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Iowa football finds what it needs in second transfer portal window
Second transfer portal window had been uneventful for Hawkeyes until former Ohio State WR Kaleb Brown’s commitment
IOWA CITY — As the first transfer portal window was about to begin in December, Kirk Ferentz described it as “kind of exhilarating.”
“Because there is opportunity there,” the Iowa head football coach said.
Iowa has taken advantage of the second wave of portal opportunities this spring with the addition of former Ohio State wide receiver Kaleb Brown.
Brown, who will fill Iowa’s one open scholarship, was a four-star recruit when he chose the Buckeyes over several Power Five programs, including Alabama, Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan and Iowa.
His 247Sports composite rating of 0.9684 is higher than any wide receiver to commit to the Hawkeyes since 2000, according to the prominent recruiting site.
Cedar Rapids Washington’s Keenan Davis, a 2009 signee, had been the highest with a 0.9453 rating, followed by Trey Stross of Avon Lake, Ohio, with a 0.9190 rating in 2005.
How Kaleb Brown fits with the Hawkeyes
As Iowa wrapped up spring practices, Ferentz said wide receiver was “definitely an area that we’ll look at.”
Quarterback Cade McNamara already had two top-tier tight ends to throw to in 2023. Now, he has an option at wide receiver who could be an immediate difference-maker.
Brown received limited playing time as a true freshman in a crowded Ohio State wide receiver room that has produced three first-round picks in the last two years. He appeared in four games — the maximum to use his redshirt year.
Ohio State teammates raved about what Brown had down in practice, though, to the point they did not realize he mostly played running back in high school.
“I would never have thought that with his hands and his route running,” OSU quarterback Devin Brown said, via Cleveland.com. “He’s just so smooth. He’s very natural. He’s really raw, but once he gets a lot more coaching, he’ll be an amazing player.”
In the small sample size visible to the public in Columbus, the 5-foot-10 receiver’s best fit appeared to be in the slot. Brown played 24 offensive snaps as a true freshman, according to Pro Football Focus. Twenty-three of them were in the slot.
Nico Ragaini took about 76 percent of his passing snaps last year in the slot, though, per PFF. In fact, Ragaini was in the slot for more passing plays than the rest of Iowa’s wide receivers combined.
So either Brown or Ragaini will have to play more out wide.
Faced with a similar dilemma last year amid an injury-plagued receiving corps, 5-foot-10 Arland Bruce IV ended up mostly out wide — 68 percent of the time to be exact, per PFF — while Ragaini stayed in the slot.
Offensive play-calling that accentuate receivers’ strengths will be a key as the Hawkeyes try to take advantage of the influx of talent from the transfer portal.
Big-picture look at Iowa’s second transfer portal window
Iowa is reaping the benefits of the second transfer portal window without the losses some schools have suffered.
The second transfer portal window closed on April 30, and none of Iowa’s scholarship players departed the program.
Three walk-ons — Zach Brand, Carter Erickson and Denin Limouris — entered the transfer portal. However, none of them saw game action in 2022.
Offensive lineman Justin Britt also entered the portal this spring, but Iowa already put him on medical scholarship, so his Iowa career was essentially over. He missed much of the 2021 season and the entire 2022 season with an injury.
It’s quite the contrast from some of Iowa’s Big Ten peers. Michigan State, for example, lost its starting quarterback, top wide receiver and starting cornerback all on the same day. Illinois had five departures.
Which Big Ten teams benefit the most from the spring portal activity remains unknown. Players must enter the portal during one of two windows — the second was April 15-30 — but they do not have to commit to a school during that time frame.