Talented Iowa City West hopes for turnaround season
WR Oliver Martin, OL Alex Kleinow give Trojans two D-I commits
IOWA CITY — Oliver Martin’s story is just beginning.
Considering how much already has been written, that’s a scary thought for opposing defenses this fall.
The Iowa City West receiver was an all-state pick as a sophomore and junior. He’s already tallied 2,177 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns in his high school career.
This summer, Martin rocketed up the recruiting charts with breakout camp performances that earned him scholarship offers from top programs like Michigan, Oregon, Michigan State and Iowa, among others.
Coach Garrett Hartwig calls him one of the most talented players to come through West’s program.
And his story is just beginning.
“He doesn’t consider himself as having arrived yet,” Hartwig said. “He’s one of the hardest workers we have in practice.”
The Trojans hope one of the most dynamic players in the state can help them return to the main stage in November. West finished a disappointing 4-7 last season with six of those losses coming from teams that reached the Class 4A quarterfinals.
Martin, who swims and plays baseball in the off-season, considers his physical strength and precise route running to be his biggest strengths.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound receiver focused on improving his footwork and speed this summer with individual workouts like cone drills and shuttle runs.
“Obviously, I always want to get faster and get quicker in and out of my breaks for route running,” Martin said. “I don’t know if there’s anyone I try to model my game after, I just focus on running routes the best I can, being the quickest I can and being as fast as I can.”
Hartwig is prepared for defenses to concentrate their efforts on Martin. To keep Martin open, Hartwig will move him around to different positions and try new formations or motions to keep teams on their toes.
And West has another standout receiver in senior Devontae Lane, who had 810 yards and six touchdowns last fall.
“It’s not one on 11 out there and never will be. It’s 11 on 11,” Hartwig said. “I have as much faith in the other guys who are going to be out there next to Oliver as I do in Oliver himself.
“If defenses want to focus on him exclusively, we have got to be able to function and get the ball to other guys.”
It’s not clear yet who will be throwing Martin and Lane the ball this season.
All-state quarterback Alex Henderson is gone. Hartwig said two juniors and a sophomore are competing for the starting position, but he didn’t go into specifics.
West’s offensive line should be a strong point with four starters returning. Tackle Alex Kleinow (6-foot-6, 285 pounds) committed to play for Iowa State this summer. He played in only three games last season because of a leg injury.
Hartwig and his staff worked to simplify the blocking scheme on run plays so their players can just play instead of overthinking concepts.
“Where we got beat last year in a lot of instances was just getting out-physicaled by what ended up being some of the best teams in the state,” Hartwig said. “If you don’t win in the trenches in Iowa, you’re not going to win much.”
West isn’t making any excuses for last year’s record. Martin and the Trojans are ready to start a fresh chapter in 2016.
“I want to help my team go as far as we can into the playoffs,” Martin said. “We want to make it the Dome.”
IOWA CITY WEST AT A GLANCE
• Coach: Garrett Hartwig (3rd year, 11-12)
• Last year: 4-7, lost in second round of playoffs
• Top returning letterwinners: WR/DB Oliver Martin, OL/DL Alex Kleinow, LB Max Brown, WR Devontae Lane, OL Coy Blair, OL Josh Van Roekel
• Key losses: QB Alex Henderson, RB Yeshuwa Hicks, WR/DB Bryson Adcock, DE/TE Donovan Doyle, LB/FB Mason Koch
• Key to making the playoffs: West has the playmakers it needs, but improved line play and development of a first-year starting QB will be critical.
• Games to watch: The Trojans travel to Cedar Rapids Kennedy on Oct. 7 in a matchup between two favorites for the District 8 title.