Several freshmen in key spots on Iowa's depth chart
Dillon Kidd is the starting punter, and two true freshmen have cracked the Iowa football two-deep released for the Sept. 5 season opener against Illinois State.
Those are the newsiest bits to come from Friday’s release of game notes, with true freshman Jerminic Smith’s rise to second-team wide receiver as the headline-grabber. Smith, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound 18-year-old from Garland, Texas, was the leading pass-catcher at the Aug. 15 Kids Day scrimmage (four receptions, 28 yards).
He showed athleticism and dependable hands that day, all wrapped in one juggling sideline catch for a 10-yard gain. Smith's move into the receiver rotation helped author at least an opening paragraph in what head coach Kirk Ferentz had described as “an open book” for wideout newcomers Smith, Adrian Falconer and Emmanuel Ogwo. Matt VandeBerg in 2013 is the most recent true freshman Iowa receiver to see playing time.
The Hawkeyes want to carry a six-man rotation at receiver, and based on the depth chart Smith is No. 5. Riley McCarron, as offensive coordinator Greg Davis revealed earlier this week, has moved up as the No. 4 guy. He’s the top backup to listed starters VandeBerg and Jacob Hillyer, while Smith is behind senior go-to receiver Tevaun Smith.
Not listed on the depth chart at receiver is redshirt freshman Jay Scheel, who had been No. 2 behind VandeBerg but was seen wearing a red no-contact jersey after practice earlier this week.
Ferentz indicated he might play four to seven true freshmen this season, and another one was cemented Friday. James Daniels, no surprise, is the new second-team left guard. He played there extensively, as well as with the first team, on Kids Day. The 6-4, 278 younger brother of starting running back LeShun Daniels Jr. was considered the top recruit in Iowa’s Class of 2015 and participated in spring drills. The last true freshman believed to have taken a snap on Iowa's offensive line was Bryan Bulaga (who started) in 2007.
Sean Welsh, who missed spring practice and didn't return until June due to non-football reasons, is back on the No. 1 line for the first time since January. The sophomore is the starting left guard; that spot had been held by Eric Simmons, who is now the primary backup to center Austin Blythe and right guard Jordan Walsh.
At punter, Kidd appears to have won a hard-fought camp battle against Marshall Koehn. Ferentz said both had been punting well, and it’s a best-case scenario for the Hawkeyes if Kidd can solidly win the punting job so that Koehn can concentrate on his important role as starting placekicker.
Fifth-year senior Cole Fisher, for the first time, was listed ahead of sophomore Bo Bower as the No. 1 weak-side linebacker. That was a development shared to media by defensive coordinator Phil Parker four days earlier. Sept. 5 will mark the first career start for Fisher, who has nine career tackles.
No return specialists were listed Friday, but cornerback Desmond King is seen as the leading candidate as punt returner. There are at least six possibilities as the lead kickoff returner, including Tevaun Smith.
IOWA’S DEPTH CHART FOR SEASON OPENER
OFFENSE (Note: Iowa lists 12 starters, including 3 WRs and 1 FB)
WR – Tevaun Smith (6-2, 205, sr.), Jerminic Smith (6-1, 180, fr.)
LT – Boone Myers (6-5, 300, soph.), Cole Croston (6-5, 295, jr.)
LG – Sean Welsh (6-3, 288, soph.), James Daniels (6-4, 278, fr.)
C – Austin Blythe (6-3, 290, sr.), Eric Simmons (6-2, 295, sr.) or Steve Ferentz (6-2, 278, jr.)
RG – Jordan Walsh (6-4, 290, sr.), Eric Simmons (6-2, 295, sr.)
RT – Ike Boettger (6-6, 300, soph.), Keegan Render (6-4, 305, fr.)
TE – Henry Krieger-Coble (6-4, 250, sr.), George Kittle (6-4, 235, jr.)
WR – Matt VandeBerg (6-1, 185, jr.), Riley McCarron (5-9, 186, jr.)
WR – Jacob Hillyer (6-4, 212, sr.), Riley McCarron (5-9, 186, jr.)
QB – C.J. Beathard (6-2, 209, jr.), Tyler Wiegers (6-4, 222, fr.)
RB – LeShun Daniels Jr. (6-0, 225, jr.), Jordan Canzeri (5-9, 192, sr.)
FB – Macon Plewa (6-2, 244, sr.), Adam Cox (5-11, 234, sr.)
LE – Nate Meier (6-2, 252, sr.), Matt Nelson (6-8, 270, fr.)
LT – Jaleel Johnson (6-4, 310, jr.), Faith Ekakitie (6-3, 290, jr.)
RT – Nathan Bazata (6-2, 284, soph.), Kyle Terlouw (6-4, 288, jr.)
RE – Drew Ott (6-4, 272, sr.), Parker Hesse (6-3, 240, fr.)
OLB – Ben Niemann (6-3, 225, soph.), Cole Fisher (6-2, 236, sr.) or Bo Bower (6-1, 228, soph.)
MLB – Josey Jewell (6-2, 230, soph.), Travis Perry (6-3, 234, sr.)
WLB – Cole Fisher (6-2, 236, sr.), Bo Bower (6-1, 228, soph.) or Aaron Mends (6-0, 212, fr.)
LC – Greg Mabin (6-2, 200, jr.), Maurice Fleming (6-0, 205, jr.)
SS – Miles Taylor (6-0, 195, soph.), Anthony Gair (6-2, 210, jr.)
FS – Jordan Lomax (5-11, 205, sr.), Brandon Snyder (6-1, 210, fr.)
RC – Desmond King (5-11, 200, jr.), Sean Draper (6-0, 190, sr.)
PK – Marshall Koehn (6-0, 200, sr.), Mick Ellis (5-10, 180, soph.)
P – Dillon Kidd (6-2, 215, sr.), Marshall Koehn (6-0, 200, sr.)