WIDE RECEIVER KEENAN DAVIS
Arrival: Davis (6-3, 215) played from day 1 and it’s been a progression. As a true freshman, he caught four passes for 55 yards in his first five games and then didn’t see another ball thrown his way all season. As a sophomore, Davis caught 11 passes for 131 yards and a TD. Last season, it was 50 for 713 yards and four TDs.
Davis is the No. 2 returning receiver in the Big Ten, trailing only Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis (55 receptions, 933 yards and eight TDs). This has brought a load of preseason honors, including preseason all-Big Ten from various places.
This year presents a different challenge. Davis will play for a new offensive coordinator. Greg Davis was hired in February to replace Ken O’Keefe, who left for the Miami Dolphins after 13 years with Iowa. One of Greg Davis’ first proclamations was needed to find some speed at wide receiver.
Keenan Davis could’ve sulked, but no, he took that to heart and started doing what he could do to get faster.
Davis had gained 25 pounds since his days as a wideout for Cedar Rapids Washington, bulking up to 220. He has shed five since spring practice and feels faster.
“We need you guys to be fast and get moving out there,” Keenan Davis said. “We’re all like, ‘We are moving.’ But to see the differences in this short amount of time, it’s kind of good.”
2012 Takeoff: Just when Davis gets in position to be lead dog at wide receiver for the Hawkeyes, there’s a new offensive coordinator who’ll install a new passing game.
So, it’s difficult to throw a number around a good season for an Iowa receiver. On paper, Iowa leans to the passing game. You know the running back situation. It’s sort of an unknown. Iowa has a returning starter at QB in James Vandenberg. He’s highly trusted by the coaching staff and demonstrated, at times, last season that he can take control of games.
Iowa also has Davis, whose 50 catches in ’11 would’ve led Iowa in three of the last five seasons. And wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley. And tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. So, you can see the structure for a potentially explosive passing game.
Does it mean 50 is a good number? Or is the season record of 82 receptions (shared by Kevin Kasper and Marvin McNutt) in trouble? It’s probably safe to assume Davis’ first thoughts are on number of victories.
“Nobody is going to beat Marvin,” Davis joked. “I’m just trying to fill my own shoes, build my own legacy. I’m just trying to be the best I can be and not focus on anything else. It’s what I can do to help this team.”
Davis’ status as a “leading returning receiver” has led to a lot of love, which Davis passes off as “fun.”
“It means nothing,” he said. “I have to go out and work just as hard even if I didn’t hear it. It probably pushes me a little harder so I can live up to it. If you don’t live up to it, people will just bring you down. Who cares about all that anyway, it’s about going out there and practicing. It’s fun to hear it from your friends, but I have to focus on what I have to do.”
Focus is a keyword for Davis. He had a few drops last season that he occasionally finds himself answering for. No wide receiver wants that tag. Davis is aware of it, and he’s on it.
“It’s all mental,” Davis said. “All of us have the capability to catch the ball. If you’re on your game and having fun, it’s easy. If you’re thinking about it, thinking about what you have to do, it’s a hard thing to do.
“Being a receiver, it’s really mental. It’s having fun and knowing you are capable of making the catch or making any type of play or going out and blocking. It’s just having fun and keeping focus.”