May 1, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Over the last two years, the University of Iowa football team has graduated a pair of wide receivers that combined to post 179 receptions, 2,599 yards and 17 touchdowns. Sophomore Jacob Hillyer looks to replace part of that production.
Hillyer, a sophomore from Sommerset, Texas, started the April 27 Spring Scrimmage, presented by Coke Zero. He finished with four catches for 38 yards, including the first three receptions with the first unit on the initial drive.
Iowa's passing game in 2012 generated 2,249 yards and seven touchdowns. Keenan Davis, who signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns, accounted for 47 catches for 571 yards with one touchdown. Davis' departure opens the door for more playing time for young receivers like Hillyer.
Hillyer played in all 12 games last season, mainly on special teams, where he recorded three tackles and had one reception for 15 yards. Hillyer, who is listed as a second receiver at one of the wide-out spots on the spring two-deep, is ready to make a jump.
"I feel like my knowledge of the offense has really improved. By knowing more than one position, I believe that makes me a valuable asset to our offense."
UI sophomore wide receiver Jacob Hillyer
"I feel like my knowledge of the offense has really improved," he said. "By knowing more than one position, I believe that makes me a valuable asset to our offense."
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Hillyer says that spring practices have helped the quarterbacks and receivers work on their timing, while also gaining knowledge of the system.
"We have seen improvement," said Hillyer. "In the beginning we weren't hitting that much, no deep routes, but as we progressed, coach said that we hit almost double the deep routes as we did last year. That's a lot better sign."
With three quarterbacks in the rotation, Hillyer said he doesn't see much differentiating them right now.
"We don't skip a beat when one is in there or the other," Hillyer said. "All three guys are battling hard. Having the quarterback battle helps us out. I'm excited to see what transpires with that position."
One of the quarterbacks, Jake Rudock, has been impressed with the play of Hillyer this spring.
"(Jake) had a really good spring," said Rudock. "He has been working hard and helping the young guys. He has come a long way."
Just because spring practice is complete doesn't mean the path to self-improvement is over. Hillyer says the receivers are hungry as a unit, and this summer's strength and conditioning program will be as important as ever.
"That's going to be a major part of the program," he said. "We're going to have to hit it hard, improve in all areas -- strength and speed -- and get better for next year."
The Hawkeyes open the 2013 season Aug. 31, hosting Northern Illinois inside Kinnick Stadium.