LOSE A SMITH, ADD A SMITH. Three of Iowa's five leading receivers are gone from last year's 12-2 team (including tight end Henry Krieger-Coble). Despite the loss of Tevaun Smith and Jacob Hillyer from that top five, the team's leader in receptions and yards, Matt VandeBerg, oes return for a senior season. He was overlooked a bit as part of a six-man wide receiver recruiting class that included Damond Powell, Derrick Willies, Derrick Mitchell, AJ Jones and Andre Harris. The Meerkat filled the void of departed slot man Kevonte Martin-Manely and exceeded KMM's previous production with 65 receptions for 703 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Iowa lists another senior starter at wide receiver in the January depth chart. Riley McCaron, like Jacob Hillyer before him, sees a lot of reps at the position but doesn't haul in many catches. McCarron had five receptions last season to add to his three in 2014. That's two more career catches than true sophomore Jerminic Smith, the third starter listed at receiver heading into spring.
It's likely not safe to assume Jerminic Smith is set in stone as Tevaun's replacement just yet. And, it may not be safe to assume McCarron has locked down his spot. Outside of Vandeberg, all reps could be up for grabs this spring. Let's take a look at the contenders.
JAY SCHEEL SOPH 6'1" 195
Scheel spent his first season on campus taking a red-hirt and rehabbing a knee injury that cost him most of the year on the scout team. The reviews of his performance during bowl prep generated enough buzz for expectations to reach contributor status as a RS Frosh. His name was on the depth chart last preseason but he never saw the field. Rumors swirled before Iowa's season opener when media learned he didn't stay with the team at the hotel and arrived at the stadium on his own. He was recovering from a different injury sustained during fall camp and was passed on the depth chart and never contributed in 2015.
There's still plenty of time for Scheel to work his way in the rotation and with the departure of Matt VandeBerg next season, the slot position could be all his. He was a quarterback in high school so you can expect a bit of a learning curve here and keep in mind that first year was lost due to injury. It's not make or break time for Scheel just yet but he is in danger of the 2015 class passing him by.
EMMANUEL OGWO RS FR 6' 170
The early buzz on Ogwo's arrival had him pushing hard for a possible playing time as a freshmen. That buzz disappeared as the season approached and we never heard of Ogwo again. He's on the smaller side at 170 pounds and it figures blocking as a true freshman was a challenge.
Ogwo has track speed and at 6' could factor in on the outside behind Jerminic Smith. He's an inch shorter than Smith and not as long and lanky but his speed can spread the field and loosen a defense.
JONATHAN PARKER JR 5'8" 188
Parker is kind of the forgotten man since being relegated to jet sweep option only duties. The ship has sailed as a running back for Parker but he still has speed and could factor into Iowa's 2016 offense again in spot duty. Parker was an all-Big Ten freshman team selection in 2014, but Iowa's upgraded and retained the talent on the roster and they've passed Parker by. He's still fighting for a spot, though, and is now listed as second string behind MVB on the spring depth chart.
ADRIAN FALCONER SO 6'1" 190
Falconer first saw action in Iowa's blowout win against Northwestern last year. He didn't have the impact Jerminic Smith did stepping in for an injured Tevaun Smith, but that could change this season. Like Smith, Falconer has had that first winter to build Big Ten bodies that will get them on the field to block for the running game and help get off the line against Big Ten corners. Because of Smith's performance in 2015 he's the assumed starter but Falconer could push his fellow true sophomore and don't be surprised if they both are Iowa's starting outside receivers against Miami of Ohio.
ANDRE HARRIS JR 6' 185
Going into his fourth year on campus and still not in the spring two-deep is a bad sign for Harris. He joins VandeBerg as the only other receiver left from the big wide receiver recruiting class of 2013 (not counting Mitchell, who's moved to running back). Harris, like Parker, is a sign that Iowa has brought in more talented players since his arrival on campus.
He shined in the 2014 spring practice, but that was also a signal that Iowa's secondary would be a hot mess. The light goes on at different times for everybody. Hawkeye fans recall Ramon Ochoa or Warren Holloway. Not everybody is a starter and doesn't have to be to contribute at key times.
RONALD NASH JR 6'2" 210
Nash joined the team last year as a walk-on after one season at Iowa Western Community College. He was productive at that level pulling in 32 receptions for 373 yards. If he contributes at Iowa remains to be seen. Andrew Stone graduated and Nash could fill those shoes. Stone had four career receptions, three coming in 2014. He did play on special teams last season and that's where Nash may make his biggest impact.