August 20, 2007

What now at wide receiver?

The question on the minds of Iowa fans today is what does the suspension of Dominique Douglas and Anthony Bowman mean to the Iowa Football team this season? Certainly the loss of the teams leading receiver and a player who appeared in the most recent two deep depth chart leaves a void that needs to be filled. While it is bad news that these players are currently off the roster, the good news is there appears to be plenty of talent behind them.

The news hit hard last night that both Douglas and Bowman had been charged in the theft of a credit card and the use of that card to purchase items totaling over $2,000. Iowa fans had fallen hard for Douglas last season as he led the Hawkeyes with 49 receptions for 654 yards and two touchdowns. He jumped up the depth chart from the first day he arrived and proved he belonged on the field. Bowman was another true freshman who saw playing time right out of the gate, but saw limited playing time after the first game of the season and did not record a catch during the 2006 season. He did see action later in the year as a kickoff returner and have four returns for 76 yards.

Douglas has gotten himself back into the good graces of the coaching staff after a spring where he faced academic hurdles that he needed to climb. In June at an I-Club meeting, Coach Kirk Ferentz said that Douglas had cleared those hurdles and was in good academic standing, including not having to attend summer school.

But, in early May, it is alleged that both Douglas and Bowman made on-line purchases with a stolen credit card and that investigation concluded this past weekend and resulted in their arrests on Sunday. Kirk Ferentz acted swiftly and appropriately by suspending both players indefinately from the team and the sense is that the action is a mere formality before they are dismissed from the squad.

That leaves some holes on the depth chart for the Hawkeyes, but the positive out of all of this is that the wide receiver position is probably the deepest on the team in terms of talent.

Junior Andy Brodell will be counted on even more to continue to step forward and build upon his strong finish to the 2006 season. He holds one of the starting spots and that is even more firm today. The one concern with Brodell is that thoughout his career, he has battled injuries at nearly every turn and staying healthy is even more critical now.

The likely candidate to take over for Douglas based on the depth chart is Trey Stross, who has also had his battles with the injury bug, including sitting out the scrimmage this past Saturday. But, Stross was running comfortably on the side with Coach Chris Doyle and was back in full pads on Monday. The former prep All American showed he can make plays in game situations last year and has a very good chemistry with quarterback Jake Christensen. This could be the opportunity he has been waiting for as a Hawkeye.

James Cleveland was the likely third wide receiver in the Iowa lineup and now he becomes even more critical with the loss of both Douglas and Bowman. Cleveland has been the talk of the summer with his skilled route running and he will get plenty of opportunities this fall after redshirting last season.

The four wideout on the list of probable players for this fall is, of course, Derrell Johnson-Koulianous, the much hyped redshirt freshman who has performed very well in the public scrimmage this spring and again on Saturday. Johnson-Koulianous is a big time athlete and this will open the door to him to see the field much more this year.

One other player who will factor in from a speed perspective is redshirt freshman Paul Chaney, who has sprinters speed on the field. Chaney is small, but his speed makes him a dangerous threat every time he touches the football. At this point, he is probably fifth in line at receiver.

One other player who may have went from probable redshirt to possible playing time is true freshman Colin Sandeman. This past Saturday, Sandeman worked at the safety position early in practice and then moved back to wide receiver for the scrimmage portion and performed very well. While he probably has a few other players ahead of him, it is certainly more likely that he plays this season with the depth chart taking a likely hit.

One other area where the possible loss of Douglas and Bowman will likely have an impact on is the kickoff and punt return game. On Saturday, Douglas, Brodell, and Cleveland all worked as punt returners. Given that the depth chart now gets a little thin and with Brodell having a history of injuries, it could impact his status as a returner. While no kickoff returns were practiced on Saturday, it as certainly possible that one of more of the wide receivers could be a factor and again, if Brodell was in that mix, the Iowa coaches might take a more careful approach.

The bottom line for Iowa Football in 2007 is that while a probably loss of Douglas and Bowman certainly hurts, it is not a blow that they cannot respond to and have success on the playing field. We will find out more in less than two weeks when they hit the field in Chicago.


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