AMES, Iowa — Jay Scheel’s misfortune turned into depth chart gold for fellow Iowa sophomore wide receiver Jerminic Smith.
Scheel topped the team’s depth chart but missed Saturday’s game against Miami (Ohio) with a soft tissue injury, likely a hamstring. Smith, who battled Scheel for the vacant split end job, was pressed into service and produced winning results in every area. Monday, Smith officially was named a first-team receiver.
Smith caught three passes for 51 yards in the No. 17 Hawkeyes’ 45-21 win. One was a 38-yard catch where Smith high-pointed a deep pass from quarterback C.J. Beathard on a flea-flicker. Another came on a 12-yard touchdown strike from Beathard where Smith held on to the ball and absorbed a big hit in the end zone.
As much as the statistics displayed Smith’s big-play production, it was other areas that caught coach Kirk Ferentz’s eye.
“I think one of the better things I saw today was one ball (Smith) couldn’t come up with, but then he came back and made a really tough catch,” Ferentz said. “I complimented him on that after the game here. To me that’s a really positive sign. He’s done a lot of good things in practice and maybe with a little bit of luck, we can develop some luck there.”
Smith’s blocking was essential on a pair of touchdown runs. Running back Akrum Wadley scored on an 11-yard run midway through the first quarter because Smith ran off the cornerback toward the middle of the field, then Smith broke off and blocked the safety into the end zone. On LeShun Daniels’ 43-yard touchdown run, Smith initiated contact with the cornerback 20 yards down the field and held his block until Daniels ran past him.
“We were impressed with how Jerminic played today,” Beathard said. “He made a tough catch in a sticky situation. He did a great job blocking on the perimeter in those bubble-screen plays. He did a good job of blocking up front that turned those 5-yard plays into, a couple of times, 30-yard plays.”
Wadley lumped both Smith and fellow receiver Matt VandeBerg together on their blocking prowess.
“They’ve both got a lot of heart,” Wadley said. “They’re tough. They can go in there and crack the safety and make the block when you need it.”
Smith’s elevation was the only major move on Iowa’s depth chart, which was released Monday in advance of this week’s game against Iowa State. Defensive end Parker Hesse, who left Saturday’s game with a left hamstring strain, remained on the first team but was listed alongside freshman Anthony Nelson. Also, true freshman quarterback Nathan Stanley, who saw action Saturday late in the fourth quarter, was listed ahead of sophomore Tyler Wiegers as a co-second teamer.
Smith opened fall camp as the starting split end, but Scheel passed him in late August. Ferentz said Smith didn’t do anything wrong; it mostly was about Scheel’s performance.
“It’s really more is about Jay Scheel had emerged,” Ferentz said. “He really just kept improving, so it wasn’t a knock on Jerminic.”