Iowa wide receiver Keenan Davis was surrounded by media on Monday, which is to be expected. He might be the most talented returning receiver in the conference and with Marvin McNutt now property of the Philadelphia Eagles, Davis is going to be a big target for opposing defenses as well as Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg.
That said, Kevonte Martin-Manley will have a chance to carve out his own name this season. He had 30 receptions for 323 yards last season as well as three touchdowns, but none of those TD grabs came after Iowa’s home game against Pittsburgh. He has just 15 receptions in seven Big Ten games (he did not play against Indiana) and caught just one pass in five league games.
It’s not easy to stand out when McNutt and Davis are the primary targets, so this isn’t a criticism of the sophomore. Davis had 50 grabs for 713 yards and four scores while McNutt had 82 grabs for 1,315 yards and 12 scores.
But look back to McNutt’s redshirt sophomore season, his first as a full time receiver and you’ll find he caught 34 passes, just four more than KMM. But McNutt had 8 TD’s and a per grab average near 20 yards. Davis had 11 catches during his second year at Iowa and one touchdown and just four grabs as a true freshman.
I don’t think it’s any kind of stretch to expect KMM to haul in 50 or more grabs this season. If he does that, he will be well on his way to a decorated career in Iowa City (the record for career receptions is 173).
First things first; the 2012 season where he’ll catch passes from a gunslinger and one where he may not draw the best cornerback the defense has to offer. That player will likely be shading Davis, which means KMM will have every chance to have a break out season.
The expectations are there and are neccessary; he needs to step up and make the consistent plays to help the offense move the chains. The same can be said of Davis, who has struggled with the mundane more than the spectacular in his career.
Below is a Q&A with KMM and you’ll read yet another player talking about how ‘easy’ it has been to assimilate Greg Davis’ new offensive scheme and terminology.
Q: What will be the biggest differences fans see out of you this year versus last year? Are things going to come more naturally with more time in program?
Kevonte Martin-Manley: You want to progress as a player. It’s a new year and hopefully I can make more plays and I have a bigger role, being a starter. Hopefully I can make more plays and become a leader on the team.
Q: How do you think it will feel playing with expectations, because there will be expectations for you this season?
Martin-Manley: I love it. I allow it to drive me. I don’t allow it to set me back. I use it for motivation so I can help my team and perform better personally.
Q: What are some things fans might notice when they see the offense this year versus last year?
Martin-Manley: Honestly, it won’t be different to the fans but for us as players, we have more freedom. Like for receivers, we have more options in our route running.
Q: So is it more you reading the defensive scheme and making a route read based on what you see and hoping Vandenberg makes the same presnap read?
Martin-Manley: We work on it. We do presnap reads and things like that, we communicate with the quarterback. That is the biggest difference.
Q: Is that fun?
Martin-Manley: Definitely. It’s like backyard football sometimes. Some plays we have more freedom and we really enjoy it.
Q: Is the system easier to process?
Martin-Manley: Yes it is. It’s based on numbers for us. We pick it up pretty well and quickly.
Q: Does it allow offense to operate at a higher tempo?
Martin-Manley: Not really. A play is called in the huddle, we process it and go out and run that play.