April 10, 2008

Spring Preview: WR's and TE's

Two different positions, but now they have one coach. With the arrival of Erik "Soup" Campbell from Michigan, Kirk Ferentz made an adjustment in his coaching staff to accommodate the highly regarded receivers coach. The tight end position should have plenty of depth heading into the fall, while the wide receiver spots seem to be up for grabs when it comes to locking down a starting job.

THE FACTS

Position Coach: Erik Campbell

Starters Lost: (1) James Cleveland (WR)

Starters Returning: (3) Andy Brodell (WR), Tony Moeaki and Brandon Myers (TE)

Spring Two Deep

WR: Trey Stross or Derrell Johnson-Koulianos
SE: Andy Brodell, Colin Sandeman
TE: Tony Moeaki, Brandon Myers

THE ANALYSIS

There is a reason why Erik Campbell put several players in the NFL during his time at Michigan and all of it wasn't due to very talented players. Coach Campbell has certainly made his presence felt early on in spring practice by demanding more precise route running and having his position players put in the time with extra running. The early reviews are that the players have been receptive to his coaching demands and style, as they should given his track record in coaching.

It is somewhat unique that both receiver positions will be under the watchful eye of one coach, but on the surface the bold move appears to be a good one.

At tight end, Tony Moeaki returns after missing most of last season following an injury in Wisconsin game. While the talented tight end is recovered from that injury, he will sit out spring practice after off-season surgery on his wrist. He will be 100% by the early summer and ready to go in the fall. Moeaki is again expected to be a favorite target in the passing game and could finally have the breakout type season many have been looking for from the former prep All American.

Iowa will likely use quite a bit of two tight end formations and that means Brandon Myers will see plenty of action this fall. Myers did a good job last season with five touchdown receptions. Allen Reisner was the final commitment of the 2006 class after a late offer from the Hawkeyes and was thrust into a larger role once Moeaki went down for the season. Reisner showed flashes as a true freshman and should continue to improve his production. Senior Mike Sabers will add depth to the tight end position as a strong blocker, who could see playing time in goal line and short yardage situations. Zach Furlong is coming off his redshirt season and will use this spring to continue to improve and hopes to get into the mix for possible playing time.

What a difference one year makes at wide receiver. Last year at this time, the Hawkeyes had a budding star returning in Dominique Douglas, the potential of Anthony Bowman, and James Cleveland coming off a redshirt season.

Bowman and Douglas never saw action last year due to legal troubles and are no longer with the team. Cleveland caught 36 passes last season, second best on the team, and showed promise. However, after an off the field incident earlier this year, he has been dismissed from the team.

Coach Campbell's numbers might be somewhat small, but the talent looms large. After a season ending injury against Wisconsin, Andy Brodell is back for his senior season after a strong finish to his sophomore campaign. Brodell is back to 100% and his return will give the Hawkeyes offense a big boost. Brodell will be backed up by sophomore Colin Sandeman, who flashed early last season only to have nagging injuries limit his playing time in the second half of the season. Speedster Paul Chaney will also be in the mix for playing time as Iowa hopes to use his speed to stretch the field.

At the other receiver position, it is a tight race between Trey Stross and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. Last season, Johnson-Koulianos showed that he was more than just internet hype, leading the Hawkeyes in receiving for the season. As he continues to learn the in's and out's of the position, his future is certainly very bright, but a foot injury this spring has kept him out of practice the past two weeks. Speaking of injuries, Stross has battled plenty of them, mainly with his hamstring. When he was healthy, Stross became a favorite target in the passing game and he will certainly get plenty of playing time this fall if he can stay healthy.

Also working at wide receiver this spring are Ben Evans, Don Nordmann, and Kyle Steinbrecher, who joined the football team this spring.

The overall talent is there at both positions for the Hawkeyes to see plenty of improvement and growth this fall. With Campbell coaching up the two groups, expect plenty of progress this spring as we head into fall camp.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

Shane Prater - 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds from Omaha, NE


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