Brandon Smith

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

The departures of Noah Fant, T. J. Hockenson, and Nick Easley will certainly leave giant holes in the Hawkeye passing game as Iowa heads into the summer.

Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, they have a few receivers that are brimming with potential to become Nate Stanley’s No. 1 target next season.

First among the receivers most likely to see a boost in production next season is Brandon Smith.

Smith will be a junior, and he is coming off back-to-back seasons in which he has seen action in at least 10 games.

Last year was his best season — he grabbed 28 receptions for 361 yards and 2 touchdowns.

The Stanley to Smith connection seemed to get stronger as the season went on. By the end of the season, Smith was getting more opportunities to make big plays.

He showed off his ability to make those plays in the second game of the season against Iowa State, where, in a game Iowa struggled to find any offense, he hauled in a huge 30-yard reception late that helped Iowa push past its archrival.

Kirk Ferentz knows he has a special player in Smith; several times last season, Ferentz praised him and said with a little more time, he can become a great receiver.

Well, now Smith has two years under his belt and is primed to become one of Stanley’s leading targets. Both of those things should play heavily in his favor this upcoming season, in which he should figure to be one of the most productive players on the offense.