expected to take on a bigger role after catching 15 passes in his first two seasons.
» WR Steven Staggs
6-3, 195, jr, Oskaloosa
Walk on moved up to No. 2 on the depth chart after impressing coaches during the spring.
» WR Don Shumpert
6-3, 187, so., St. Louis
Played primarily on special teams during four appearances last year as a true freshman.
» WR Kevonte Martin-Manley
6-0, 205, fr., Bloomfield, Mich.
Michigan all-stater could figure into Iowa’s rotation at receiver.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andy Hamilton: University of Iowa graduate Andy Hamilton is originally from Williams, Iowa, and started at the Des Moines Register in August after 12 years at the Press-Citizen. He covers wrestling for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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