Assume the Position is our offseason guide to the Iowa Hawkeyes football depth chart. The math is difficult, so take it from us: As time moves on, we'll know more. That's why we rank the positions from most certain to least certain.
Previously on ATP2k12:
Today: Wide Receiver
You could make the argument that the Hawkeyes have graduated the two best receivers in the history of the program in back-to-back seasons. Say what you will about off-field issues with DJK or speed questions with Marvin McNutt (or the NFL status of both), but each of them was as productive as anyone since Kevin Kasper and as dangerous downfield as anyone since Tim Dwight.
What I'm saying is, these guys have some big shoes to fill.
The Man Who Would Be King
Keenan Davis (#6, Senior, 6'3", 215, Washington HS (Cedar Rapids, IA))
We know he's been disappointing. Davis entered the program anointed as the best player in the state (and the best skill position player from the state of Iowa in as long as anyone could remember) despite the fact that Brandon Wegher had just run for more than 3200 yards and 51 touchdowns. He was supposed to be an athletic talent rarely found in Iowa, and he was coming here to play for Ferentz and O'Keefe and Soup Campbell. He even played as a true freshman (then a rarity, now relatively common). And since then? Three seasons, 65 catches, 900 yards, 6 touchdowns. Marvin McNutt had more catches, yards, and touchdowns entering his senior season, and he hadn't even played wide receiver for the first two years.
So, yes, the Keenan Davis Experience to date has been a little underwhelming, but answer this question: Name the last Rivals four-star skill position player (QB, WR, or RB) to make it through four years at Iowa and graduate.
Go ahead, I'll wait.
Take your time.
It's Albert Young, who entered the program in 2003 and graduated in 2008. There haven't been too many four-star skill position guys in the program since that time: Jake Christensen, Kalvin Bailey, Davis, Wegher, Marcus Coker, A.J. Derby, and Rodney Coe are pretty much it. But when we talk about the talent drain in this program, the inability of top-flight skill position recruits to get to the finish line is Exhibit 1. Keenan Davis isn't that. He's not been a problem off the field, he's contributed in three seasons, and there hasn't been a sniff of trouble around him (and, as we know, just the appearance of impropriety can end a career on this team).
So, yes, Keenan Davis has been a bit disappointing, a reality he acknowledges and appears ready to address this season. Yes, he's not developed the speed we'd hoped for, he has a tendency to drop easy passes, and progress in general has been hard to find. But he's here and they're not, and he's a starter and they're not, and he'll be the primary outside target in the Iowa passing game this year, if not the primary target overall. Let's celebrate that and hope for the jump that we've all expected for the last few years.
Kevonte Martin-Manley (#11, Sophomore (RS), 6'0", 205, Brother Rice HS (Pontiac, MI))
On the other hand, where the hell did Kevonte Martin-Manley come from? KMM (which does not exactly roll off the tongue) is now the hereditary heir to the crown of Next Great Iowa Hyphenated Name Wide Receiver (which also does not exactly roll off the tongue). He was a recruiting afterthought, a universal two-star prospect with a few MAC offers to his name and little to no interest from the Big Ten. He's a classic Kirk Ferentz receiver find, praised for his route-running skills and criticized as too slow for the big time.
Martin-Manley redshirted, then snuck into the two-deep last fall. He caught the first touchdown of the Iowa State game, but he truly put us on notice when he hauled in the final two touchdowns in the remarkable comeback over Pitt. KMM hauled in another half-dozen passes against Louisiana-Monroe, and looked to be the next big thing at receiver as Iowa as the offense transitioned to a multiple-formation, multiple-wideout no-huddle attack.
The next week, Iowa's vaunted new offense scored just three points on Penn State. Goodbye spread, goodbye no-huddle, and, as it turned out, goodbye KMM. In the next eight games, Martin-Manley caught just thirteen passes for 121 yards. There was no real need for a slot receiver, and so it wasn't really KMM's fault, but he also never really threatened to break into the top two. With McNutt gone, he's the likely second starter. Two concerns: Greg Davis has been harping on outside speed ever since he hit town, and there are some other, more highly-touted, wideouts at his disposal. KMM might be the favorite, but it's not a certainty, and it's entirely possible he's back in the slot by late September.
While You Wait for the Others
Jordan Cotton (#23, Junior (RS), 6'1", 185, Mt. Pleasant (IA) HS)
The third in-state skill position player in the Class of 2009, Jordan Cotton had nearly as much hype as Davis and Wegher. Three years later: One catch, four yards. The issue, we don't know; Ferentz hasn't ever really indicated that there is a distinct problem with Cotton's performance, though he was a high school halfback and could certainly be struggling with routes. His saving grace is that, unlike those ranked ahead of him, he's got speed to burn, and there could be a place in the Davis offense for someone with that singular skill.
Don Shumpert (#8, Junior, 6'3", 190, Hazelwood East HS (St. Louis, MO))
He might have a name like an insurance salesman in your bowling league, but Don Shumpert has shown he can do a couple of things: Hit guys on kickoff coverage, and run pretty fast. Shumpert has no catches in two seasons, but he has recorded a handful of special teams tackles. While Ferentz likes to reward special teams guys where he can, the fact that Shumpert played some special teams in September 2011 and then never saw the field again isn't exactly the best sign.
Jacob Hillyer (#84, Freshman (RS), 6'4", 205, Somerset (TX) HS)
Stop if you've heard this one before: Hillyer is a big, strong wideout recruited specifically by Erik Campbell with marginal recruiting rankings (three stars from Rivals and Scout) and offers (UTEP, Colorado St., interest from Baylor, Texas Tech, and aTm) who catches everything thrown at him but lacks speed. The difference here is pure high school production. Hillyer caught 164 passes for 2700 yards and 26 touchdowns in his last two seasons of high school ball. He's a redshirt freshman; that's really all we have to work with.
Steven Staggs (#83, Senior (RS), 6'3", 195, Oskaloosa (IA) HS)
Staggs is a former walk-on who hadn't factored in the least until last season. Suddenly, Staggs was getting legitimate playing time and contributing (five receptions, 45 yards). To be fair, most of that production came in blowouts, both in wins (one reception against Louisiana-Monroe) and losses (the other four against Michigan State and Oklahoma). As with any walk-on, we can't really believe he's in contention until he's there, and Staggs can't really challenge Martin-Manley for the second spot. He could factor in receiver-heavy formations or in case of injury, though.