Iowa Hawkeyes’ WR depth is night-and-day different entering 2023

There were a number of reasons why the Iowa Hawkeyes‘ offense sunk to the depths it did last season.

Without rehashing all of them, suffice it to say that issues at wide receiver were a significant part of the problem. Iowa just wasn’t ever fully healthy in 2022.

Injuries to Keagan Johnson and Diante Vines threw the Hawkeyes a curveball to start last season and Iowa never really recovered. Nico Ragaini missed the opener versus South Dakota State, too.

Of course, the Hawkeye coaching staff has its fair share of blame for failing to create enough depth as well. Still, injuries and Charlie Jones’ transfer to Purdue really altered the best-laid plans for Iowa last season.

Then, after Johnson and Arland Bruce IV left the program and entered the transfer portal this offseason, Hawkeye fans’ frustrations with the offensive shortcomings at receiver were more pronounced than ever.

Iowa’s coaching staff responded, though. It went out and landed a pair of impact transfer receivers in Seth Anderson from Charleston Southern and Kaleb Brown from Ohio State. The room was boosted by a healthy return for Vines and the decision by Ragaini to spend one final season in Iowa City.

Asked about the difference of beginning last season with just one scholarship wide receiver available versus this season, Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz said the wide receivers are right there alongside the Hawkeye offensive line as the team’s most improved units.

“Yeah, it’s like a neck-and-neck race with the offensive line and the receiver position. The problem last year is our lack of experience up front and maturity, physical maturity, and you can’t microwave that. I’ve said that many times.

“Then the receiver position, we were out of guys for injuries and transferring, all that. There’s not much you can do. You play with what you have and that’s how it goes. Sometimes the cards you get dealt are a little bit challenging. But the guys worked hard. I’m not knocking anybody’s effort last year, but that was the reality of it all,” Ferentz said.

Entering his 25th season, Ferentz knows Iowa is much better positioned with pass-catchers heading into 2023.

“I think we’re in a little better situation right now. You have a healthy Nico Ragaini. You have a healthy Diante Vines. Start with those two guys. Two pleasant surprises from the month of August are Seth Anderson, who we thought we liked when he got here, and we’ve liked him as a person. No knock, but we couldn’t evaluate him as a player because he wasn’t out there in the spring.

“So, now he’s had a good August, and boy, he’s a very impressive young guy. Then, Kaleb the same way. He wasn’t here last spring, so not much to say on that one. But I’m excited about him and the fact, too, that he’s only played receiver one year, so the growth potential is really (exciting). And Seth is a young guy. He’s not like a fifth-year or sixth-year guy.

“Both those guys have the potential to really improve and climb if they keep practicing like they have. Alec Wick got back. He’s back practicing, so that’s a positive. I’m leaving somebody else out. Anyway, we’re a lot further down the road than we were a year ago,” Ferentz said.

With four names it feels it can count on in Ragaini, Vines, Anderson and Brown, Iowa can feel confident that it has the horses to improve a passing attack that ranked among the nation’s worst a season ago.

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire