IOWA CITY — This is not going to be “Fant Gate II.”
You remember last season. T.J. Hockenson got more snaps and targets, sometimes many more snaps and targets, at the tight end position in games for the Iowa Hawkeyes than teammate Noah Fant.
Fant’s family went to social media to express their frustrations. Reporters asked questions about it, and it became a whole big thing.
Hockenson and Fant, of course, went on to become first-round NFL draft picks. All’s well that ends well.
With that in mind, Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz just wasn’t going there Wednesday when a reporter asked a question about wide receiver Oliver Martin’s lack of playing time. The hometown boy and ballyhooed Michigan transfer got in for two plays last Saturday at Iowa State.
“Are you guys not seeing enough production out of the other guys?” Ferentz tersely replied. “I’m being serious. I will tell you right now, I’m not going through that again this year. This guy plays, this guy doesn’t play. If they’re producing, they’re going to be out on the field, and that’s the way it is.”
Another reporter responded by telling Ferentz that Martin’s playing time was the question fans were asking about most. Ferentz still wasn’t biting on the subject.
Only in his reply.
“(Then) you guys can answer it,” he said. “That’s your problem.”
Martin has four catches in three games for 24 yards. That includes a touchdown in the opener against Miami (Ohio).
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Iowa is deeper at the receiver position than it has been in a while, with juniors Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith threats on the outside. They have 11 and nine catches, respectively, and four combined TDs.
Redshirt freshmen Nico Ragaini and Tyrone Tracy have been heavily in the mix as well, primarily in the slot. Ragaini has nine catches and Tracy five with a touchdown.
Iowa coaches consistently have said Martin has been a sponge when it comes to soaking up a new playbook and system. But he officially transferred over the summer and hasn’t had the time to become nearly as comfortable with everything as the four guys above.
Speaking of depth, Iowa has played four guys at running back: Mekhi Sargent, Toren Young, Ivory Kelly-Martin and true freshman Tyler Goodson. They have gotten various amounts of playing time, depending on the game, with Sargent being limited against Iowa State because of a hand injury.
Ferentz said that time share will remain the plan moving forward. Iowa is on a bye week, hosting Middle Tennessee State next Saturday.
“We’re pretty comfortable with all those guys doing various things. They all have strengths. They all have certain things they do particularly well, but the reality is that we trust all four of them,” Ferentz said. “We demonstrated that early in the season in the Miami of Ohio game. It was maybe a two-score game when we had Goodson in there for most of (a) series.”
Ferentz pointed out Kelly-Martin got in only one play against Miami but came back and caught a big and lengthy screen pass the following week against Rutgers and had five carries last week. Young was busy in Iowa’s first two games but not against Iowa State.
Sargent has been most heavily used.
“What that tells you is that we have a very unselfish room right there,” Ferentz said. “And we have four guys that are much more interested in the team winning and the team doing well, than any kind of a personal accomplishment.”
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Defensive coordinator Phil Parker and special teams coach LeVar Woods also spoke to the media Wednesday. Parker was asked about injuries that have ravaged the Iowa secondary, saying he wasn’t a doctor but he hoped to get free safety Kaevon Merriweather back sooner than later.
Cornerbacks Julius Brents and Riley Moss also have not played this season, yet, and Parker was asked if there was a chance the two could end up redshirting if they are not available to play more than the four-game redshirt threshold.
“That’s definitely a possibility,” Parker said. “But the way I try to do it, ‘Hey, let’s get back and start playing and help us win’ ... We can’t think about ‘Hey, is this a possible redshirt?' You know, it will come up if they don’t get back fast enough.”
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