Point/Counterpoint: Who will lead Iowa in receiving yards this season?
Two DI staffers debate which Hawkeye will lead Iowa’s passing attack in 2020.
October 21, 2020
Ihmir Smith-Marsette is the Hawkeyes’ No. 1 threat in the passing game – there is no disputing that. Smith-Marsette was Iowa’s most explosive wide receiver last year, so he’s earned the right to be Iowa’s top dog in the passing attack.
While being the king of the hill does have its perks, it also has its downfalls. Last season, Smith-Marsette likely snuck up on some teams. Before 2019, Iowa’s wide receivers weren’t a heralded group respected throughout the Big Ten. The crew earned that distinction via excellent play last season.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette also garnered a great deal of respect from his explosive production last season. Unfortunately, more attention usually doesn’t equate to more success.
Defenses may start game-planning to contain Smith-Marsette this season. When Iowa runs into teams with excellent defenses like Penn State and Wisconsin, Smith-Marsette may be utterly neutralized.
So, who will sophomore quarterback and first-time starter Spencer Petras go to when Smith-Marsette is locked up by double-team or otherwise? He’ll got to the ultimate quarterback safety blanket – the tight end.
Sam LaPorta only corralled 15 passes for 118 yards total across twelve games of action last year. However, he proved that he can make big catches in high-pressure situations. LaPorta’s first career reception went for 43 yards against Northwestern. He also caught a pass from bygone quarterback Nate Stanley to set up Keith Duncan’s game-winning field goal at Nebraska. In the Holiday Bowl versus USC, LaPorta caught a career-high six passes for 44 yards.
Since then, LaPorta has been named to the John Mackey Award Preseason Watch List. With inexperience at quarterback and momentum from last season, LaPorta will be the Hawkeyes’ receiving-yards leader in 2020.
Senior Ihmir Smith-Marsette led Iowa in receiving yards last season, and there are many reasons to believe he will do that again in 2020.
Smith-Marsette had 722 receiving yards because he was consistent throughout last season, even when things looked rough for Iowa.
When Iowa played at Michigan, Smith-Marsette had four catches for 60 yards – a tremendous effort considering Iowa scored only three points in the game. At home versus Penn State, Iowa only scored 12 points. Despite that, Smith-Marsette had five catches for 72 yards.
In games where Iowa had a weaker opponent, Smith-Marsette typically put up similar numbers. That will be key this season with all opponents being from the Big Ten and no weeks off scheduled.
Smith-Marsette did have some explosive games last year. In the second game of the season, Smith-Marsette had 113 yards and two TDs against Rutgers. His longest catch of the season came that day at 58 yards.
The final home game of the season was where Smith-Marsette shined the most in receiving yards, as he had four receptions for 121 yards. During his outstanding Holiday Bowl performance against USC, he had two receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown.
I expect Smith-Marsette to be active in the receiving, kickoff return, and rushing games this season.
When he lines up at receiver, it’s likely Smith-Marsette will be double-teamed. Despite that, I think sophomore quarterback Spencer Petras – who’s in his first year as a starter – will find Smith-Marsette multiple times a game for big yards.
Though sophomore Tyrone Tracy and senior Brandon Smith will get the ball plenty of times, Smith-Marsette will be the number one target for Petras in 2020.