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Croot Loops - Wide receivers

Three receivers signed with Iowa, three different skill sets

WR Jerminic Smith
WR Jerminic Smith
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Iowa has signed around six receivers the last two years, but there has been some attrition (most notably, Derrick Willies) and so Iowa remained in the market for wide receivers in the 2015 class.

The Iowa staff tapped the southern states for all three. The 2015 class is heavily invested in scrimmage players, with five offensive linemen, four defensive linemen and four linebackers, but don’t dismiss the wide receivers.

WR Emmanuel Ogwo

It’s a group that could really add something to the ‘15 class.

If there’s one player who seems poised to shed his two-star status rather quickly in this class, it’s probably Adrian Falconer.

The 6-1, 180-pounder had 16 FBS offers. Yes, the biggest were Iowa and Indiana, but others included Cincinnati, Marshall and Memphis. Falconer was a player in demand after 53 catches for 951 yards and seven TDs as a senior at Leesburg (Fla.) High School. He was Leesburg’s team captain and also had 33 tackles, one interception and a forced fumble on defense.

According to the Orlando Sentinel: “Falconer is gifted in traffic and has great ball skills with the ability to adjust in the air. He has also shown a knack for keeping his route alive when the quarterback gets in trouble.”

Falconer also was listed No. 33 in the Sentinel’s 2015 Central Florida Super60. Falconer committed to the Hawkeyes in June.

Rivals: 2 stars Scout: 2 stars 247Sports: 3 stars Composite: 2.33

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Depth chart in 2015?: Possibly. The answer is going to be “possibly” for all of the wide receiver prospects. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s not a developmental position and either you have it or you don’t, for the most part. (Iowa has developed receivers, with Marvin McNutt being the prime example, but it’s not a long list.) Falconer has a toughness factor, and he did a lot for his prep team. He might be your Dominique Douglas candidate (the good things about DD, now, not that way it ended).

Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: Matt VandeBerg

The compare here is body type. Like Matt VandeBerg, Falconer is wiry, but much tougher and a more physical player than he looks like. His highlight tape showed a willingness go cut over the middle and work the middle of the field. If Iowa ever gets into rhythm in the quick passing game, VandeBerg will do damage there, and Falconer certainly showed a feel for the screen game in his highlights.

More than anything, the compare here is body type. VandeBerg and Falconer seem to have similar skill sets and speed.

Iowa recruiting coordinator Seth Wallace: “I would disagree with you. I know it’s been said in the past that Florida is an area we’ve dropped out of. [Running backs coach] Chris White has some ties down there with this brother being at Florida. We’ve obviously got some connections down there. Adrian is someone, to be honest with you, who paid out of his own pocket, he and his mother, to come up here during the summer. We’ve found the recruiting calendar is moving faster and faster and decisions will be made earlier, but he did make the effort to come up here when we certainly couldn’t pay for it. It showed us, at that point and time, that he had some investment in us. He’s a fast kid, tough, physical and he made the effort to be here in the summer and that showed us something.”

My take: Love the way he works in traffic. Seems to track the ball well and has soft hands. He also adjusted to the ball nicely. He showed toughness on the screens, waiting patiently and then cutting where he needed to cut. Seems to run effortlessly, but not overly fast. Falconer seems like a good bet, especially as he builds his frame in a college weightroom.

Emmanuel Ogwo is on the smallish side, listed at 6-0, 170, but he’s also listed on the fast-ish side. He took his junior football season off at Horn High School (Mequite, Texas) to prepare for track and that move paid off. Ogwo finished fourth at the Texas state Class 6A track meet last May, running the 400 in 47.62 seconds. (He also was Junior Olympic USATF national 400-meter champion in 2012.)

He missed football and decided to rejoin the team for his senior year. He finished the season with 35 receptions for 501 yards and four TDs. He also rushed four times for 42 yards and returned eight kickoffs for 240 yards.

In July, Ogwo committed to the Hawkeyes, who offered after seeing him in spring practice. “Even though I’m committed, they still treat me the same as before and show me a lot of love. They’re still sending me like 20 mail packages a week,” Ogwo told HawkeyeReport.com. “They’ve told me they’re lacking speed right now, so they’re excited to get me there.”

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Rivals: 3 stars Scout: 2 stars 247Sports: 3 stars Composite: 2.66

Depth chart in 2015?: Again, possibly. Ogwo is probably more of a weightroom and field project than Falconer. He did sit out his junior year. Plus, when a player is listed at 170 pounds, it’s probably more like 160 or so. It will take some time to build the player. Ogwo’s best bet is his wheels if he sees the field this year. Iowa has been cautious, as you know, in the return game. It hasn’t used the smaller flyer-type players (Damond Powell, for instance). Ogwo is probably looking at a redshirt year, unless Iowa really, really needs his speed. And you can never count that out.

Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: Damond Powell

Ogwo has explosive speed, a la Powell. Owgo might be faster. Track speed doesn’t lie. It comes with electronic time keeping, medal stands and dudes with clipboards keeping track. Ogwo’s speed is a matter of record. Like Powell, it will take some time to help this show up on the field. And, yes, you can certainly argue that it never really happened for Powell at Iowa. Iowa had a speed weapon on its hands, but Powell was seemingly locked into two plays, the wide screen and deep pass. Why was he limited to that? It falls on both sides. This is the discovery phase of Ogwo’s football knowledge and technique. Let’s see how it goes.

Iowa recruiting coordinator Seth Wallace: “He’s definitely a wide receiver. We think he has huge upside. He didn’t play his junior year. He played as a senior and was very productive his senior year. He’s fast, he has national speed. In terms of track, there’s some stuff he did nationally last summer. We were nervous some bigger schools track-wise would come after him. He’s fast. There’s an upside there that we’re excited about.”

My take: Ogwo had some other interesting offers. He picked the Hawkeyes over Rutgers, UNLV and Louisiana-Monroe. His highlights are all deep passes and one kick return. That’s kind of exactly what Iowa needs. He made plays on the ball at top speed and he didn’t give up on passes along the sideline. There is one play that shows him making an out cut after seeing defenders cushion off. That’s one thing he’ll definitely be asked to do at Iowa. But yes, speed. Iowa needs that, needs it now. Maybe Ogwo has a better chance for PT in ‘15 than I gave him.

Jerminic Smith’s recruitment was kind of a white-knuckle ride for Iowa. When Smith committed, he told HawkeyeReport.com: “I actually committed yesterday, but I’m still open for other offers and visits because you never know who is watching you.”

OK, there was that. Smith (6-1, 180) also pined on Twitter for offers from Texas schools, which is understandable with him being from Garland, Texas. Smith did have offers from Texas Tech, TCU, SMU and North Texas State, but he didn’t pull the trigger. He committed to Iowa in November and eventually signed with the Hawkeyes. Iowa State and Minnesota also offered.

South Garland coach Mark Cox told HR.com: “A young man with a good, strong work ethic, who shows up each week prepared. He is a student of the game, runs good routes, has a really good set of hands and really just puts in the extra time with film study. He is in every Saturday to see what he did the week before, looks for things he can improve on and then looks ahead to our upcoming opponent to see if there are any weaknesses that he can exploit.”

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Smith, who played basketball for South Garland and plans to run the 200 meters in track, set the school receiving record as a senior, piling up 1,207 yards and 13 TDs on 76 receptions.

Rivals: 3 stars Scout: 3 stars 247Sports: 3 stars Composite: 3.00

Depth chart in 2015?: Smith might be the closest to ready of the three WR commits. He’s more experienced and a well-rounded wide receiver. He’s also listed at 6-1, 180, so he might also be the most physically ready. Whether any true freshmen wide receiver plays probably depends how much Iowa gets out of sophomores Derrick Mitchell Jr. and Andre Harris. Iowa’s receiving core was set pretty much in spring. It changed somewhat when Willies, left but walk-on Andrew Stone rose to the occasion and appears to have hooked into the depth chart. Mitchell and Johnson are up, and it will be up to them to fight off challenges from true freshmen.

Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: Tevaun Smith

Smith shares some of the same skills as Smith: He goes and gets the ball. He can make defenders miss. He catches the ball well in traffic and has decent body control. Just off the highlights, he looks as if he can play now.

Iowa recruiting coordinator Seth Wallace: “He’s a true wide receiver, not that the other two aren’t. Ogwo has national speed. Falconer is just a hard-nosed, tough wide receiver. Jerminic is more of a true wide receiver. We had to fight like hell for him. There were a lot of schools that had interest in him late. Great route runner, he’s got good size.”

My take: Smith is refined. If you watch his highlights, it’s almost as if he’s going through a checklist as he’s catching a ball. First on the list is high-pointing. He goes and gets it. He secures the ball and he sets his feet for a good first cut. He has soft hands and smooth body control. Another point, he didn’t give defensive backs any help. Smith didn’t move on the ball to tip off trailing defenders. He waited to pluck it until the last second. He’s an extremely refined receiver. Wouldn’t be shocked to see him next season.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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