Moving right along with our ongoing series of the best players at each position group Iowa will face in 2017, it’s time to check out the wide receivers.
I’m not gonna beat around the bush here – Iowa lucked out. Sure, the Hawkeyes will face some decent receivers, but the Big Ten’s crossover schedule combined with some of the top receivers in the conference graduating or being drafted make for a fairly thin talent group on the 2017 slate. This should make life a little easier for a young and inexperienced Iowa defensive backfield.
But don’t get comfortable, there is still a handful of playmakers to worry about. Let’s take a look.
5. Donnie Corley, Michigan State
Corley broke out and had a solid freshman campaign in 2016. He hauled in 33 catches for 453 yards and three scores. This year, he’ll likely begin the season as the top target in the Spartan offensive scheme as they work in a new full-time starter at quarterback. He’s a solid route-runner who plays bigger than his 6’2, 186-pound frame.
4. Malik Turner, Illinois
If turner is healthy, look out. He’s a guy with the size and skills to play on Sunday, and he’ll be a tough cover for any Iowa defensive back. He had 48 catches for 712 yards and six touchdowns a season ago. He’s a streaky player, but when he’s on, he has the ability to change the complexion of a game.
3. Jazz Peavy, Wisconsin
Peavy is a speedster with great hands and a knack for finding holes in the secondary. The senior will be the primary receiving option for new full-time starter Alex Hornibrook in what could be a slightly more pass-heavy attack than what we’re accustomed to seeing from the Badgers. For that reason, look for Peavy to improve upon his 2016 stats (43 catches, 635 yards, 5 touchdowns).
2. Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska
Morgan is another guy who looks like an eventual NFL player. He’s been stuck playing second and third fiddle behind some solid upperclassmen in an offense not exactly designed to air it out. That’ll all change this year, as Nebraska head coach Mike Riley finally has the personnel – particularly at quarterback – to implement the full version of his more pass-oriented offense. Morgan will be the clear-cut No. 1 option in that scheme and should threaten the 1,000 yard-mark.
1. Allen Lazard, Iowa State
Hawkeye fans are well aware of the freakish talent playing receiver for that team up in Ames. Lazard is a matchup nightmare and the biggest offensive threat the Cyclones have. He topped the 1,000-yard mark in 2016 and put up six 100-yard receiving games. Lazard’s talent should be especially concerning for Iowa fans in 2017, as this is the first time in a while where you could make the argument that the Cyclone offensive skill players are more talented than Iowa’s peripheral players on defense. So basically, keying on Lazard could be a wasted effort.
Don’t sleep on:
Flynn Nagel, Northwestern
Nagel is your prototypical pesky slot receiver who always seems to come up with a catch when the Wildcats need it most.
Mike Dudek, Illinois
His career has been plagued by injury and he’s currently on the mend once again. That said, if he can find a way back onto the field and be anything close to what he was in 2014, Illinois could have the top receiving duo in the Big Ten at some point this season.