Iowa wide receivers coach: 'We've risen to the occasion for the first six weeks'

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

Iowa wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland said Wednesday he’s not even aware of the statistics his top three players are putting up this season.

“I’m not a stats man. It’s more about the product that we put on the field,” Copeland said in an interview on the Hawk Central radio program on KxNO.

“We’ve risen to the occasion for the first six weeks.”

For the record, the numbers for senior Nick Easley and sophomores Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette are 46 receptions for 612 yards and four touchdowns. An improved passing game is one reason the No. 22 Hawkeyes sit at 5-1 heading into Saturday’s 11 a.m. homecoming game against Maryland (ESPN2).

Iowa wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland watches players warm up during a Kids Day practice on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

Copeland, in his second season with the Hawkeyes, talked about his best blocking receiver, the progress of prized freshman Tyrone Tracy Jr. and his new role as Iowa’s lone offensive coach in the press box on Saturdays.

The full interview can be found in podcast form at Some highlights:

'Hawk Central' talks with Iowa's receivers coach, Kelton Copeland

Iowa's biggest wide receiver likes to throw his weight around

Copeland initially demurred when asked who among his wideouts is best at blocking, a key component in the Hawkeye offense.

“I’m going to have some ticked off receivers the next time I go in that room,” Copeland joked.

His answer might seem to be the obvious choice — Brandon Smith, the biggest Hawkeye receiver at 6-foot-3, 219 pounds.

“It doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but Brandon Smith, what he brings to the table and what he’s learning on a day-to-day basis, if you watch this guy on run plays and even on pass plays when he doesn’t get the ball, he is always looking to finish plays by blocking somebody. He does a great job of that,” Copeland said.

On the stat sheet, Smith has 13 catches for 189 yards. Eight of those receptions have occurred in the past two games. He is a rising talent in search of his first career touchdown.

And apparently he can really block, as well.

Standout freshman has 'very bright' future, but how soon?

Tyrone Tracy Jr. was a highly regarded wide receiver recruit from Indiana this winter. But it’s unclear if he’ll make a big impact this season, Copeland said.

Tracy has one 22-yard catch late in Iowa’s win over Northern Iowa in Week 3. He has been among the players who dressed for the Hawkeyes’ two road games, a sign he is high on the team’s radar, although he didn’t play in those victories.

Copeland said it’s too early to say if Tracy will appear in more than four games this season, or if Iowa will keep him under that threshold in order to preserve his redshirt year.

“He’s been honestly a pleasure to work with. The kid obviously has physical talent, but he’s a kid that loves football. He’s hungry to learn. I mean, he was wearing me out in the summer, texting me calling me, knocking on my door in my office,” Copeland said. “A lot of kids talk about wanting to be great, but it’s another thing to actually do the work, and he is doing the work. If he gets on the field this year, great. But if he doesn’t, the future is very bright for that young man.”

Getting comfortable watching games from a new vantage point

Copeland said he hasn’t watched games from a booth high above field level since 2012. But that’s his duty this year, with offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz choosing to call plays from the sideline. Copeland, accompanied by a pair of graduate assistants, has become the team’s important eye in the sky.

“It’s basically like watching film but you don’t have a rewind button and you don’t have a pause button,” Copeland said. “So you have to see it fast. You have to process and be able to relay that information to Brian and the rest of the coaching staff pretty accurately.”