IOWA CITY – Nick Easley believes the Iowa receiving corps is capable of making some noise this season.
Toward that objective, the senior is speaking up more to help shape the group of players who will be on the receiving end of what returning quarterback Nate Stanley is throwing their way this fall.
“I have been more vocal since the spring. I’ve had to be,’’ Easley said. “We need someone to be.’’
Easley believes he is better suited to be that guy this year.
A year ago, he found himself walking in the same cleats as many of the players he is now working to help.
Adjusting to Big Ten football after arriving as a walk-on from Iowa Western Community College, Easley found himself working through the nuances of the position as a first-year Hawkeye last fall.
He adjusted quickly, leading Iowa with 51 receptions for 530 yards and four touchdowns last season, but it still was all new in many respects.
Easley listened as senior Matt VandeBerg spoke, relying on the experiences of the fifth-year senior to help prepare him and guide him for the success he had during the Hawkeyes’ 8-5 season.
“Last year, I was a coming in here as a mid-year walk-on guy,’’ Easley said. “I was trying to keep my head low.’’
He didn’t mind that at all, but has seen expectations evolve.
“Nothing has changed in some ways. I want to do the same thing,’’ Easley said. “But, my leadership role is more clearly defined. I know more is expected of me.’’
That starts on the practice field as the Hawkeyes work this summer, developing the bonds between quarterback and receiver that will be critical in helping Stanley build on his 55.8-percent completion rate from last season.
Easley is working to help make it all fit together.
“I’m just trying to show the other guys what it takes to be successful,’’ he said. “Staying after practice, talking to guys in the film room and doing stuff with them this summer. I’m just trying to lead by example.’’
He is also trying to improve on his own consistency.
While he led Iowa in receptions last season, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Newton, Iowa, native believes he has plenty of room to grow.
In assessing his play last season, he sees unfilled potential.
“I had some ups and downs. Northwestern and Michigan State, there were some plays out there I could have made,’’ Easley said. “Dropped passes, drops, bad routes, everything.’’
With a year of experience in the program, Easley finds a greater comfort level as he works within Iowa’s offense.
Sophomores Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette and senior Kyle Groeneweg, a senior walk-on who transferred from NCAA Division II Sioux Falls, fill the other spots on the depth chart in a relatively inexperienced group of receivers.
“Everyone in our room has the ability to do what they need to do, but I think it’s just bringing it every game,’’ Easley said.
Providing the encouragement to make that happen is where Easley steps in this summer.
“There are a lot of intricacies in the offense. Routes, steps, how to do things against certain coverages, I’m just trying to be clear with them as much as I can,’’ Easley said. “The more they understand how it all fits together, the better off we all will be.’’