April 3, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Newly hired wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy is hoping the meeting room at the Hayden Fry Football Complex imitates the natural grass at the Kenyon Practice Facility.
"I always talk about us being green and growing," Kennedy said. "We still have a lot to learn and techniques that we have to refine. What I see from the wide receiver position thus far is that they're real eager, they come to work every day, and they want to be good. That excites me as a position coach."
Kennedy inherits a mix of youth and experience on the outside. Junior Kevonte Martin-Manley and senior Jordan Cotton return with plenty of game experience, while players like sophomores Tevaun Smith and Jacob Hillyer and senior Don Shumpert are looking for more time on Saturday's.
Kennedy has been impressed with the entire group, as a whole, during the early spring sessions.
"Kevonte has obviously had some success, and he has been a playmaker around here," Kennedy said. "Those other guys are going to have to grow and develop.
The receiving corps had an up-and-down season in 2012 and the new position coach believes part of the inconsistency came from a new offensive system. Kennedy is familiar with the Iowa offense, as he spent seven seasons with current Hawkeye offensive coordinator Greg Davis at the University of Texas.
Kennedy is expecting everyone, receivers included, to have a more productive season in year two of the new system.
"Any time you're in a new offense, there's going to be growing pains, and there's going to be struggles," Kennedy said. "That first spring you kind of got your feet wet, in the season there were growing pains. Now, they don't have to think as much, and they can let their athletic ability take over because they know what's going on in the offense."
The final statistics might have shown a dip in productivity by the receivers last year, but Kennedy saw a lot of positives to build from.
"They (the receivers) got some blame last year," Kennedy said. "Just being a new guy coming in, they were an underappreciated group. I watched them block last year and watched them do some other things. They do some really good things on the perimeter. Now, my job and my charge is to take that to the next step and hopefully they'll become a more productive group."
Kennedy has a simplistic approach when it comes to the environment surrounding his wide receivers; have fun.
"I want us to have fun, and I want us to enjoy what we're doing," Kennedy said. "I want them to come into the room and learn. It can't be a room of fear and intimidation, but really of learning."
The Hawkeye receivers are going to learn quickly that likeability and experience only go so far in the wide receiver room with Kennedy leading the way.
"One thing they'll understand about me is I like all that guys that play for me," Kennedy said. "But I'm not a guy to sit back and play favorites just because I like you. The best guys are going to play. If it's a freshman, if it's a redshirt freshman, those guys coming in are going to have an opportunity."
Growth is the theme for Kennedy and his receivers during spring practice. He wants to see the position improve on talents and mature in the offensive system. Kennedy expects the same of himself.
"I'm just like the players," Kennedy said. "I always want to be green and growing. I don't want to be ripe and rotting and say `this is the only way we're going to do this' because that might not be the best way."
With Kennedy's expertise and leadership, the turf among the Hawkeye receivers will be lush and ready for a cut when the 2013 season rolls around.