Iowa columnist Chad Leistikow offers records and insights for each of the Big Ten Conference's 14 teams. Wochit
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.
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.
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.
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.
PAST RECEIVING PRODUCTION
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