Brown: Tevaun Smith likes role as Iowa's go-to receiver

Rick Brown

Iowa’s Tevaun Smith broke out in a big way in Iowa’s 2013 win over Michigan, finishing with five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Tevaun Smith was just another guy, an Iowa wide receiver looking to make a name for himself. And then everything changed, in just one play.

It was the coldest home game on record when Iowa welcomed Michigan to Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 23, 2013. Things never warmed up in a first half that ended with the Wolverines leading 21-7.

Then came the first Hawkeye possession of the third quarter. Second-and-7 from Iowa's own 45-yard line. Smith made a one-handed grab of quarterback Jake Rudock's pass and went the distance. The Hawkeyes rallied to win 24-21.

And just another guy became Iowa's go-to guy.

Smith's arrival in the program matched the arrival of Greg Davis as offensive coordinator. Smith played as a true freshman, making three catches in a forgettable 2012 season. Forgettable for both the 4-8 record and the fact that the timing between quarterback James Vandenberg and his receivers just wasn't there.

Smith's touchdown catch against the Wolverines was one of his 24 receptions in 2013. Most of them were delivered by Rudock. He earned honorable mention all-Big Ten accolades after making 43 catches for a team-high 596 yards and three touchdowns in 2014. His eight plays of 30-plus yards from scrimmage were a team high.

The 6-foot, 200-pound senior from Toronto will be catching passes from a third different quarterback now that C.J. Beathard has replaced Rudock. The plays might be the same as last season, but Smith has learned two valuable things during his pass-and-catch workouts with Beathard.

Lesson No. 1: keep running.

"You can't slow down, because he can throw the ball really deep," Smith said. "That's one thing we're really going to have to take pride in, running through the ball."

Lesson No. 2: keep your head on a swivel when running shorter patterns.

"You've got to make sure you get your head around, because he'll definitely hit you right in the face," Smith said.

As option No. 1 in the passing game, Smith should get plenty of chances to pad his statistics from a season ago.

"I take a lot of pride in that role," Smith said. "I feel I can do a lot with the ball. And I feel C.J. can help the other receivers as well."

The wide receiver position doesn't carry much of a reputation outside the Hawkeyes' locker room. The Big Ten Network's Tom Dienhart recently ranked that position at every Big Ten school. Of the seven teams in the West Division, he put the Hawkeyes No. 5.

Kevonte Martin-Manley, the school's all-time reception leader, is gone. There will be plenty of catches to go around. Someone besides Smith will have to become a consistent threat. Someone who can spread the field and take advantage of Beathard's arm.

"We've got some guys moving around," Smith said. "Josh Jackson moved from corner to receiver. Jonathan Parker moved from running back to receiver. So we definitely have depth now. And we've got more guys coming in."

The incoming recruiting class included three wide receivers — Adrian Falconer, Emmanuel Ogwo and Jerminic Smith. One or more of them could be in the mix and play as a true freshman, like Tevaun Smith did.

And like Smith proved, it only takes one play to make a name for yourself.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.