Where does Iowa's receiver room stand after Charlie Jones' departure? Let's take a look.

Last week, Iowa's football team took a major personnel hit just ahead of summer conditioning work. 

Senior wide receiver Charlie Jones entered the NCAA transfer portal on May 24. Jones had previously elected to return to Iowa for a sixth season instead of entering the 2022 NFL Draft. 

Jones is most known for his return ability. He was named the Big Ten Returner of the Year in 2021 and was an All-Big Ten selection in 2020. Who will replace him there is the biggest question mark for the Hawkeyes, but he was also set to be an important piece on Iowa's 2022 offense. 

His 21 catches (fifth on the team) and 323 receiving yards (fourth) was modest output last season, but Jones ranked second in yards per catch (15.4) and tied for first in receiving touchdowns (3). His big-play ability flashed in two important games: a 26-yard touchdown catch against Iowa State and a 72-yard scoring catch against Minnesota, which was Iowa's longest offensive play last season. 

Furthermore, Jones' absence leaves Iowa's receiver room thin in numbers. During spring practice, Iowa carried only six scholarship receivers including Jones.

The Hawkeyes were hit hard by injuries during spring practice. After the final practice session, coach Kirk Ferentz stated that there were "a high percentage" of practices when the team maxed out at four active receivers total.

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Help is on the way in the form of three-star Jacob Bostick with the 2022 class in June, keeping Iowa at six scholarship receivers. If there's a silver lining, the circumstances allowed for receivers who were healthy to gain extra work during spring, as some may be relied upon this fall. 

Here's where Iowa football's wide receiver room stands: 

Three reliable options 

Iowa wide receiver Keagan Johnson averaged 19.6 yards per catch in 2021.

Jones mostly lined up at the slot or 'F' in Iowa's offense. The person who'll likely carry the majority of that weight is senior Nico Ragaini, a consistent starter/rotation player in the receiving room for the last few years. Ragaini is the team's most polished route-runner and his experience has been an asset to wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland in meetings, which was especially helpful this spring. 

"Nico's done a great job in the leadership department," Copeland said this spring. "There was a great example where I had a play up and was explaining why we do this and Nico added on with his own words and experience about why we do what we do." 

Within Iowa's offense, one of the biggest storylines last fall was the emergence of two true freshman receivers: Arland Bruce IV and Keagan Johnson. The early enrollees impressed early and began playing heavily by mid-year. Copeland said this spring that both have proven to be good players, but now it's time for them to become great. 

"Good versus great, that's the conversation we're always having in our room," Copeland said. "A good player does the right thing most of the time. But if you want to be a great player, someone that teams are always aware of, then there's certain things you have to do better. We're always focusing on that and particularly with those two young men." 

There's opportunity for Bruce to be a breakout, multi-dimensional weapon for Iowa, similar to Deebo Samuel of the San Francisco 49ers. He finished fourth on the Hawkeyes in receptions (25) while three of his four total touchdowns were on rushing plays. Overall, he rushed for 65 yards on 10 carries. Copeland said the next step for him is mastering his route-running. 

Iowa wide receiver Arland Bruce IV (10) could emerge as an offensive Swiss army knife for the Hawkeyes in 2022.

Johnson ended up with nine starts last season, tied for the most while becoming the team's top big-play threat. Despite only 18 receptions, he finished second in receiving yards (352), for an average of 19.6 yards per catch. Copeland said he wanted Johnson to hone in on that explosiveness by running cleaner routes and using better eye placement. 

He played outside receiver the majority of last season, but Johnson hinted at an opportunity to play inside as well, which would directly help filling Jones' void. 

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"I'm just moving around more," Johnson said. "I feel like, with my strengths I can't just do the outside; I feel like I have strengths on the inside, too." 

A few unknowns with potential 

Iowa has three other scholarship receivers: rising sophomores Brody Brecht and Diante Vines, plus Bostick. 

Vines has the most experience of the three. He redshirted in 2020 and played sparingly in 2021 but didn't record any statistics. At 6-foot, 193 pounds, he's a physical match to Jones (6-foot, 188 pounds) and figures to receive a larger bulk of reps at the slot and Iowa's 'Z', an outside receiver that motions and shares similar traits with the 'F'. 

Bostick was a priority recruit during the 2022 recruiting cycle. At 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, he has the potential to add more muscle and will likely see early reps on the outside. 

Then there's the most intriguing prospect in Brecht. The two-sport athlete will likely be a high Major League Baseball draft pick in 2024. 

Copeland said that Brecht has gone "above and beyond" with his commitment to both sports this spring. Brecht (listed at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds) is a natural fit for Iowa's 'X' (outside receiver) position and, entering the summer, the plan is for him to be in the mix for that starting position. An emergence by Brecht could allow for more position versatility for Johnson. 

"Brody's at every meeting and he's at every practice that he can be at," Copeland said. "I don't see any (way) where he doesn't at least put himself in a position to earn an opportunity to compete for that job come fall." 

Who are the walk-ons to watch? 

Iowa also has a few walk-ons who can provide depth at receiver. As the Hawkeyes experienced firsthand this spring, attrition can happen at any time and players will need to step up.

Junior Jackson Ritter will be a factor this fall. He started against Iowa State last season and caught one pass for nine yards but didn't play as much down the stretch of the season. He was listed as the No. 2 WR behind Johnson on Iowa's initial spring practice depth chart. 

Iowa added another walk-on receiver in January with sophomore Kaden Wetjen from Iowa Western, who turned down several FCS offers. While playing for Iowa Western, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound receiver averaged 24.9 yards on 22 career receptions. In Iowa's final spring practice, he caught three passes, including one touchdown. 

Other walk-ons include second years Jack Johnson and Alec Wick. Johnson caught four passes including one touchdown in Iowa's final spring practice, and Wick impressed Ferentz as well with a few plays. 

"Alec Wick made a really nice catch (at the spring scrimmage)," Ferentz said then. "(He made) a nice play the other day in the red zone. ... It's all hands on deck. We need to get guys healthy, get them back  where they can perform, just get that consistency that you need with that group."

Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at ksmith@gannett.com.