IOWA CITY — Iowa wide receiver was on full display Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium. The group showed an electricity that has been lacking since Marvin McNutt smashed records in 2011.
Junior college transfer Damond Powell caught a 29-TD and took a smack from safety Nico Law. Without an offensive pass interference call, sophomore Tevaun Smith would’ve had two catches for 109 yards. Junior Kevonte Martin-Manley showed spark after the catch with five catches for 69 yards.
On Powell and Smith, coach Kirk Ferentz said, “It was good to see those guys make some plays, and both made some difficult plays,” he said. “Powell’s was a tough one, it was probably the first time he’s caught a ball and got whacked like that, that we’ve seen him. It was good to see him come up with the ball and hang on to it.
“Tevaun, same thing. Really nice play that he made (a 59-yard catch-and-run). Our receivers are coming on. They’re not there yet, but there improving with each day or two. That’s good to see.”
Iowa receiver is still feeling its way, but there certainly are pieces in place. Also, there are pieces behind the pieces. This is a deep and varied group, offering many speeds, skill sets and backgrounds.
He only caught two passes Saturday night, but Riley McCarron, a walk-on redshirt freshman from Dubuque, is in the mix.
You look at him and you think, no. He’s 5-9, 182 and he’s competing with Smith, a 6-2, 200-pound blazer, and Powell, who . . .
“DP just runs and runs and runs, all he does is run,” quarterback Jake Rudock said. “You want to get the guys in there who are ready to play. If they’re ready to go, we’re going to use them. If not, we’ll work them along and get them ready.”
McCarron has done his share of getting noticed. Ferentz mentioned him as an up-and-comer in the spring. Saturday, he ran with the No. 2s and had a few plays with the first-team. He caught two passes for 7 yards and had a potential TD pass float over his head in the end zone.
McCarron remains punched in.
“That’s kind of been the story of my life growing up,” McCarron said. “I’ve always been the small kid. I’ve learned to use my advantages, my quickness, my speed. I don’t have size. Unfortunately, I’ll probably never have size. It is a little intimidating at first, but after a year, you get used to it. You start working everyday, you improve and you feel more comfortable with your role on the field.”
Roles are a good topic with Iowa receivers.
Martin-Manley and senior Don Shumpert were the No. 1 WRs last weekend. Martin-Manley led Iowa with 52 catches last season. He is in position to be the No. 1 WR this season, but this mold is still taking shape.
“I’ve seen some growth, but we’re not a finished product yet,” first-year WR coach Bobby Kennedy said.
Smith played as a true freshman last season and caught three passes. Saturday night, he caught one pass for 59 yards to help set up a field goal. He nearly pulled down a 60-yarder, but was called for an offensive pass interference.
“I see flashes from Tevaun, he is not there yet,” Kennedy said. “He’s continuing to learn, he’s continuing to develop, but it’s always good when you see flashes. He’s been catching the ball well, finishing his routes well. His body position in terms of getting in and out of his routes is better. I’m very encouraged.”
Let’s make room here for running back Damon Bullock, who lined up as a wide receiver with the first unit on Saturday.
“I was a lot more of a wide receiver tonight,” Bullock said. “That’s what coaches gave us. I’ll still be a running back, too, but tonight I was more of a wide receiver and I’m cool with that.”
That left Powell, Smith, McCarron and senior Jordan Cotton, who caught a 23-yard TD pass, as the No. 2 group. That was a pretty productive group Saturday. They combined for eight catches, 177 yards and two TDs. Powell might’ve added a third, but the play was blown down. It didn’t stop him from strutting it in the end zone.
“Those guys made some plays today, man,” Bullock said with a smile. “That’s speed, we need some speed. Powell is a character. You can see when he scored, he tried to show off a little bit. And then Tevaun, he’s making plays, too. There are a lot of plays out there to be made.”
Throw in all the caveats that come with an August scrimmage, but that was real electricity from the receivers Saturday night.