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The question here for much of this week: Who will pick up the slack for Iowa at wide receiver now that Matt VandeBerg is out with a broken foot?
Before that, it was how high the Cedar would get. The river was running a bad route, but Cedar Rapids played some great red zone defense.
Anyway, there are a handful of possibilities regarding the football thing. But none come from the three other high school receivers who joined VandeBerg in the Hawkeyes’ 2013 recruiting class.
We know the candidates to fill in the gap for a senior who was averaging one-third of the team’s receptions and receiving yards. Senior Riley McCarron, sophomore Jerminic Smith, sophomore Jay Scheel. Maybe sophomore Ronald Nash or freshman Devonte Young.
But the pool of candidates isn’t as deep as it could have been.
Cameron Wilson, a 2012 signee out of Ohio, left Iowa before playing a game. He transferred to Ohio University’s football team, then left that program.
Derrick Willies was a 2013 recruit out of Rock Island, Ill. He played about a half-season for Iowa in 2014, with four catches and a touchdown. He left the team in midseason and eventually transferred to Texas Tech via a Texas junior college. He has seven catches for 150 yards and two TDs through four games this season for the Red Raiders.
Andre Harris, a 2013 recruit from Kirkwood, Mo., moved on to Eastern Illinois. He has played in all four games this season. He has a 38-yard kickoff return, but no receptions.
A.J. Jones, a 2013 recruit from Dallas, transferred to Stephen F. Austin. He played in nine games in 2014 and one last year, and is no longer with the team. He had one career reception.
Also, 2015 Iowa recruit Emmanuel Ogwo, quit playing football at Iowa in August to devote himself full-time to the Hawkeyes’ track team.
That’s a lot of attrition at one spot. It goes to show that for all the time, money and focus spent on recruiting, sometimes the packaging is prettier than the prize and sometimes the prizes are nice surprises.
ESPN.com had VandeBerg ranked as its 197th top prep receiver in the nation in the recruiting class of 2013. Harris was the No. 80 athlete (“athlete” usually being a receiver/defensive back). The year before, Wilson was the No. 53 receiver.
Meanwhile, the site ranked LeShun Daniels the No. 134 running back and Desmond King the No. 148 athlete, and didn’t rank linebacker Josey Jewell or running back Akrum Wadley at all.
This isn’t a diatribe on the merits of recruiting rankings. Rather, it’s to show how frail this all can be. Had Daniels and Wadley been busts, Iowa would be in a pickle at running back this fall. Instead, it has a tandem that has combined for 143.7 rushing yards per game.
But had the Hawkeyes hit pay dirt with two or three of its four prep receiver recruits of ’13 instead of just VandeBerg, the South Dakotan’s injury wouldn’t have been rued as much as it has been this week.
Speaking of what-ifs, what if Mississippi hadn’t changed coaches during C.J. Beathard’s senior year of high school and Beathard hadn’t de-committed from Ole Miss? Iowa would have a first-year starter at quarterback right now instead of a senior who was second-team All-Big Ten a year ago.
Hey, maybe Smith or Scheel light it up Saturday against Northwestern on their way to glorious careers. Maybe Nash and/or Young emerge from the shadows and give Beathard dazzling new options. Maybe.
Teams with better players and better coaches win most of the games. But this stuff also has some roulette to it, folks.