June 14, 2012
So 30 catches and three touchdowns later, sophomore wideout Kevonte Martin-Manley knows there are no guarantees.
"We're all fighting for positions right now," Martin-Manley said Wednesday at a gathering with media in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. "No one has anything locked, so we're all fighting, and we're all learning, and we're all getting better as a wide receiver group and as a team."
Martin-Manley was third on the Hawkeye receiving chart in 2011 as a redshirt freshman with 30 catches for 323 yards and a long of 25. Only Marvin McNutt, Jr., (82-1,315-12) and Keenan Davis (50-713-4) had more catches, yards and touchdowns. With McNutt in the NFL, Davis and Martin-Manley will be counted on to increase their receiving numbers in 2012.
"I'm going into my third year, so I look around the locker room and I'm a veteran," Martin-Manley said. "I have to step up and step to the plate and I'm ready to do it. I'm doing it for myself as well as for the rest of the team."
Martin-Manely was without a catch during a season-opening 34-7 win against Tennessee Tech on Sept. 3. He then went on a four-week stretch where he hauled in 17 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns. Martin-Manley's two biggest performances (number-wise) were against Louisiana-Monroe (6-82) and Minnesota (5-35), but he will always be remembered for his two touchdown grabs against Pittsburgh.
"I'm going into my third year, so I look around the locker room and I'm a veteran. I have to step up and step to the plate and I'm ready to do it. I'm doing it for myself as well as for the rest of the team."
UI wide receiver
"When it comes to a new offense, you still have a lot to learn," Martin-Manley said. "In spring ball we did pick up on the fundamentals, but we still have to learn more."
And the receivers are developing together, including returning letterwinners Nick Nielsen , Don Shumpert and Steven Staggs. Staggs, a senior, caught five passes for 45 yards last season. Other receivers include John Chelf, Jordan Cotton, Blake Haluska and Jacob Hillyer, along with newcomers Greg Mabin, Tevaun Smith and Cameron Wilson.
"The incoming freshmen are coming in right now and we're showing those guys the ropes and we're making great progress," Martin-Manley said.
With voluntary workouts, there is plenty of free time for the student-athletes. Martin-Manley says that helps team camaraderie.
"We don't have to be here, but everyone treats it like it's mandatory, so that's a big thing," he said. "It's a great time. The guys get together, we go out, we play some golf, we go bowling, so it's a lot of fun in the summer."
Is Martin-Manley also a leader at the lanes?
"Yes I am," he said, flashing his trademark smile.
The Hawkeyes open the season Saturday, Sept. 1, against Northern Illinois in Chicago's Soldier Field. The game will begin at 2:30 p.m. (CT) and will be televised by ESPNU.