Smith-Marsette shows physical growth on practice field

Ihmir Smith-Marsette is now hovering around 184 pounds, but the added weight hasn't taken away his speed, he said.

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Smith-Marsette shows physical growth on practice field

Indiana defensive back Issac James prepares to tackle Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, October 13, 2018. The Hawkeyes beat the Hoosiers 42-16.

Indiana defensive back Issac James prepares to tackle Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, October 13, 2018. The Hawkeyes beat the Hoosiers 42-16.

Katina Zentz

Indiana defensive back Issac James prepares to tackle Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, October 13, 2018. The Hawkeyes beat the Hoosiers 42-16.

Katina Zentz

Katina Zentz

Indiana defensive back Issac James prepares to tackle Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, October 13, 2018. The Hawkeyes beat the Hoosiers 42-16.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

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Ihmir Smith-Marsette hasn’t always filled out his No. 6 Hawkeye jersey with muscle. In fact, he started his journey at Iowa far from doing so.

He began his college football career at 159 pounds, and he fumbled in the first quarter of his first college game against Wyoming on Sept. 2, 2017.

Now at around 184 pounds, Iowa defensive backs are getting introduced to a new Smith-Marsette in practice. One who can hold his own. One who can push off and create separation in a new way.

“I actually do [feel stronger on the field], believe it or not,” Smith-Marsette said. “I’m going out there, and I can feel my physical presence being felt by other players. People tell me that I’m able to push off a little stronger or whatnot.”

The added size doesn’t stop Smith-Marsette from being himself on the field. Actually, it could enable that more.

Smith-Marsette doesn’t talk much trash on the field, but if he racks up three or four catches against a defensive back who has been chirping at him, he’ll let him know.

The Newark, New Jersey, native will also take matters into his own hands on kick returns, and that includes hurdling kickers in an effort to break a big one.

Smith-Marsette said he spent his offseason in the weight room and taking in some “good eats.” Now, he’s ready to experience the change — one he didn’t think would happen as quickly as it did.

“I wouldn’t say I expected it to happen this fast, but I definitely expected to gain some weight coming to college,” Smith-Marsette said. “I mean, being this weight is really cool; I can keep my speed up.

“I still got that quick twitch; I’m still running past people. I got those jets still. I don’t think they’re going to go nowhere unless I get too big, but that’s not my plan.”

Just as Smith-Marsette has taken strides physically, so has the wide receivers as a whole. Smith-Marsette and fellow wideout Brandon Smith both took steps forward in their first seasons as starters.

Despite the departure of Nick Easley at receiver and tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant hearing their names called in the NFL Draft, the new group — which could also include Oliver Martin if he’s eligible — could impress fans and coaches.

“Both Ihmir and Brandon did some really good things last year,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But they’re both, I think, miles ahead of where they were two years ago and certainly ahead of last year.”

Showing the same growth, the wide receivers’ room — consisting of Smith-Marsette, Smith, Tyrone Tracy, Nico Ragaini, and Max Cooper, among others — has played a big role in welcoming Martin to the team.

Although he may not play, Martin has fit in well with the current group, and some of that is thanks to the veterans.

“I would give our guys a lot of credit,” wide-receiver coach Kelton Copeland said. “They brought him in, they told him, ‘We want you to be here. You’re welcome here. You’re going to help us win.’ ”