It’s the piece of football that there’s just no perfect defense for. Injuries happen and Iowa—like everyone else in college football—was hoping that they could avoid as many of them throughout the offseason and camp as possible.
Instead, after Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz recently announced the season-ending injuries to offensive guard Justin Britt and wide receiver Jackson Ritter, the Hawkeyes unfortunately now have another injury to report.
“On a negative note, I think I’ve already mentioned Justin Britt will not be able to play this year, Jackson Ritter, and one to add to the list, at least for the start of the season in our two deep. Diante Vines injured his wrist. He’ll be in a cast. You’ll see that, and that is going to impact the beginning part of the season for him.
“That’s unfortunate. He’s was really practicing well, and certainly would have been a guy who could help contribute to our football team. It’s not season-ending I don’t think, but, hopefully, we’ll get him back here somewhere midseason, whenever. We’ll just kind of take that day by day,” Ferentz told reporters at Iowa’s Media Day.
As it currently stands according to the depth chart that the Hawkeyes released just in front of Big Ten Media Days, Iowa’s wide receivers depth chart looks like this: the two that were listed as No. 1 receivers are Keagan Johnson and Nico Ragaini and the two that were listed as No. 2 receivers are Alec Wick and Arland Bruce IV.
Of course, Bruce started several games for the Hawkeyes last season and reeled in 25 grabs for 209 receiving yards with one touchdown reception and three more rushing scores.
Johnson led the way for Iowa receivers in 2021 with 18 receptions for 352 receiving yards and a pair of touchdown grabs, while Ragaini added 26 catches for 331 yards and one score.
While Iowa has been handed a pair of wide receiver injuries to both Ritter and now Vines, Ferentz seemed otherwise upbeat about what he’s seeing from those who are available.
“Receivers, injuries have been part of the deal there, predictably. Hopefully, we’re making progress, but seeing really good performances from Nico, our most veteran guy, and then Arland Bruce has done really a good job, too. Of note, Alec Wick has done a good job. Young guys who we didn’t know a lot about until last spring basically. He’s really done a good job, as well,” Ferentz said.
Still, it’s worth mentioning that Iowa also saw the departure of a pair of wide receivers through the transfer portal this offseason. Charlie Jones and Tyrone Tracy Jr. both transferred to Purdue.
Add to it that Johnson has been battling the injury bug this offseason and there’s at least cause for some angst among the Iowa fan base about what the wide receiver depth looks like headed into this season.
“Keagan is working back. He won’t do a lot tomorrow, but he’s working back. I think he’s close to being where he needs to be, and hopefully the same thing with Brody (Brecht). They’re really the two guys that have missed the most time now.
“If you look big picture, you’re including spring practice, too. So that’s—I don’t know if concerned is the right word, but that’s where my awareness is. They missed a lot of time. To get them back and playing effectively with the right tempo and getting the timing down on the offense, all those kinds of things, and you’ve heard me say it before, meetings are important, they have value and all that, but you learn how to play football by playing it. You’ve got to go out there on the field and play it,” Ferentz said.
Really, it’s probably more important for Brecht to see plenty of snaps throughout camp, but it wouldn’t hurt for quarterbacks Spencer Petras and Alex Padilla along with the Hawkeyes’ offensive coaching staff to get to see both of those targets back quickly.
“The sooner we can get them back, hopefully it’s next week, that’ll be encouraging. They’re both—in Keagan’s case, he’s played 12 games, 13 games, so he’s got experience there, but you still have to play the game and practice. Brody is a little different story because he hasn’t played. We really liked what we saw when he came back in the fall, but we’ve got to get him going.
“Hopefully, it’s sooner than later. I think it will be. But everybody else is doing a good job, and I think we’ve got some flexibility personnel-wise just with the tight ends. I think we’ve got a little flexibility there. We’ll figure that out, but so far, so good. I think our passing game, I think it’s on the right track right now,” Ferentz said.
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