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Finding depth at receiver remains a work in progress

[ 0 ] September 17, 2013 |
Kevonte Martin-Manley has emerged as a reliable mid-range target for the Iowa, with 19 catches for 163 yards in the Hawkeyes' first three games. (Andrea Melendez/The Register)

Kevonte Martin-Manley has emerged as a reliable mid-range target for the Iowa, with 19 catches for 163 yards in the Hawkeyes’ first three games. (Andrea Melendez/The Register)

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Nobody told Tevaun Smith he was starting.

The sophomore receiver was listed atop the Iowa football depth chart released Monday, but he wasn’t aware of his promotion until meeting with the media Tuesday.

“I just come to practice,” Smith said, “and get ready to work.”

Smith played it cool, but the performance of Hawkeye receivers remains a pressing issue.

The search for a potential game-breaker will continue Saturday, when Iowa hosts Western Michigan at Kinnick Stadium.

“For us to be good offensively, we need everybody kind of being involved and being dependable when the ball comes their way,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It starts with getting open. They’ve got to be able to get open.”

Kevonte Martin-Manley is emerging as a reliable mid-range target, making 19 catches for 163 yards in Iowa’s first three games.

No other Hawkeye pass catcher has more than six receptions.

“It’s definitely how well (Martin-Manley) is running the routes,” quarterback Jake Rudock said. “And the offensive line is giving me enough time to see him.”

Rudock found Martin-Manley, a 6-foot, 205-pound junior from Pontiac, Mich., seven times during last weekend’s 27-21 win over Iowa State.

Five of those plays resulted in a first down or a touchdown.

“You have to be ready whenever your number is called,” Martin-Manley said. “Whenever we need a big play, we’re confident we can make that play.”

Manley reached two milestones against the Cyclones, pushing his career totals to 101 catches for 1,057 yards.

“A big part of being a good player is knowing who you are and what you are, and playing to that end,” Ferentz said. “I think he’s doing a good job of that.”

Now, the attention turns to finding a secondary receiver who can keep defenses on their heels.

That’s where Smith comes in.

He caught just one pass Saturday, but it was a nice sliding catch that covered 25 yards and gave the Hawkeyes a first-and-goal.

Rudock threw to Martin-Manley for a 5-yard touchdown two plays player, putting Iowa ahead 7-0.

“He’s not there yet,” Ferentz said of Smith, “but he’s a young guy who works hard.

“We felt good about him last year. It’s a matter of him becoming more consistent and just growing.”

Smith, a rangy 6-2, 200 pounds, has two catches this season, but leapfrogged senior Don Shumpert on the depth chart.

Shumpert has five receptions for 46 yards but has been the culprit of several dropped passes.

Smith admonished himself Tuesday for not being more sure-handed.

“I think my play has been OK,” he said. “Obviously, I have a lot of stuff to work on.

“I had a drop last game. As a receiver, you want to catch every ball. I’m going to work toward not dropping any.”

Smith will have a chance to seize the moment against Western Michigan. Jordan Cotton and Jacob Hillyer have shown flashes.

Hillyer grabbed a key 26-yard touchdown pass against Iowa State on third-and-8 to give Iowa a 20-7 lead.

There is also a persistent buzz about the potential of junior college transfer Damond Powell, who’s one catch against Northern Illinois covered 49 yards.

“He’s improving,” Ferentz said of Powell. “We’ll keep working with him. First thing I think about, outside of him being fast, he’s a positive energy player.

“And that is a good thing when guys bring that positive energy out there.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 15 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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