Barring an injury, the Hawks starting receivers in 2012 will be senior Keenan Davis and third-year sophomore Kevonte Martin-Manley.
The depth chart is wide open after the top two.
The key competitors for playing time will be senior Steven Staggs; juniors Jordan Cotton and Don Shumpert; redshirt freshman Jacob Hillyer; and true freshmen Cameron Wilson, Tevaun Smith and Greg Mabin.
By the Numbers
Davis is the second-most productive returning receiver in the conference after Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis. This is as indicative of the Big Ten's weak receiver class in 2012, as how successful a 2011 Davis had. Nevertheless, it does indicate how productive a senior year he could have.
In 2011, Davis had 50 receptions for 713 yards and four touchdowns. He also missed a game with an ankle injury, and he was never 100 percent during the regular season following that injury.
He averaged 4.28 receptions per game, 60.14 yards per game and had all four of his touchdown grabs in the seven games prior to the injury.
He averaged 4.25 RPG to go with 43.5 YPG with no touchdowns after the injury.
He was 100 percent for the Insight Bowl, but he had an up-and-down game, sprinkling multiple drops and one fumble among his five catches for 76 yards.
Davis had 15 receptions for 186 yards and two touchdowns prior to 2011.
Kevonte Martin-Manley is the 12th most productive returning receiver in the Big Ten, despite having spent most of last season as a backup and slot receiver. He was also the second-most productive freshman receiver after Nebraska's Kenny Bell.
Manley finished 2011 with 30 receptions for 323 yards and three touchdowns.
He was healthy all season, but his production dropped precipitously at the end of the year. Over the last five games, including the bowl, he had seven receptions for 80 yards and zero touchdowns.
Part of this fall-off had to do with the play-calling. At the beginning of the season, the Hawks flirted with a lot of three-wide looks. There was less of this as the season wore on—especially after fullback Brad Rogers got healthy.
After Davis and Martin-Manley, Iowa pass catchers return a combined six career receptions for 49 yards and zero touchdowns. Five of those catches belong to Staggs, with Cotton recording the sixth.
Issues Heading into 2012
Drops, drops and more drops.
Drops plagued Iowa receivers in 2011, and that was no more apparent than in the Insight Bowl.
This was a problem for Davis, Martin-Manley and the recently drafted Marvin McNutt.
Speaking of McNutt, last season Davis and KMM received favorable coverage because opposing defensive backs concerned themselves primarily with the Hawks' and the conference's top receiver. This season, Davis and K-Mart will have to produce with all attention on them.
Finally, depth is an issue.
Davis and KMM are established, but as the stats attest, the other receivers are raw.
Positives Heading into 2012
Returning quarterback James Vandenberg is familiar with Davis and KMM. That will help the passing game tremendously.
Davis is a proven downfield threat, and he has all the tools he needs to become a top wide receiver. This year, he will receive a ton of targets, and he will vault himself into the NFL Draft with a big senior season.
All he needs to do is put it together.
Meanwhile, Martin-Manley looks the part of a slot receiver who is unlikely to burn opponents deep, but is dangerous in space. This could be invaluable, as the spring game under new offensive coordinator Greg Davis indicated a move towards more of a West Coast passing game.
Moreover, according to Hawk Central, Davis has said that he expects Martin-Manley to spend much of his playing time in the slot, which is a good move. Former offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe had the tendency to force round pegs into square holes.
Who can forget multiple fade routes to 5'9" Paul Chaney Jr.?
We know that Steven Staggs, Don Shumpert and Jacob Hillyer bring size into the mix, as the former two are listed at 6'3" while Hillyer is 6'4".
However, Shumpert is the only one of the three that seems to have the physical and athletic ability to get off the line, get separation and make plays downfield.
Staggs is a former walk-on who might be able to run routes and make catches, but he isn't likely to scare any opponents with his athleticism. However, Staggs can contribute given the potential West Coast tendencies that Greg Davis is likely to bring to the offense.
Hillyer is young and will improve with experience, but in the spring game he had trouble beating press coverage despite his size.
Shumpert had the most notable spring game, both for good and bad reasons.
The spring game indicated he is still raw. Hopefully, he figures things out this summer, as this will be his third year on campus, and the clock is beginning to tick.
Speaking of ticking clocks, Jordan Cotton is a legacy. His father, Marshall Cotton, played for Hayden Fry in the mid-80s.
Jordan is a fourth-year junior that KMM leapfrogged last year. This will likely be Cotton's final chance to make a splash. It is unlikely he will ever be a starter if he gets passed by Shumpert or Hillyer this season.
Finally, expect at least one, if not two, of the true freshmen to earn immediate playing time.
Physically, all three resemble each other. Each is listed at 6'2" and are between 186 and 190 pounds. Smith and Mabin have listed 4.4 40 times, with Wilson clocking in at 4.5.
Iowa is not known for spread looks, but the Hawks' third receiver has averaged 22.2 receptions-per-year over the last five seasons. In effect, the Hawkeyes will need to find a dependable No. 3.
Outlook for 2012
The development of the receivers will be key in 2012.
I'm not expecting Keenan Davis to improve like Marvin McNutt did between his junior and senior years, but he will have to step up. He needs to put his concentration problems in the rear-view and be a leader.
Meanwhile, KMM needs to show that he is ready to be a starter. It is one thing to grab 30 receptions when covered by a linebacker or nickelback. Now, he will be on the front lines.
I expect Greg Davis to feature his tight ends—both in a three-point stance and standing up. This will take some of the heat off the receivers, especially whoever steps up as the third receiver.
The emergence of tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz will particularly make life easier for Davis and KMM, but the Hawks need Davis to pick up 65-70 receptions in 2012, with KMM in the 40-50 area.
In 2012, there will be a fine line between five wins and eight wins. There will be no room for error, and it is unlikely the defense or running game will be the difference makers.
It will be up to the passing game.
The raw materials are there for Iowa to have one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the Big Ten.
Nonetheless, the Hawkeyes could struggle to reach bowl eligibility if receivers continue to have concentration lapses.
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