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Harty: Junior college receiver brings speed to Hawks

[ 0 ] December 9, 2012 |

You can see the pieces to Greg Davis’ offensive puzzle coming together, with perhaps one of the most telling pieces being added Sunday.

That’s when news broke that the Iowa football team had received a verbal commitment from junior college receiver Damond Powell.

He isn’t very big at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, but from all accounts, Powell is fast. In fact, Powell told HawkeyeInsider.com that he’s been clocked at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which is fast for any level of football.

“It’s a legit 4.4,” Powell told HawkeyeInsider.com.

It’s also the kind of fast that Davis so desperately wants as the Iowa offensive coordinator because outside of senior-to-be Jordan Cotton, there aren’t many true speedsters currently playing receiver for Iowa.

That became painfully clear during the 2012 season, which saw Iowa finish 4-8 and the passing game sputter from start to finish.

A transition doesn’t always go smoothly, but season No. 1 under Davis was a frustrating and agonizing grind for everybody involved, including the fans.

Iowa’s inability to throw downfield was one of the major reasons the 2012 season unraveled at the expense of senior quarterback James Vandenberg, who suffered through a startling statistical decline from the previous season. Vandenberg only threw seven touchdown passes this past season under Davis after throwing 25 in 2011 under former offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe.

Powell, meanwhile, caught 14 touchdown passes this past season as a sophomore at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. The Toledo, Ohio, native also finished with 1,231 receiving yards on 41 receptions, which translates to a whopping 30.2 yards-per-catch average.

To put that in perspective, Iowa only had four players who caught a pass that gained more than 26 yards this past season, with the longest reception covering 51 yards.

It’s now obvious after watching Davis’ system for 12 games that it relies heavily on receivers to gain yards after catching short passes. But for that to happen, a receiver first must have the ability to create space and then elude defenders.

Powell did plenty of that in junior college, but he’ll face a different beast while competing at the BCS level.

Iowa could have as many as four receivers in the 2013 recruiting class, which now stands at 16 players with Powell’s commitment. Powell is the first junior college player to join Iowa’s 2013 class. He is expected to graduate from Snow College in the spring.

The other potential receivers are Derrick Willies, Derrick Mitchell Jr. and Andre Harris. The 6-3 Willies attends Rock Island High School in Rock Island, Ill., while Mitchell and Harris are high school seniors from St. Louis and Kirkwood, Mo., respectively.

All four will have an opportunity to contribute immediately because no returning receiver for Iowa besides Kevonte Martin-Manley caught more than 12 passes last season.

Powell not only will have a chance to contribute immediately, but also prove the schools wrong that passed on him, which is almost all of them. Ohio University was reportedly the only other school to offer Powell a scholarship.

It’s not often that Iowa recruits junior college players, let alone signs one, under coach Kirk Ferentz. He’s very selective when dipping into the junior college ranks. But it’s hard to argue with the results, with former Hawkeye stars such as quarterback Brad Banks, offensive lineman Marshal Yanda and defensive lineman Derrick Pickens all having come from junior college.

Powell told HawkeyeInsider.com that Iowa receivers coach Erik Campbell didn’t start recruiting him until late October. It’s probably no coincidence that Iowa reached out to Powell after the losses had started to mount late in the season.

Davis needs help, and he needs it in a hurry. The fact that Iowa has dipped back into the junior college ranks shows the seriousness of the situation.

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.

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