IOWA CITY, Iowa – Tevaun Smith understands that the reputation of his position proceeds him. That’s why the senior and his fellow Iowa wideouts are working hard towards shaking that image.
"As receivers they kind of look at us as pretty boys and whatnot. (The coaches) want those gritty type guys. We’ve been definitely working on that and doing whatever we can to be those gritty receivers and it’s getting better everyday. We’re excited for this Saturday to be that," the Toronto product said.
The Hawkeyes kick off their season Saturday against Illinois State at Kinnick Stadium (11 a.m., BTN). Fans hope to see them extending the field with long pass plays. To increase the odds of that happening, the receivers must be complete players.
Coach Kirk Ferentz has mentioned several times during the off-season that he’s been pleased with improved blocking on the perimeter. The hit-and-miss of that aspect of the game coincided with the inconsistency of the offense a year ago, particularly the rushing attack.
Smith said the coaches increased their emphasis on those assignments since last season ended.
"We block everyday. We go against the DBs (defensive backs) everyday and do blocking drills. It definitely helped throughout camp and leading into this game. So, there’s definitely going to be a lot better down-field blocking and going and getting the safeties and whatnot. So, yeah, it’s going to be exciting," he said.
The novice views Iowa’s running game, which ranked 61st nationally last year, as being the responsibility of the offensive line and the backs. But the guys on the perimeter must carry out their assignments for the rushing attack to flow at the highest level.
Smith and classmate Jacob Hillyer look the part. The former checks in at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds while the latter is listed at 6-4, 212. The third receiver, Matt Vandeberg, goes 6-1, 185. They understand that blocking well in the running game going opens up the field for them with play-action and to be physical off the line when their number is called.
"It really goes hand-in-hand," Smith said. "If you can be that gritty receiver, it kind of helps when you’re running your routes. You’ve got to be that angry type guy and I feel like a lot of us have taken pride in that.
"I know I get pretty angry running my routes. So, I’ve got to put that into blocking as well. It’s definitely going to make me an all-around better receiver and make everybody else a better receiver, too."