The departure of standout wide receiver/return specialist Charlie Jones via the transfer portal leaves a hole in the offense and special teams units.
Throughout the Ferentz tenure with Iowa football, there are structural facets of the program that fans have been accustomed to such as fundamentally sound defensive play, physical offense centered around a dominant run game, and a disciplined special teams operation.
Iowa football has seen a plethora of NFL talent with the offensive/defensive line, linebackers, running backs, and defensive backs; on the other hand, the wide receiver position has not been a position of folklore.
Charlie Jones transferred into the Hawkeye program as a walk-on, following a successful redshirt freshman season on the gridiron at the University of Buffalo. He logged his first game action in Iowa City during the 2020 season, where he made his presence known as a valuable return specialist. He expanded his role during the 2021 season by contributing in the wide receiver group, as well as continuing his prowess in the special teams department.
Here’s a look at Jones’ statistical production at Iowa, along with a few accolades:
Punt Return: 21 att, 221 yards, 1 TD, Long 54
Accolades: 3rdTeam All Big-Ten Return Specialist by league media.
Receiving: 21 rec, 323 yards, 3 TD, Long 72
Kickoff Return: 25 att, 635 yards, 1 TD, Long 100
Punt Return: 38 att, 285 yards, Long 41
Accolades: Rogers-Dwight Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year, AP 2nd Team All Big-Ten
Iowa football fans would be remiss to not appreciate the instant offense that Jones provided for 2 seasons. How about the 100-yard kickoff return vs. Illinois? That helped swing the momentum in the ball game after being down 10-0 late in the 1st quarter during the 2021 season. Or the 72-yard shot vs. Minnesota during the 2021 season? Jones’ electricity with the ball in his hands was evident and provided a spark to the team in key moments.
Fortunately, the future of the wide receiving corp has a solid mixture of youth and game experience. Look for the Hawkeyes to continue to lean on veteran tight end, Sam LaPorta (53 rec, 670 yards, 3 TD), as a top target in the passing game.
Quarterback Spencer Petras (1880 Passing Yards in 2021) will rely heavily on wide receivers Keegan Johnson (19.6 ypc in 2021), Nico Ragaini (331 yards in 2021), and Arland Bruce IV (25 rec in 2021) in 2022 to form a respectable aerial attack.
Special Teams Coordinator, LeVar Woods, is one of the best in the country and will have options to replace Jones as a return specialist.
There is no guarantee that the next returner will duplicate the same success as Jones, but do not be surprised if the special teams return units yield positive results in 2022.