In 2017, Ihmir Smith-Marsette was a 159-pound undersized freshman receiver embarking on his journey of college football. He fumbled in his first game.
That same year, Brandon Smith was a 6-foot-3, 219-pound freshman wide receiver who oozed athletic potential. He finished the season with three catches for 12 yards.
But they’ve gotten older. They’ve improved on the field. They’ve grown off the field.
Fast forward to any picturesque Saturday in Kinnick Stadium, and it’s almost a guarantee that one of them will be making a big play.
Smith and Smith-Marsette closed the regular season as Iowa’s top two receivers with a combined 1,083 yards and eight touchdowns, and behind all the numbers they’ve put up, they’ve served as leaders for the next wideouts in line: Tyrone Tracy and Nico Ragaini.
“We kind of threw them in the water before they really could swim two years ago,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We had to. It was just the situation we were in. And they dealt with that fine. They worked through it and all that, but it’s fun to see them now really learning how to play.”
“They’re having more fun than they’ve ever had, and both of them have tremendous attitudes. They’re good practice players. They have a smile on their face. They enjoy being out there. They’re good with their teammates. And as a coach, you value that as much as you do their production, although I’m not minimizing their production; it’s been pretty good, too.”