Iowa's junior middle linebacker explains how to flush a loss.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Want to see where Rutgers’ offense will go on Saturday?
Just watch Janarion Grant.
The Hawkeyes can focus defense and special teams on the Scarlet Knights’ versatile star, but containing and catching the red No. 1 jersey will be among Week 4’s toughest challenges.
“He’s a big-play threat,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said on Tuesday. “Bona fide.”
Iowa (2-1) opens Big Ten play in Piscataway, N.J., against Rutgers (2-1) and Grant, one of the conference’s premier speedsters. The Hawkeyes will likely steer the opening 11:01 a.m. kickoff away from him.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior has rushed, received, thrown and returned for Rutgers, and excels in every category for an offense seeking to score fast.
He's are so good, one fan made a highlight reel of his exploits.
Named second-team All-Big Ten in 2015 as a return specialist, Grant’s statistics show off the skills he’ll run out at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Rushing: 15 carries for 147 yards and three touchdowns, or nearly 10 yards per pop and a score every five touches.
“They like to get him the ball through different quick games,” Iowa cornerback Greg Mabin said. “Handing it off or he has his own Wildcat package. Just multiple things to try to get him the ball on offense.”
Receiving: A team-best 15 catches for 112 yards. The slippery senior opens the field for deep threats Jawaun Harris and Andre Patton, and will mostly take shorter routes. Sure tackling from the Hawkeyes is a must.
“They have some really explosive and dynamic skill guys on offense,” Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse said. “They can basically make something out of nothing at any time.”
Returning: One 84-yard touchdown on a kickoff against Howard in Week 2 and one 69-yard score off a New Mexico punt in Week 3 makes Grant one of the most dangerous return men in the country. Taking those kicks back boosted his average to 32.5 yards on kickoffs and 16 yards on punts.
“That’s going to take a team effort and I’ll say the same thing about our coverage on kickoffs and punts,” Ferentz said. “We saw that last year when we played Maryland, same kind of player.”
Maryland’s Will Likely returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of Iowa’s eighth win last season. The 5-foot-7 defensive back was the first-team selection ahead of Grant.
“Somebody has to stay back even though he’s got the ball,” Ferentz said. “Those are the things that get you beat, so it takes real discipline.”
Passing: Yes, Grant has even thrown for a score, which Ferentz mentioned as a potential threat. The lefty took a reverse against New Mexico and found Patton for a 21-yard score, giving him an astronomical passer rating on his only attempt of the season, so far.
“We’ve got to stop them on first (down) and then be ready for the pass,” Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell said. “We’ve got to be ready for anything when they’re on the offensive side of the ball.”
Iowa’s Ron Coluzzi has yet to allow a punt return yard in 13 boots this season, and 15 of his 19 kickoff attempts have been touchbacks. That and a locked-in defense could be the key to keeping Grant under wraps on Saturday.
“They’re experienced and good athletes,” Hesse said. “We’re going to have to improve.”
Iowa’s first-ever meeting with Rutgers will be televised on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht and Rocky Boiman on the call for the second consecutive week.