Wide receivers coach Erik Campbell met the media on Wednesday. He's one of two Iowa staff members who didn't see his job description change during the offseason.
Iowa's WR coach talks spring surprises and the surprise so far is sophomore Kevonte Martin-Manley. "The guys really start to emerge right now, Kevonte Martin-Manley, who last year got his feet wet as a redshirt freshman, playing the first time. Now you can see that experience pay off. You can see him looking like a veteran receiver, doing things that a guy with that kind of experience has shown. So he's done a good job so far this spring."
Here the Iowa WR coach discusses personnel a little more indepth. He mentioned the possibility of the three incoming freshmen WRs playing next fall (Greg Mabin, Tevaun Smith and Cameron Wilson). I asked if there would be competition between senior Keenan Davis and Martin-Manley for Marvin McNutt-type numbers.
"The better you play, the more opportunities you're going to have versus giving it to another position or another player."
COACH CAMPBELL: Good afternoon. I guess I want to start off talking about the spring practice so far. I think the group is coming along well. A young group, inexperienced, but they're very competitive. They're competing every day in practice right now.
The biggest thing right now on the offense is trying to learn a new system. I think the guys are all doing a great job of learning it. Hopefully by the end of spring we start reacting versus just learning and running the routes, running plays, what they kind of think in the huddle, thing like that, whereas hopefully by the end of spring, again, we're reacting, just start playing football, look better as we go.
The team as a group is doing a great job of really picking up the system. I'm proud of those guys about picking it up, embracing it, really going about the business of trying to learn it all at one time. At the same time they're competing, that's the biggest thing right now, competing for a job.
We don't have a starting lineup right now, but by September we will have a starting lineup. They're trying to learn a spot in every aspect. In Greg's eyes as the new coordinator, look good in front of him. Make sure they're doing their job in every aspect, so...
Q. Any surprises so far?
COACH CAMPBELL: The guys really start to emerge right now, Kevonte Martin-Manley, who last year got his feet wet as a redshirt freshman, playing the first time. Now you can see that experience pay off. You can see him looking like a veteran receiver, doing things that a guy with that kind of experience has shown. So he's done a good job so far this spring.
Q. Anything besides what things are called that the receivers are relearning under the new offensive coordinator?
COACH CAMPBELL: Like I said, the whole offensive system is new. Like I said, not just the terminology, but so-called we tweaked things. We run the same routes, but different way of running it. Quarterback and running backs are on the same page. Things we've done last year, years in the past, we tweaked some things. Those guys have picked that up, made that adjustment. Also how we read in defensive fronts, secondaries, those type of things. Things are a little different. Little tweaks all the way through.
Q. Coach Davis likes to throw the football. That's his reputation. Have you seen that? Is that music to your ears?
COACH CAMPBELL: Of course. All receivers want the ball. Guys know they have to do their job in the running game, too, in order to get the ball. Coach Davis is a guy who is known to like to throw the ball, at the same time he's also lined up and run the ball a lot, too.
We just do our job. Whenever it's called for us to do it, be ready. Those guys have really embraced that part of it.
Q. Kevonte looks like a slot receiver. How is he adjusting to that side?
COACH CAMPBELL: In our system he plays both, slot and outside, just depending on what play is called, what personnel we have on the field. He's doing a great job playing both. Like I say, he's in our three-wide set, in the slot so far, has picked it up well.
Q. Who is the number three receiver right now?
COACH CAMPBELL: I have no depth chart right now. They're all competing right now for that spot. Like I say, hopefully we have more than just three receivers come next fall.
Right now all the guys are competing for it.
Q. How do you feel about the depth of the position?
COACH CAMPBELL: Well, I feel it's still young. A lot of guys don't have a lot of game. When I say 'young', I mean game experience. Right now if you look at our roster, besides Kevonte and Keenan, next guy in mind is Steve Staggs, he played a little bit in games, but a few snaps. Don Shumpert played some, but only a few snaps. Jordan Cotton had a few snaps.
Not a lot of guys with game experience. That's why I said it's open for grabs right now.
Q. Has Keenan taken that next step, taking over the Marvin role?
COACH CAMPBELL: He's a veteran guy. We expect more out of him than we have in the past because now he is the most experienced guy. He's coming and practicing. At the same time, again, learning the new system, it slows you down a little bit.
We're all right now at the beginning stages. Like I said, by the end of spring, going into training camp, I think guys will be full speed ahead and really start seeing the finished product.
COACH CAMPBELL: Well, no. He's a football player. He's one of the guys in the group. Doesn't make a difference if you're a scholarship player or just received a scholarship. Doesn't make a difference. The guy has been competing. He's done a great job. A smart kid who has been learning all the different positions on offense. Like I say, that's why he got an opportunity to play last year, he knew a lot of things, he was always prepared for every game.
He got thrown into some heated situations. Key third downs last season he got thrown in and made the play. I'm looking forward to him to keep improving.
COACH CAMPBELL: Jacob is coming along. New system. Last year he learned something, now he's starting off as a freshman all over again. I think he's growing and developing. Like I said, I'm waiting to see at the end of spring how they come along learning the system. He's still learning as a receiver. He is a freshman. It's his first spring. He don't know what it's all about, the competition level, competing every day. He's not on the scout team anymore. He's on the team where he's being looked at in those situations.
Q. I know the receiver is a more technical position than people get credit for. Do you think any of the freshmen can come in and maybe work their way into some playing time?
COACH CAMPBELL: I hope so. We recruited three kids that have an opportunity to come in and compete for the position. We going to find out once they come in here who is going to emerge that can play and we can depend on. A lot of guys can run and catch the football, but there's the technical part of it, reading defenses. In this level, defensive coaches are pretty smart. Read the defense, react, also have the physical strength to compete at this level and all that. So we'll wait and see.
I'm prepared for a freshman to come in and help us.
Q. Last year there were a lot of dropped passes. What did you see on film that maybe caused some of that and have you applied that to any drills in the spring to help with hand-eye coordination?
COACH CAMPBELL: That's part of the season. Everybody drops balls. Marvin was the all-time leading receiver and he dropped balls.
You coach against that. You keep drilling over and over, get those guys really focused with concentration. That's the biggest thing with dropped balls, most of them are lack of concentration or you lose focus when you needed it most. Like I said, any ball that's dropped, there's a reason why it's dropped. Anytime the quarterback throws the ball, you expect to catch it. I don't care where it is, if it's in the stands, you're supposed to go get it. There's always a reason behind it. We always focus on that and improve.
Q. How much would it help your job if Marvin is playing on Sundays this fall?
COACH CAMPBELL: My job? It's a great thing for the university, to see him play on Sundays. He's gone now. We got a new group. The next man in line, you know. That's our motto here, the next one that can come up and produce.
But, yeah, it's always great because those guys can say they played with a guy on his level.
Q. Did that help you with recruiting?
COACH CAMPBELL: Of course. I mean, of course. He's a guy, like I said, set a lot of records here. He's known nationally now. Hopefully he has a great day on draft day for him. Like I say, every little bit helps in recruiting.
Q. Have you talked to NFL coaches?
COACH CAMPBELL: Yes, I have. I've talked to them.
Q. What have you told them about what he brings?
COACH CAMPBELL: The generic questions: What kind of kid is he? Can he catch? I just talk about he's a guy who is still young, still developing. He's only been a receiver for three years versus some kids who have been there for five years in college, those things.
He still has an upside. I think he hasn't peaked yet as a receiver.
Q. Will there be competition between Kevonte and Keenan for Marvin-type touches?
COACH CAMPBELL: I think there's always competition. Also there's competition to stay on the field because there's young guys behind them that are going to push them and try to take that spot. You never can relax here because there's always competition, even with having great tight ends. Everybody is competing to get the ball. The better you play, the more opportunities you going to have it versus giving it to another position or another player.
Q. Do you see a time when you need a guy to catch 85 balls next year?
COACH CAMPBELL: I'd love to have that. It's about victories, whatever it takes for us to win. If it's 20 catches the whole season, if it helps us win, we'll do that. That's the bottom line. We don't worry about the goals out there. Individually they have goals. The bottom line is to win on Saturday. That's what we want to do. Whatever it takes to win: blocking, running routes, being the clear-out guy. Whatever it takes, we all work together to help the team.
Q. Do you have different standards for different receivers in the system?
COACH CAMPBELL: The standards are still set. The standard is always set high. You are going to expect Keenan to be more knowledgeable of the game than a young freshman coming in. The expectations for an older guy who has played a lot, you know, are higher than a young kid. Fewer mistakes to be made the older you get.
Right now, like I say, the first week of spring ball, I expect those guys to make mistakes because it's a totally new system. After that, they know the system, those guys can make a difference between a freshman and a senior.
Q. When you're looking at a receiver, do you pay much attention to the recruiting rankings?
COACH CAMPBELL: The biggest thing you want to see is can a guy fit in your system here, can he play for Iowa, is he academically qualified, those type of things.The rankings, that's somebody else's eyes. We look at it as the receiver coach and also our offensive coaches, we all look at him and say, Can he fit our style of play? Every kit don't fit our style of play. Every kid don't fit in. Not a big factor.