6’0” 192 lbs - Sophomore (redshirt)
2019: 46 receptions / 439 yards / 2 touchdowns
During the 2019 season, redshirt freshman Nico Ragaini led the Iowa Hawkeyes offense with 46 receptions and was the team’s primary punt returner. Ragaini did most of his work from the slot, where guys like Nick Easley, Riley McCarron, and Kevonte Martin-Manley have also lined up on their way to leading the team in receptions. Ragaini’s quick feet make him especially effective when given a two way break.
Against Miami (OH), Iowa places all three receivers to the field with Ragaini being nearest the line of scrimmage. With this formation, the defense is forced to slide a linebacker out of the box to aid in coverage. With Ragaini off the line of scrimmage, he allows Ihmir Smith-Marsette to cross in front of him and drag his defensive back across the field. This action forces Ragaini’s defender to jump to the outside. Ragaini gives a quick shake at the defender and easily beats him inside and up the seam. The pass is slightly under thrown, but Ragaini is able to outrun his defender before being brought down by the safety.
Against Penn State, Iowa once again puts trips to the field. This time, those three receivers are lined up closer together. As Tyrone Tracy Jr. and Smith-Marsette cross, the defenders are forced to sit back and wait for the clearing action. Ragaini starts toward the boundary before cutting back inside. This leaves him alone underneath the coverage for a big gain and third down conversion.
Ragaini is especially skilled at winning his route with his ability to change speed and direction as he stems his routes. Once again against Penn State, he is able to win from the slot by faking outside and breaking his route back to the middle. This time, there is no route assistance to move the defender’s eyes. Ragaini’s footwork and body control allow him to change his speed and direction fluidly. After he wins inside position, he does a great job to maintain that position and attack the ball all while getting his jersey grabbed by the trailing defensive back.
From the slot, a receiver needs to be able to maintain body position over the defender. As Ragaini grows, both physically and in experience, he’s going to make those plays more frequently. He was able to do it against Penn State in the previous video and USC in the next video. Once again, he’s able to create a body position advantage by attacking the defender and keeping the defender on his hip. This time, he wins going outside and is able to make a contested catch.
Three Level Route Runner
Whether it’s a quick route under the coverage, an intermediate route between zone levels, or a scramble drill downfield for a big touchdown, Ragaini was able to make plays all over the field.
When he was in the game, Iowa was typically in a pass situation. Iowa attempted to pass on a little under 70% of the plays Ragaini was in the game. This number is a pretty typical percentage for teams in a three, or more, receiver set. While the bulk of his receptions were underneath routes, he did factor in down field as well. His 77 targets only trailed Smith-Marsettte (80),