It’s time to take a look back at the Iowa passing offense in 2011 as it relates to the receivers, or those who caught passes for the Hawks this year. First lets take a look at the basic numbers:
These numbers tell you about you would have guessed: Marvin McNutt was far and away Iowa’s statistical leader in every significant receiving category. McNutt accounted for more than half of the team’s total TD receptions, 36% of all receptions and 45% of all receiving yards. Among the Tight Ends, C.J. Fiedorowicz tops all statistical categories despite not seeing any targets in five out of the twelve games.
While the overall numbers are good, they don’t tell the full story. Next, let’s take a look at how many targets each WR and TE received, along with Marcus Coker:
*Success % formula: (Catches+Flags drawn)/Total Targets
McNutt saw the most targets and still posted a pretty reasonable success percentage despite the increased workload. Keenan Davis’s success percentage is a little lower than you might expect and Kevonte Martin-Manley’s percentage rivals that of McNutt, but Martin-Manley only had about 40% of the targets. CJF posted a pretty impressive percentage of a very limited number of targets. Generally speaking, TEs are higher percentage targets due to generally running shorter routes, but 80+% is an outstanding success rate. The other two tight ends struggled to get consistent separation on their routes and it shows in their success percentage.
Below is a game by game tracking of targets for the WRs:
Graphing these results game by game gives you a little better idea of how each player’s season went. As the overall numbers indicate, McNutt steadily saw the most targets each week but Keenan Davis’s targets dropped off quite a bit in the middle of the season, even before his ankle injury kept him out of the Minnesota game. The same goes for KMM who peaked during the LA-Monroe game before settling in at a pretty low number of targets as the season came to a close.
The most disappointing number to me is that Staggs only got 4 targets all season. He caught all 4 targets and 3 were against a quality opponent, Michigan State. It definitely seems he could be have been used more often to give the starters a rest and give the defense another look to defend. Overall, it’s a bit concerning that only 3 WRs saw substantial targets and it really makes Iowa easier to prepare for when teams don’t have to worry about defending any sub-package personnel.
Next lets look at the TE/RB targets by game:
Outside of the 3 main WRs, Marcus Coker was the most targeted player. The tight-end group saw their targets really drop toward the middle of the season and in the Northwestern game not only did they not have catch, they didn’t have a single target. Towards the end the season, CJF started to emerge as the most consistent of the tight-ends and he steadily become a bigger part of the offense. Derby was effective at times, especially in the no huddle spread looks and showed the ability to get some separation and make some plays. He wasn’t as effective as an in-line tight-end and at times struggled to get a clean release. Brad Herman had a few bright spots and big catches during the season but struggled to be a consistently effective weapon.
Next up is an area that plagued Iowa all year: Dropped passes
*TCP = Total Catchable passes
The above ‘Drop %’ category is the number of drops divided by total targets. As a team, Iowa dropped 31 passes (several players have been omitted from the above list). That number is alarmingly high and yields an average of about 2.5 drops per game. As far as individual numbers go McNutt and KMM have the best of group for WRs. Dropping almost 10% of passes is still way to high, however. Davis’ drop percentage is a bit higher than you’d like to see for a starter and is an area he’ll need to improve greatly if he wants to have a shot at the next level. Among the tight-ends, CJF has the best numbers and is the leader of that group by a wide margin.
After studying the film and seeing how most of these drops occurred there is no complex underlying reason for the issues with drops. Most of them were just simple problems of trying to run before securing the football or not watching the ball all the way in. Some of the drops came as a result of being in traffic or good defensive plays but far too many of the drops were the uncontested variety.
No matter how you look at the Iowa receiving numbers this year you pretty much reach the same result: Marvin McNutt was consistently effective and everyone else had stretches where they were effective. However, Iowa lacked another consistent threat to help take away some of the pressure from McNutt and it really showed in the last week when Nebraska consistently rolled extra coverage to McNutt. No one else was able to step up and it’s hard to say if it was more on James Vandenberg or the coaching staff. Either way it was painfully obvious that Iowa’s passing game was mostly on McNutt’s shoulders this season.
The good news is that Davis, Martin-Manley and CJF all flashed the kind of ability that leads me to believe they can become more consistent playmakers. The Pitt game was a fine example of the level of play that both KMM and Davis are capable of providing. CJF had great metrics in his limited opportunities this season and clearly has the tools to become a consistent threat and play maker for the offense. The challenge for these three will becoming more consistent in all areas of the game. It will be interesting to see if any of the three step up during the up coming bowl game because they’ll certainly need to step up to fill McNutt’s shoes in 2012.