Phil Steele has made a name for himself in college football by publishing an annual preseason magazine that provides an abundance of information on teams, coaches and players.
That’s news to Iowa receiver Tevaun Smith.
“I don’t know too much about that, what is it?” Smith said.
A member of the media then told Smith about Steele’s 2015 preseason magazine in which Smith is a third-team all-Big Ten selection.
Smith hardly saw that as reason to celebrate.
“I’m not satisfied with third-team anyway,” Smith said. “I’m trying to work hard and get first-team all-Big Ten and do whatever I can to get noticed, not only in the conference, but in the country.”
Asked if he was upset with Steele’s third-team ranking, Smith said:
“Yeah, kind of.”
My response to that is, okay, then do something about it as a senior who plays for a team that desperately needs somebody to step up on offense. Make Steele look foolish by proving him wrong on the field.
Steele apparently thinks that Smith is pretty good just by listing him as third-team all-Big Ten. Steele picked three receivers for each team. So he’s basically saying that he considers Smith among the top nine receivers in the Big Ten heading into the 2015 season.
Smith apparently thinks he’s better than that and has one more season to prove it. The Toronto, Ontario native has flashed greatness at Iowa, but still lacks consistency.
You could make a strong case for Smith being one of the most important players on the team. In a previous column, I ranked him as the second most important player on the team behind quarterback C.J. Beathard.
The Iowa offense desperately needs somebody who can turn short catches into longer gains, along with somebody who can burn defenses deep.
Smith would provide a huge boost if he could do both on a somewhat regular basis. You don’t make first-team all-Big Ten by doing much less as a receiver.
Smith enters his senior season with 70 career receptions for 937 yards and four touchdowns. He led the Hawkeyes with 596 receiving yards last season on 43 receptions.
That qualifies as a good season, but now Smith needs to be great, for his sake and for the sake of the team.
I don’t think it’s asking too much for the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Smith to catch at least 50 passes this season for no fewer than 700 yards and five touchdowns.
Now, of course, Smith can’t do it alone.
Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis has to devise a game plan that utilizes Smith’s talent, Beathard has to get Smith the football, the running game has to do its part to create balance and some other receivers will have to step up, especially with Iowa’s all-time receptions leader, Kevonte Martin-Manley, having used up his eligibility last season.
“That’s a big help, having a big senior receiver like that is a good target to throw to,” Beathard said of Smith.
For now, Smith’s biggest claim to fame is the video that went viral of him making 41 one-handed catches in 60 seconds. It was yet another glimpse of his talent, sort of how the games have been.
Smith will make a play every so often that requires a high skill level. His combination of size, speed, leaping ability and sure-handedness is difficult to defend.
Smith represents hope at a time when there is little hope on the outside. Iowa has been mediocre for too long – finishing a combined 19-19 over the past three seasons – to be considered a contender anymore.
It’ll take players like Smith to change that perception.
There always is pressure to win in big-time college football, but rarely has the pressure been as intense as it is now with Kirk Ferentz entering his 17th season as head coach.
Season ticket sales for general public, faculty/staff and students have dropped in each of the past three seasons. The offense has sputtered with Davis as the coordinator, while the defense has been hit or miss under Phil Parker, but with more misses lately.
Ferentz’s once-proud legacy is now on the line. Something good has to happen in a hurry to offset the growing apathy.
It’ll take a group effort to meet the challenge, but some players will have to emerge as stars.
And who better than Smith to fill that role as a senior?
I’m sure he would agree.
Phil Steele’s all-Big Ten receivers
DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State; Leonte Carroo, Rutgers; Michael Thomas, Ohio State.
Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska; Jalin Marshall, Ohio State; Geronimo Allison, Illinois
Tevaun Smith, Iowa, Macgarrett Kings, Michigan State; Alex Erickson, Wisconsin.