Hawkeye football receivers and running backs build experience heading into Week 1

With game day Saturday getting even closer, Iowa football has gained experience at running back and wide receiver, while changing things up on the defensive line.

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Hawkeye football receivers and running backs build experience heading into Week 1

Iowa football wide receiver Nick Easley speaks to members of the media during media availability at the Hansen Football Performance Center on Tuesday, August 28, 2018. The Hawkeyes begin their season on Saturday, September 1, against Northern Illinois, at Kinnick Stadium. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa football wide receiver Nick Easley speaks to members of the media during media availability at the Hansen Football Performance Center on Tuesday, August 28, 2018. The Hawkeyes begin their season on Saturday, September 1, against Northern Illinois, at Kinnick Stadium. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Lily Smith

Iowa football wide receiver Nick Easley speaks to members of the media during media availability at the Hansen Football Performance Center on Tuesday, August 28, 2018. The Hawkeyes begin their season on Saturday, September 1, against Northern Illinois, at Kinnick Stadium. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Lily Smith

Lily Smith

Iowa football wide receiver Nick Easley speaks to members of the media during media availability at the Hansen Football Performance Center on Tuesday, August 28, 2018. The Hawkeyes begin their season on Saturday, September 1, against Northern Illinois, at Kinnick Stadium. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

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Iowa is in a completely different place offensively heading into its season-opener against Northern Illinois than it was last year.

Quarterback Nate Stanley is coming off an impressive near-record-tying first season, while his targets are entering the new season with another year of experience under their belts.

Wide receiver Nick Easley didn’t show his Division-1 inexperience last season; he led the team with 51 receptions for 530 yards, while also scoring 4 touchdowns. His newfound experience gives him the potential to shine even more as Stanley’s security blanket.

The experience gained last year is more important for Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith, as they find themselves on the depth chart, knowing they are going contribute more as sophomores.

Smith-Marsette posted an 18-catch, 187-yard season to go along with 2 touchdowns, including the game-winner in a thrilling 44-41 win over Iowa State in Week 2.

Smith, on the other hand, was used less often, catching 3 passes for 15 yards, and he fumbled on one of his touches.

“I think everyone’s more comfortable,” Easley said. “We’ve been in this system for a year. We’ve got guys, Brandon and Ihmir, who have phenomenal athletic ability, and size, and speed. I think we can do a lot more things. We’re a little more versatile than maybe we were last year. I think we’re moving in the right direction as a room and as a team.”

Brincks developing on the inside

With defensive tackle Cedrick Lattimore suspended for Week 1 against the Huskies, Sam Brincks saw his name listed as a starter at the left tackle on the defensive line.

Listed as a defensive end originally, Brincks made 19 stops in 2017, with one going for a loss, and a pass breakup.

Brincks, who came to Iowa as a walk-on, has been playing both inside and out on the line for a while now. He played offensive tackle and defensive end at Kuemper Catholic in Carroll, Iowa, so the shift inside hasn’t come with many challenges for the senior.

“I think it’s kind of a normal transition,” Brincks said. “As a defensive lineman, a lot of the fundamentals translate, whether you’re at end or at tackle, so it’s been pretty smooth. I’ve had all camp to adjust, so I don’t think it’s going to be too big of a problem.”

Kelly-Martin leads running-back group

Akrum Wadley is gone, trying to stick on the Tennessee Titans’ roster, leaving a backfield at Iowa with one career start and a combined 65 career carries.

Luckily for the Hawkeyes, Ivory Kelly-Martin and Toren Young gained a shred of experience last season, while Mekhi Sargent showed potential at Iowa ekstern.

It looked like Young would be the No. 1 running back going into the first week, but offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said Kelly-Martin took over the job on Aug. 21., reminding the backs that the depth chart can constantly change.

Although listed as the No. 1 back, head coach Kirk Ferentz played it carefully in calling him the starter, saying he is comfortable with all three in the backfield.

Kelly-Martin said he moved on from the news and focused on the first game right after he was told.

With a year under his belt, Kelly-Martin is seeing the benefits, and they will keep him working.

“Definitely just having some experience and knowing, after going through a year, how fast your role can change on the football field,” Kelly-Martin said about how playing as a true freshman helped him take the news.

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