NCAA Football

Charlie Jones is the punishment for the sins of the Iowa offense

Charlie Jones is the punishment for the sins of the Iowa offense

Iowa football is about to be haunted by the ghost of wide receivers past. While the Hawkeye passing game had its most efficient outing in its recent win against Northwestern, Iowa’s next contest will see them face a Purdue offense whose offense makes Iowa look a relic from another century. Two of the key cogs in the Boilermaker passing attack are wide receivers who suited up for the Hawkeyes last season, and one of those players has developed into one of the most dynamic receivers in college football.

Charlies Jones’ success at Purdue raises the ultimate “what if” question for the Iowa coaching staff. Despite shining as a return man in 2020-21, Jones was used only sparingly as a wide receiver, averaging one catch per game through 21 games and totaling 323 receiving yards. Since transferring to Purdue, however, Jones’ usage and production have exploded. Jones trails only ISU’s Xavier Hutchinson for most receptions in the nation (72), has the fourth most receiving touchdowns in the country (9), and has the sixth most yards receiving (840). He has performed well against some of the best corners in college football, including Syracuse’s Garrett Williams and Joey Porter Jr. from Penn State. Jones scored as many touchdowns in a single game against Syracuse (three) as he did in two full seasons at Iowa and has easily been more productive than Iowa’s entire receiver room combined so far in 2022.

Charlie Jones against the Iowa wide receivers

 receptions Reception yards Receiving touchdowns
 receptions Reception yards Receiving touchdowns
Charlie Jones 72 840 9
Iowa wide receivers 49 535 1

Iowa fans can be forgiven for feeling jealous of Purdue for prying Jones away from Iowa City, especially considering how badly the Hawkeye receiving corps has missed him this season. Keagan Johnson, the player most analysts expect to be the star of the passing game, has played only half the football this season due to medical issues. Injuries have similarly affected the rest of the receiving corps, with Nico Ragaini and Brody Brecht missing two games each and Diante Vines missing the first six contests. Arland Bruce IV, the only scholarship player healthy enough to play in every game, has yet to make the impact fans hoped for after his promising freshman year, in part because of the extent to which opposing defenses they have focused on him. when in the field. Charlie Jones certainly could have provided a big boost to Iowa’s receiving corps if he were still with the team, and he would have been especially vital early in the season when the unit was decimated by injuries.

Jones’ versatility and explosiveness could have been an immediate upgrade to a passing game that has sorely lacked both qualities this season. Jones can line up anywhere on the field and has the speed and running skills to create separation on the outside or do serious damage in the slot. Jones has used his excellent speed and body control to emerge as a deep threat down the field.

used his quickness and impressive footwork to punish defenses after the catch,

and has shown himself to be one of the best receivers in college football by making contested catches in traffic.

While all of these attributes would make Jones an asset to the 2022 Hawkeyes, the skill Iowa is missing the most this season is Jones’ ability to get open quickly. Jones’ flawless route running combined with his change in space helped him quickly shake off defenders while playing for the Boilermakers, allowing Purdue’s quarterbacks to make quick reads and get him the ball before his protection breaks. Iowa’s offensive line has consistently struggled to protect Spencer Petras in the passing game this season, a problem that has only been exacerbated by the Hawkeye receivers’ inability to get open quickly enough for him to target them before the rush arrives of passes If Charlie Jones were still a Hawkeye, he might have emerged as the kind of security blanket Iowa’s offense has so desperately needed this year; someone who can get open quickly, catch the ball in tight coverage and make defenders miss for extra yards.

Considering Jones could have been an asset to the Hawkeye passing game, it’s worth wondering how he ended up leaving Iowa to play for one of their division rivals. The answer, according to Jonesit came down to a lack of opportunities:

“I was a receiver. He knew what he was capable of. You want the ball because you want to help the team in the way you know you can. When opportunities came, I tried to take advantage of them whenever I could. But after that year, I tried to find a place where I was more of a receiver and not just a returner.”

Charlie Jones left Iowa for Purdue because the Hawkeyes were underusing him at wide receiver, a mistake the Boilermakers clearly haven’t made. While wideouts obviously get more targets in Purdue’s run-happy offense than Iowa’s more balanced pro offense that relies heavily on its tight ends, Iowa exacerbated that problem by using Jones less than other wide receivers. the team. Jones caught fewer passes last season (21) than Ragaini (26) and Bruce (25) and had less than half the receptions of tight end Sam LaPorta (53). Unlike Tyrone Tracy Jr., who left Iowa for Purdue shortly after the 2021 season ended, Jones was with the Hawkeyes during spring camp, saw him not in line for a hit on goals and chose to play for an offensive coaching staff. that he understood how to use it better.

When Iowa plays the Boilermakers this weekend, the Hawkeye coaching staff will face the human embodiment of its offensive failures, exhibit A for detractors who bemoan the program’s lack of offensive creativity and inability to identify and cultivate players talented The Hawkeye coaches had Charlie Jones in the program for three years and failed to see in him the star potential that took Purdue coaches a handful of fall practices to recognize. Iowa has an exceptional reputation for developing talent and finding diamonds in the rough, but unfortunately that hasn’t extended to the wide receiver position, where Iowa has failed to produce a single impact NFL player during the Kirk Ferentz era. Earlier Ihmir Smith-Marsette took five balls for the Minnesota Vikings Last season, no Hawkeye wide receiver had recorded a single reception in the NFL since Tim Dwight (a Hayden Fry product) in 2007. As Hawkeye coaches study game film of Purdue and watch as Charlie Jones picks apart Big Ten defenses while his own offense languishes as the 120th best passing attack in the nation, perhaps it will prompt some self-reflection about how the staff evaluates and nurtures its wide receiver talent, and whether they have the right personnel to begin the evaluation. Charlie Jones is exactly the type of player Iowa’s dysfunctional offense could have used this season. If he plays a role in Purdue’s win this weekend, Iowa’s coaches will have no one to blame but themselves.

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