powered by the Iowa City Press-Citizen & The Des Moines Register
Subscribe via RSS Feed

Harty: Iowa’s need for speed no secret

[ 5 ] April 11, 2012 |

New offensive coordinator Greg Davis was just stating the obvious Wednesday when he told reporters that the Iowa football team has to get faster at the receiver positions.

It’s no secret that Iowa has been plagued by a lack of speed at receiver dating back to Hayden Fry’s time as coach and probably even before that.

But if you weren’t aware of it, you are now thanks to Davis’ candidness.

“We need to be able to stretch the field a little better, there is no question about that,” Davis said in his second press conference since being hired in Februrary to replace Ken O’Keefe.

Davis has seen enough of his personnel to realize that this isn’t the University of Texas where he served as the offensive coordinator from 1998 to 2010 and where speedy receivers are the rule more than the exception.

“It was not a problem for the most part,” Davis said of recruiting speedy receivers to Texas. “It’s kind of a speed state. So there were guys that could run, typically.”

Iowa isn’t a speed state, never has been and never will be. It’s also not a warm weather state or a state with much population.

Combine those things with Iowa’s reputation for running the ball and you have a recipe for being slow at the receiver positions.

The fact that Iowa only has had two receivers — Kevin Kasper and Kahlil Hill — selected in the NFL draft since Kirk Ferentz took over as coach in 1999 probably has more to do with a lack of speed than anything else.

Davis already has addressed this issue with Ferentz.

“Right now, I would say the receiver position is where we need an influx of just some speed,” Davis said. “That is an area that I think we need to address in recruiting and coach has already talked about it.”

The easy part is talking about it. The hard part is doing something about it.

It’s not that the Iowa coaches don’t try to recruit speed at receiver or every other position for that matter. They’re just fighting an uphill battle largely because of circumstances beyond their control.

There also is a Catch-22 factor to consider in that it’s hard to attract fast receivers when you don’t have any to entice them with. It’s similar to trying to rebuild a sports program because it’s hard to get talented players before you start winning.

You could count on one hand the number of Iowa receivers in the last 20 years whose greatest asset was speed.

Tim Dwight would top the list without question, but after him the pickings are slim. C.J. Jones showed an extra gear while playing receiver at Iowa in 2001 and 2002, as did James Townsend during his brief time in the program in 2003 and 2004.

Guys like Kahlil Hill and Clinton Solomon, Maurice Brown and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos weren’t slow pokes. They just lacked the extra gear that’s needed to stretch defenses at the BCS level.

As great as Marvin McNutt was as an Iowa receiver over the past two seasons, speed was not his greatest asset, either. He made up for it by being big and physical and precise with his route running.

Now on the other hand, speed was Paul Chaney’s greatest asset as an Iowa receiver, but he apparently was lacking in other areas based on his limited playing time. The same could be said for Townsend.

Iowa received a verbal commitment Tuesday from 6-foot-3 high school junior Derrick Willies, who in addition to being a quality receiver is an accomplished hurdler in track. Willies reportedly has been clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which would mean he has that extra gear.

The problem is he still has to finish high school. That’s one thing you can’t speed up.

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or pharty@press-citizen.com

Tags: ,

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

Comments closed