IOWA CITY, Ia. – It hasn’t taken long for Greg Davis and Bobby Kennedy to get back on the same page.
“Bobby knows what I’m thinking, and he knows what’s coming next,” Davis said. “He’s jumped right in. It’s just like getting back on a bicycle.”
Davis is in his second season as Iowa’s offensive coordinator. He hopes the addition of Kennedy, the first-year wide receivers coach, will help put a spark in the Hawkeyes’ passing game. The two worked seven seasons together (2004-2010) at Texas.
“There’s a comfort level there for both myself and Coach Davis,” Kennedy said. “He knows I’m not afraid to ask if I’m not sure about something. I’ve been around a lot of offensive coordinators. And he’s as good as I’ve been around. He understands how to manage players.”
The passing game never got in synch last season as Davis put his system in. Iowa’s touchdown passes dropped from 25 to seven. The Hawkeyes were 11th in total offense and scoring and seventh in passing offense.
Kennedy hopes to have a positive impact on those numbers.
“He’s an energy guy,” Davis said. “The players love him.”
Kevonte Martin-Manley (6-0, 205, jr.) has 82 career catches, including at least one reception in 18 consecutive games. The other 16 wide receivers on the roster — including freshmen and walk-ons — have combined for 23 catches. “The only guy who had significant playing time was Kevonte,” Kennedy said. “So, yeah, we have a young group.” Martin-Manley is backed up at wide receiver by Jordan Cotton (6-1, 185, sr.). He’s the only other receiver on the team with double-figure catches with 13. Starting split end Tevaun Smith (6-2, 190, soph.) and backup Don Shumpert (6-3, 200, sr.) have nine career catches between them. “I’ve been pleased with both of them,” Kennedy said. “Not finished products, but I see improvement every day.” Creating the most buzz at receiver has been junior college transfer Damond Powell (5-11,180, jr.), who missed summer workouts while getting his academic affairs in order. He led the nation in yards per reception (30) and ranked third in yards per game (102.6) at Snow Community College in Utah. “He has a great personality, and he has personality as a player,” Kennedy said. “I think you’ll see Damond be a guy who can stretch the field vertically. He’s fast. On the same hand, let’s not put the weight of the world on him like he’s going to be the savior of Iowa football.” Also fighting for time are Riley McCarron (5-9, 182, fr.) , who redshirted last season, and junior Blake Haluska (6-4, 210, jr.), a converted quarterback. Iowa brought in five freshman receivers — Andre Harris (6-0, 170) A.J. Jones (6-3, 190), Derrick Mitchell Jr. (6-1, 190), Matt VandeBerg (6-1, 170) and Derrick Willies (6-4, 205). “I’d like to see some young guys emerge,” Kennedy said. “But it would be nice if the older guys could hold them off, too.”
This is a position of depth. “We’ve got guys we feel comfortable with,” Davis said. It all starts with C.J. Fiedorowicz (6-7, 265, sr.). A preseason second-team all-Big Ten pick by Phil Steele who is on the John Mackey Award Watch List, Fiedorowicz has 60 career catches, and at least one in 18 straight games. Ray Hamilton (6-5, 252, jr.) appears poised for a breakout season. Jake Duzey (6-4, 245, soph.) is another emerging talent. Henry Krieger Coble (6-4, 245, soph.) is listed as the No. 3 tight end. He played in nine games as a redshirt freshman, with one start. Also competing for time will be George Kittle (6-4, 225, fr.), who redshirted last season. Fiedorowicz and Hamilton both played as true freshmen, but rookies Ike Boettger (6-6, 235) from Cedar Falls and Jon Wisnieski (6-5, 220) from West Des Moines Dowling will likely be redshirted.