Charlie Jones ready for expanded role with Iowa football

The senior will see more playing time as a receiver this season while also returning punts for the Hawkeyes.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa wide receiver and punt returner Charlie Jones holds a water bottle during Iowa football media day at Iowa football’s practice field on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. (Jerod Ringwald/The Daily Iowan)

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

While Charlie Jones’ speed as a punt returner for the Hawkeyes last season turned heads both literally and figuratively, the Buffalo transfer who played pivotal roles for the Bulls’ special teams and receiving core, did not catch a single pass in his first season at Iowa.

That will change soon.

Although Jones will continue to return punts this year, and was named a preseason All-Big-Ten selection as a return man, the Deerfield, Illinois, native will see more offensive snaps this year. Jones will see an expanded role in a receiver room that lost both Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette to the NFL after last season.

Jones reeled in 18 reception for 395 yards, including three touchdowns, playing in all 12 games during his only year at Buffalo.

Jones is ready to be a pass-catcher again this year and said he has always prepared like a receiver.

“I don’t think my preparation has really changed,” Jones said Friday at Iowa football media day. “I pride myself as someone that works really hard and the past couple years I haven’t really been out there as a receiver so I’m just really excited to be out there.”

Jones watched Smith and Smith-Marsette last season, anticipating more offensive snaps when they moved on from the program.

“I learned a lot from those guys last year, the veteran guys, we still have some vets in that room that I’m learning every day from,” Jones said. “I’m just excited to expand that role and help out the team as much as I possibly can.”

Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz stressed Jones’ versatility as a receiver, noting that the senior can play multiple positions and create problems for opposing defenses.

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“Charlie has dynamic speed,” Brian Ferentz said. “When you have a receiver that has dynamic speed, he is an extremely valuable and versatile weapon. And that’s what’s probably most exciting. We’ve seen him do that, we’ve seen him make plays with the ball in his hands on Saturday as a returner. We’ve been watching him for three years in practice run by people.

“I think the biggest thing for him is versatility,” Brian continued. “He’s now a third year guy in our system, he’s learning how to play more than just one or two positions. What that does is allows you to use him in more personnel groups and get him involved just a little bit more in the offense without having to scheme things up.”

Both times Jones touched the ball on offense last season were on end-around running plays, similar to how the Hawkeyes would get the ball to Smith-Marsette out of the backfield from time to time.

Jones is currently listed among Iowa’s second-team wide receivers on the team’s preseason depth chart, behind Tyrone Tracy Jr. and Nico Ragaini.

“I think Jones’ skill set, if you had to translate to a role someone’s played in our offense the last couple years would be Ihmir,” Brian Ferentz said. “He’s got that kind of speed, he can take the top off the defense. If you’re not using that you’re crazy because the field is 53 1/3 yards wide, 100 minus 30, it’s 70, 80 yards long. And Charlie can thread that whole thing. Not many guys can actually do that.”

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