WIDE RECEIVER KEVONTE MARTIN-MANLEY
Arrival: The 6-foot, 205-pound sophomore was a standout in football and basketball at Brother Rice High School in Pontiac, Mich. He attended several summer camps of Big Ten schools, but he didn’t get any offers.
Bowling Green, Central Michigan and Toledo offered, and Martin-Manley committed to Bowling Green before the start of his senior year.
“I was a Bowling Green Falcon for a couple of months,” Martin-Manley said.
It wasn’t over, though. Martin-Manley worked out with former Michigan receiver Ron Bellamy. Bellamy put in a call to his former coach Erik Campbell, Iowa’s receivers coach, and told him to look up Martin-Manley. Campbell checked the tape and had Martin-Manley come for a visit in December 2009.
Iowa, being the biggest name in Martin-Manley’s recruitment, played the “big boy” card.
“Coach Campbell told me straight up, he was honest, he said, ‘Look, we’re going to bring you down for a visit and you’re going to commit and if not, we’re going to go on to another guy,’ ” Martin-Manley said. “He’s an honest guy and I’m glad he did that.
“I understood that I had to commit now if I wanted to come. I came and I think it was a Sunday right before I left, I committed.”
Martin-Manley called the Bowling Green coaches before he boarded the plane home to Michigan. It was a lot of pressure for a high school senior, but it’s not like these guys don’t face pressure with every step they take.
“My family had my back,” he said.
2012 Takeoff: This is a good time to be an Iowa wide receiver. It looks as though your work order will be filled top to bottom, game in and game out.
Quarterback James Vanderberg’s 404 attempts last season were second most in Iowa history. Iowa goes into 2012 with a running back situation that ranges from inexperienced to incoming freshmen. Head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis promise Iowa will do what Iowa’s players do best.
With a returning starter at QB and solid experience at receiver and tight end, that fits with a continued focus on the air. But, as with everything Iowa at this point of the year with two new coordinators, we’ll see.
If you’re an Iowa receiver, rest assured that you are in the playbook and the game plan. It just sets up that way.
This is terrific for Martin-Manley.
Martin-Manley caught 30 passes for 323 yards and three TDs last season, mostly out of the slot receiver position. As a redshirt freshman last season, he was Iowa’s No. 3 receiver. It was the best performance for a freshman receiver at Iowa since 2007, when Derrell Johnson-Kouliano caught 38 passes and James Cleveland had 36.
His 2011 production earned a few mentions from coaches this spring.
“Kevonte Martin‑Manley, who last year got his feet wet as a redshirt freshman, playing the first time,” Campbell said when asked if any receiver raised his profile during the spring. “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.”
Davis likes Martin-Manley right where he is, playing slot receiver.
“Kevonte will end up playing in the slot most of the time for us,” Davis said. “The slot receiver is an extremely important position. It’s a position with a lot of flexibility, has to do various things according to the coverage you see.
“So, I kind of see him settling in there when we’re in one back. When we’re in two backs, obviously, he would be one of the wide receivers.”
See, good deal for Martin-Manley. Oh, there’s more.
“It’ll be a lot more three-receiver looks and a little bit more spread out, so it’s a lot of fun for us as receivers,” Martin-Manley said when asked about his thoughts on what Iowa’s offense learned about Davis’ plans this spring.
Is Iowa going to lean pass-oriented next fall?
“Coach Davis told us he’d go by game plan,” Martin-Manley said. “Whoever we play, whoever is healthy, that’s how he said he’s going to play. We’ll see.”
The slot receiver notion isn’t a change for Martin-Manley, but the mental part of the game apparently is.
“I have a little bit more freedom now. I get to read the defenses more. That’s the biggest change,” Martin-Manley said. “It is a lot of freedom. It is. It allows us to open up a little bit and hopefully catch more balls this season.”