March 22, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The first spring football practice had ended minutes earlier inside Kinnick Stadium when senior wide receiver Keenan Davis was asked about the youthful Hawkeye receiver corps.
Everyone who follows college football knows that glue-fingered, record-setting Marvin McNutt, Jr., is a month away from becoming a professional. He caught 82 passes for 1,315 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, and it would be foolish to think his absence won't be felt.
But Davis was more than an adequate complement to McNutt during Iowa's run to a second consecutive Insight Bowl berth last season when Davis was on the receiving end of 50 passes for 713 yards and four touchdowns. His 14.3-yard per catch was second-highest on the team to McNutt's 16.0 average. Davis caught five passes for 76 yards and a long of 21 in the postseason against Oklahoma.
"Tay (sophomore wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley) and I have to assume the leadership role now, since we're the oldest guys who have been playing" Davis said. "It's not even about age. I accept the leadership role and it's important that you pick up the younger guys quickly because they're all competing right now. They're working with you so they can get better."
In Martin-Manley's redshirt freshman season, he hauled in 30 passes for 323 yards (10.8) and three scores. Martin-Manley is penciled in as the starting split end during the spring, and his backup is redshirt freshman Jacob Hillyer. Davis is being pushed at wide receiver by junior Don Shumpert.
"We have a lot of young talent," Davis said. "Me and Tay and Hillyer and Cotton are starting to shell out. All those guys are starting to show what they have -- Shump -- even the guys that are were on the scout team are starting to build on their skills and that's a good thing."
Davis called Wednesday's first practice "a good start" and he said they will keep building by watching film. One thing is certain: there is no shortage of enthusiasm for Davis and the others in his group.
"I love that guy already," Davis said of new offensive coordinator Greg Davis. "He's a really energetic guy, I think that's why everybody is learning pretty fast right now. We see his excitement and we build off that. I'm feeling excited about the whole season and I hope spring ball goes well."
The Hawkeyes have 14 more practices this spring, with an open practice Saturday, April 14, inside Kinnick Stadium.