No. 43 . . . Jay Scheel arrived in Iowa City after a stellar prep career that included a Class 3A state championship at Union High School. At some point during that run, he suffered a knee injury. That wasn’t operated on until he arrived in Iowa City. The 6-1, 195-pounder probably looked at a redshirt for 2014. The summer knee surgery assured that. He wasn’t able to return to the practice field until November.
This spring, wide receiver coach Bobby Kennedy said the knee wasn’t yet 100 percent.
“I think he’s moving in that direction. I think it’s a gradual process,” Kennedy said. “I think when you’re dealing with a kid’s body, I think really only they know if they’re a hundred percent. But the thing that I’ve been impressed about with Jay Scheel is once again, his willingness to fight through things, and he’s getting better this spring. He’s showing flashes of what we saw in high school, but by no means would I say is he — he’s just not totally fluid yet.”
Despite that, Scheel did some things in the spring game. Lining up with the second-team offense, he caught two passes for 23 yards and looked like he had some speed and fluidity.
Opportunity . . . There’s that word again. It’s certainly out there for the redshirt freshman, depending on his health.
You saw Iowa’s pass protection in 1s vs. 1s in the spring game. Senior defensive end Drew Ott ran over sophomore left tackle Boone Myers. Sophomore right tackle Ike Boettger fared better against senior DE Nate Meier than he did during the Des Moines open practice. Will Iowa’s OL see premium pass rushers in 2015? Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota? Maybe.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard’s quick release is going to be a chunk of Iowa’s pass protection. You can’t sack a QB who doesn’t have the ball. For that to trigger, Iowa’s wide receivers (and tight ends and running backs) will need to be along for the ride.
There are 11 wide receivers who should figure into this. Where does Scheel rank? Maybe No. 6, depending on how the incoming freshmen acclimate.
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Can Scheel find his athleticism? . . . Scheel drove Union to a state championship as a sophomore quarterback. In a 42-28 victory over ADM in the semifinals, Scheel rushed 10 times for 117 yards, including an 82-ard TD. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 234 yards and three TDs, which included connections of 62, 57 and 70. His recruiting was basically over at that point. Offers from Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa State came. He quickly picked Iowa and it was a done deal.
“Jay became a phenom in our office about three years ago, I think it was his sophomore year,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said on signing day 2014. “I think it was a game on TV and our guys had a game on film there. All of a sudden he became a legend in an hour. The guys are in the back there and pretty soon everybody’s peaking at that tape, so we’ve known about Jay for quite a while.”
That tape was from the 2011 football season. Scheel put up respectable numbers as a junior and senior, but maybe the rushing totals showed the knee injury. During his junior year, Scheel rushed for 1,291 yards. As a senior, that number fell to 493. Teams certainly change and that very well could be a part of it, too, but he did have the knee fixed almost immediately after arriving in Iowa City.
Outlook . . . Health will have a saw in Scheel’s redshirt freshman season. Also, he played QB at Union. How fine tuned have his WR skills become after spending much of last season getting his knee right? This is why he’s No. 43 with plenty of room to rise.
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