Iowa’s offense finds ways to replace Smith

The Hawkeyes will need to seamlessly replace one of their top receivers before Saturday’s game against Northwestern.


Katina Zentz

Iowa wide receiver Brandon Smith catches a touchdown pass during the Iowa football game against Penn State in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. The Nittany Lions defeated the Hawkeyes 17-12.

Anna Kayser, Sports Editor

After Brandon Smith’s fourth-quarter injury against Purdue Oct. 19 and the official word that he would be out for multiple weeks, Iowa’s offense is pegged with one question: how can it replace one of its top receivers?

On the two-deep depth chart, wide receiver Tyrone Tracy is in to replace Smith with redshirt freshman Calvin Lockett backing him up. Smith had a career day against Purdue, racking up 106 receiving yards on nine catches. Now, the Hawkeyes need to replace that production.

“We got a good group of receivers — certainly better than we did two years ago, even a year ago,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Just spreads it around a little bit more, a little bit more opportunity for the other players. It’s part of football. Everybody absorbing part of that loss.”

An absence of Oliver Martin from the depth chart is notable, especially with the loss of Smith.

Martin appeared in Iowa’s first six games with five receptions for 28 yards, scoring a touchdown in the season-opener against Miami (Ohio). Lockett, on the other hand, has not caught a pass in his career.

“[Martin] works extremely hard in practice; he’s been doing a great job and focusing on the details of running routes,” quarterback Nate Stanley said. “And then, too, he’s doing a good job when he has to get in there and block in the running game.”

As for Stanley’s other options, Ihmir Smith-Marsette leads the team with an average of 63.3 yards per game, ahead of Smith’s 58.1. He has less touchdowns — three compared to Smith’s four — but Smith-Marsette provides an option to receive more looks.

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Backing up Smith-Marsette is Nico Ragaini, who has 30 catches on the season for 280 yards. Tracy averages 14.5 yards per catch and has one touchdown on the season.

“They’ve been doing a great job,” Stanley said. “They’ve been producing on the field for us. [I’m] just looking for them to continue with the same production that they have been.”

Another option for the Hawkeyes is to use it’s running backs in the passing game, something it did a lot of to open up the season but didn’t utilize against Purdue.

Against Penn State, the running backs had two receptions for a total of 19 yards. Against Michigan, freshman Tyler Goodson led all receivers with 62 yards on five receptions and combined with Mekhi Sargent for seven of Iowa’s 23 catches and 83 of its 260 receiving yards.

“I think coach Brian [Ferentz] does a really good job game planning,” Sargent said. “Whatever play he calls, we just go with the flow, execute to the best of our ability.”

If Iowa’s running game can produce more than it has in the past three weeks, it will take the pressure off the receiving game.

“We’re just sticking with the game plan,” Sargent said. “It’s good it gives younger guys a chance to make plays, and there’s opportunity out there.”

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