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Iowa Football 2021 Position Previews: Wide Receiver

The wide receiver room is light-years ahead of a handful of years ago

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 05 Iowa at Illinois
Tyrone Tracy is going to be a star this year
Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are many, many recognizable names of great Hawkeye wide receivers if you peruse the list of career reception leaders for the Hawks. Billy Happel,

Billy Happel had 106 receptions and 10 TD’s for the Hawks

Kevin Kasper, Ed Hinkel, Kevonte Martin-Manley, DJK, Timmy Dwight, Tevaun Smith, and Marvin McNutt to name a few. Kelton Copeland was named the Iowa Hawkeyes’ wide receiver coach in 2016 following Bobby Kennedy who held the same position. During Kennedy’s time it felt like the Hawkeyes were struggling to put quality athletes at this position, at least from a depth standpoint. Fast forward five years and the Hawkeyes appear on the verge of having very athletic playmakers out wide.

Coach Copeland inspires confidence

The Losses

Before we discuss this year’s squad, let’s pay homage to two of last year’s top producers. Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith both put a positive stamp on the program. I S-M accumulated over 400 yards in 2020 with 4 touchdowns. Smith-Marsette was a threat running the ball as well as receiving it.

Brandon Smith caught 23 balls for 231 yards and 2 touchdowns. Smith-Marsette is trying to make the Minnesota Vikings’ roster and Smith is trying to make the Dallas Cowboys’ roster.

Brandon Smith - former Hawk WR

Having players drafted and stick in The League will help recruiting even more.

The Returners

Tyrone Tracy, Jr has 51 receptions for the Hawkeyes and 5 total touchdowns so far in his career. With two more years in the program, Tracy looks like he could make a push for putting his name up there with former Iowa greats. Here are two of my favorite plays from Double T. The first was against the Wisconsin Badgers.

The second was a terrific run after the catch against Northwestern.

Tracy is 5’11”, 201 pounds but it feels like he plays even bigger than that. He has shown flashes of big play potential. This is the year that potential comes to fruition. He is going to be a Dude for our boys this year. Iowa’s other starting wide receiver is junior Nico Ragaini. Ragaini caught 18 balls last year for a 10.6 yard average. He did not find the end zone in 2020.

Nico Ragaini found pay dirt in this 2019 pic

Look for Ragaini to have a bounce back year in 2021. His lacrosse background lends itself well to finding seams in the defense and making receptions (he has 65 for his career for an average of 9.8 yards).

The next two Hawkeye wide receivers on the depth chart are senior Charlie Jones and true freshman Keagan Johnson. As fans we have not seen much of Charlie Jones the receiver. We did get to know Charlie Jones the punt returner and we know that the kid is fearless and that he can get upfield. Here’s Jones housing a punt return against Sparty.

If Brian Ferentz and Spencer Petras can get the ball to Jones, he can do great things.

The wide receiver I am most excited to see comes from Nebraska; his dad was a Husker. That alone shows the kid is intelligent. Keagan Johnson enrolled early and he has already found his way onto the depth chart. That is saying something about his talent, intelligence, and work ethic. Johnson, in my opinion, will be the Hawkeyes second-biggest wide receiver threat this year. Here is HUDL video for his senior year in high school.


A few “ifs” here. If the Hawkeyes can replace two starting tackles and Iowa’s quarterback position (Petras/Padilla) takes a step forward, look for Iowa to have two bona fide stars in Tyrone Tracy and Keagan Johnson. Iowa has one of the best running backs in the B1G in Tyler Goodson and an up-and-coming tight end in Sam LaPorta. There will be options aplenty for offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. The Hawkeyes also recruited the wide receiver position very well signing Arland Bruce IV and Brody Brecht. Good things are coming, Hawk fans. As always, Go Hawks!