Analysis: Late addition Matt Quarells offers Iowa early upgrade

Chris Cuellar
Hawk Central

The first pass Matt Quarells caught in 2016 may set high expectations for Hawkeye fans.

Jumping between and over the South Dakota secondary on a deep-post route, New Mexico’s redshirt sophomore wide receiver snared a lobbed pass and sprinted into the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown.

New Mexico wide receiver Matt Quarells, right, sprints to the end zone for a touchdown ahead of South Dakota defensive back Doug Lewis during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Albuquerque, N.M., Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

It would be his only score of the season.

Iowa has plenty of untapped potential at receiver, but Quarells is the program’s latest incoming graduate transfer because that production and known skill set already make him more than an unproven prospect.

“We need some more help and maturity on the outside with our receivers,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said after the team’s spring game in April. “I think we saw some progress, especially this last week at the receiver position, but we’ve got a lot of room to cover between now and September, certainly.”

The Hawkeyes are adding a 6-foot-1, 195-pound former track and field standout with 13 career receptions in New Mexico’s run-heavy triple option offense. Quarells redshirted in 2014, played in 2015 and 2016, and finished classes to graduate this summer in Albuquerque. The St. Louis native was named the team’s “Academic most improved” player in 2016.

In an Iowa receiving corps which exits summer camp featuring one player with a career catch at the FBS level and four true freshmen on scholarship, that makes Quarells a seasoned veteran.

“We just come to work every day as a group and as individuals and try to perfect our craft, and become better receivers so our passing game can improve, and get to the next level, and help us win some games,” Quarells told the Albuquerque Journal after New Mexico’s spring practice.

Earlier:Reeling in receivers remains issue for Iowa on recruiting trail

The Lobos were one of 10 teams to pass for fewer yards per game last season than the Hawkeyes. That makes dissecting Quarells’ production in the Mountain West Conference difficult, especially when more than half of last season’s statistical output came from the touchdown catch and a five-catch, 49-yard performance in a loss at Rutgers.

Recruited as a three-star prospect and outside receiving threat, Quarells has had to embrace downfield blocking with New Mexico. That suits the Hawkeyes, who ran the ball on 60 percent of their offensive snaps in 2016 and recently unveiled a depth chart with as many tight ends as wide receivers.

Colorado State Rams defensive back Shun Johnson (17) tackles New Mexico Lobos wide receiver Matt Quarells (19) in the game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, CO. This is the final game played in Hughes Stadium, which opened in 1968.

Quarells was part of a Hazelwood Central High School track team that won three straight Missouri state titles from 2011-13. A 200- and 400-meter specialist, his college game film flashes the athletic ability that should enable him to step in and replace Iowa’s early departures Jerminic Smith and Jay Scheel.

The 21-year-old doesn’t turn 22 until October and should offer Iowa two years of remaining eligibility. It’s a late transfer that could pay early dividends for the depleted Hawkeye receiving unit.


Below is the complete list of players expected to be on Iowa’s 2017-18 depth chart, who caught collegiate passes in the 2016-17 season. They are organized by receptions with games played and positions included.

Name         School         Pos.       GP     Rec.  Yards  TD

N. Easley Iowa Western WR         12       72      954     7

J. Butler     Nevada         RB           12      37      381     3

A. Wadley   Iowa             RB           13      36      315     3

M. VandeBerg Iowa        WR           4      19       284     3

M. Quarells New Mexico WR           13     11       180     1

N. Fant         Iowa            TE           10       9         70     1

B. Ross        Iowa            FB            13     1             6     0

A. Kelly         Iowa            FB            13     1             5     0

P. Pekar        Iowa            TE            13     1             5     0