The first, certainly one of the first, things that jump out when you look at Iowa’s depth chart is Derrell Johnson-Koulianos’ spot, co-No. 2 wide receiver.
Converted QB Marvin McNutt is listed No. 1. Johnson-Koulianos and junior Colin Sandeman are No. 2.
This raised eyebrows in the spring and it does now. Johnson-Koulianos has been Iowa’s leading receiver the last two seasons. Last year, he caught 44 passes for 639 yards and three TDs. In his two seasons at Iowa, he has 82 receptions. Senior Trey Stross, the starter at the “Z” receiver, has the next most with 42.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was asked if depth chart matters at this point.
“I don’t think so,” Ferentz said. “He’s played, played a lot and played well. We’ve got at least 25 days before we get into game preparation. There’s a long way to go.”
Iowa has a bunch of upperclassmen at wideout, but not a ton of experience. After Johnson-Koulianos and Stross, Sandeman and Paul Chaney Jr. are the most experienced. Sandeman caught six passes last season; Chaney had just two.
McNutt, a 6-4, 215-pounder, will be in his first season at WR. He caught one pass last year after moving from QB in September.
“Yes and no,” Ferentz said when asked if wide receiver is a “hot spot.” “We think the potential is there to have a real good group. They’re working toward that, but now we’ve got to push it through and get it done.”
He further explained “yes and no” when asked if Iowa needed a Sandeman or Chaney to elevate their games.
“Statistically, those guys haven’t done an awful lot,” Ferentz said. “But I was really encouraged to see Paul Chaney’s improvement in track, the success he had there this year. He’s always been a good track athlete but he stepped it up a level there. I think we saw a little of that on the football field.
“I think he’s at the point in his career and Colin’s at the point in his career where they’re ready to take a step.”
This is a spot where a true freshman could find his way to the field, Ferentz said. Iowa signed four potential wide receivers in the 2009 class — Keenan Davis, Stephane N’Goumou, Jordan Cotton and Josh Brown.
During Big Ten media days in Chicago, Ferentz was asked if he could definitely say that Davis, perhaps the most accomplished of the group, wouldn’t redshirt.
“I’m not saying that yet, but we’ll definitely keep the door open for Keenan and will let all the freshmen have an opportunity,” Ferentz said. “If they can help us win, we’re playing for today and not next year.”
Here’s a possible depth chart and a rotation:
X — McNutt with DJK and Sandeman
Z — Stross with Chaney and Davis
Six Hawkeyes had double digit receptions last season and three of those were TEs (Brandon Myers, Tony Moeaki and Allen Reisner). Going on that production, three wideouts will produce this year.
How many will see the field? Only four wideouts saw action 10 or more games last season — Andy Brodell, DJK, Sandeman and Stross. Of course, with Shonn Greene, the need for pass-catching wideouts went down and blocking wideouts went up.
It’s impossible to predict, but, most likely, four wide receivers will see the bulk of the playing time.