Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Marvin McNutt and Iowa's Receiving Records

7 got 6. (Photo courtesy of AP)
At the beginning of 2008, no one could have predicted this. Marvin McNutt was the third string quarterback sitting behind Jake Christensen and Ricky Stanzi. In fact, I was at the only game McNutt made an appearance at quarterback in. His final stat line vs Florida International was: 1-3, 10 yards, and 1 interception. That season, McNutt and the Iowa coaches saw the writing on the wall. The quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart had multiple years of eligibility remaining. Iowa had also brought in two quarterbacks, Vandenberg and Weinke, in the last recruiting class, who were redshirting in 2008. Barring AIRBHG switching from taking out Iowa running backs to taking out Iowa quarterbacks, McNutt had little to no shot of ever seeing significant playing time if he stayed at quarterback.

Flash forward to 2009. Marvin McNutt impresses in the offseason, and moves all the way up the depth chart to starting wide receiver. Hawkeye fans had heard good things about him in the offseason, but had no idea what to expect come opening kickoff that year. Then, McNutt burst onto the Big 10 scene. He led the Hawkeyes in receiving touchdowns and finished second in catches and yards in his first full year at the position. He was a natural.

His amazing story has sparked this question for me? Could he graduate as the best wide receiver in Iowa Hawkeye history?

It's crazy that we can even have this conversation so soon, considering Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who broke many of Iowa's receiving records, just finished his career last year. Many Iowa fans (those that haven't completely disowned him yet, for his personality and off the field incidents) consider DJK to be the greatest Iowa wide receiver of all time. So, leaving DJK's controversial personality out of the picture, how does McNutt compare numbers wise? Could he become the best wide receiver in Iowa history?
Through Junior Year:
  • McNutt- 88 catches, 1546 yards, 17.57 YPC, 16 TD, 5.50 catches per TD
  • DJK- 127 catches, 1871 yards, 14.73 YPC, 7 TD, 18.14 catches per TD
McNutt sits behind DJK in yards and catches through his Junior year, but that's because he played in 10 less games than DJK. However, McNutt has averaged almost 3 more yards per catch, and a touchdown on about 13 less receptions, on average, through his Junior year. Overall, he compares very favorably to DJK at the same point in his career, and you could make a very strong case that if McNutt wouldn't have gotten such a late start at receiver, he would have had superior numbers in every category.

But, he didn't get that early start. So what records does McNutt have a realistic shot at breaking this year?

Career Receptions and Single Season Receptions

Well, it's highly unlikely he will break DJK's receptions record. He would have to have an 86 catch season to do that. Kevin Kasper did catch 82 balls in 2000, and McNutt will likely be the main target of James Vandenberg this year. However, these records aren't very probable.

Career Receiving Yards and Single Season Receiving Yards

McNutt would need a 1071 yard season to break DJK's all time receiving yard record. How likely is that? Well, only three Hawkeyes have ever had over 1000 yards receiving in a season. Keith Chappelle in 1980 (1037), Kevin Kasper in 2000 (1010), and Quinn Early in 1987 (1004). That means, for McNutt to beat DJK in receiving yards, he would also have to break the single season record for receiving yards. Once again, not easy. But, is it doable?

Pull out your calculator's. It's time to do a little math.

I looked at how many passes Iowa's leading receiver (leader in receptions) caught each year so far over Kirk Ferentz's tenure at Iowa.

It fluctuates from year to year, but it came out to an average of 51.33 catches by Iowa's leading receiver each year. If we say McNutt will catch 51 passes this year, and he maintains his career average of 17.57 yards per catch, then we would come out with a very solid season of 896 yards. That won't break the record, but it's still a damn good year.

However, 51 passes may be a low projection for Marvin. I mean, McNutt caught 53 passes last year, and he was splitting catches with DJK. This season he will be the main target on an offense that has a lot of unproven talent looking to catch the ball.

So what would it take for McNutt to get 1071 yards?

Well, doing the math. If he maintained his career average yards per catch, he would need approximately 61 catches. That doesn't seem totally impossible. But, what if he can't maintain that 17.57 YPC average? Last year he only averaged 16.25 YPC.  If he averaged that same yards per catch from last year, McNutt would need about 66 catches. A little harder, but he is the main returning weapon in the passing game. The historical odds seem to be against McNutt, but when you break it down, it's not hard to come up with a situation where he pulls it off.

Career Touchdowns

This is one category that doesn't involve DJK. His 10 touchdowns last year were good enough to give him 17 career receiving touchdowns. McNutt, in only two years, has racked up 16 touchdowns. He goes into his Senior year only needing 5 touchdowns to pass Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes' career record of 21. It's a pretty safe bet that McNutt will own this record by the time he graduates (or by the end of the non-conference schedule). But, just for the hell of it, let's take a look at the average number of touchdowns by Iowa's leading receivers since 1999.

Interesting that it started high, then bottomed out, and came back up last year. McNutt had 8 touchdowns in 2009 and 2010. Though, he only shows up on this chart in 2010.  In 2009 DJK had more receptions, but only had 2 touchdowns.

Taking the twelve year average, Iowa's leading receiver averaged 9.33 touchdowns per year. If you use McNutt's career average of 18.18% of his catches going for touchdowns, and multiply it by the 51 catch projection, then his projected touchdowns for 2011, would be a very similar 9.27. This seems like a very reasonable projection. After all, McNutt has averaged 8 touchdowns per year ever since he cracked the starting lineup.

Putting it All Together
  • Average Projected Line- 51 catches, 896 yards, 9 touchdowns
  • Record Breaking Line- 61 catches, 1071 yards, 11 touchdowns
To get McNutt's projected line for 2011, I used the twelve year average for Iowa's leading receivers of 51 catches. To get the yards, I multiplied McNutt's career yards per catch (17.57) by his projected catches. To get his touchdowns I multiplied his career percentage of touchdowns per catch (18.18%) by his projected catches. Overall, this would be a damn fine season, breaking Iowa's all time touchdown record. However, he would come up short of the single season and career receiving yards records.

In order to grab all three records, McNutt would have to have 61 catches at his career average of 17.57 yards per catch (1071 yards total), and at least 6 touchdowns. McNutt is the number one guy in the passing game this year, so this line doesn't seem totally unreasonable. He increased his catches from 34 in 2009 to 53 in 2010. Which makes 61 a distinct possibility. His yards per catch did drop, however, from 19.82 in 2009 to 16.25 in 2010. Splitting the middle, and using his career average of 17.57 for the projection seems reasonable. If he also maintained his career average of 18.18% of his catches going for a touchdown, and he catches 61 passes in 2011, then he would be projected to score 11 touchdowns. That would actually tie him for Iowa's single season record of 11 touchdowns, set by Maurice Brown in 2002. Barring injury, the career touchdown record is the most likely to be McNutt's after this season.

Even if he can't break all three of these records, there's no doubt that McNutt is one of the best, and possibly the best Iowa receiver that has ever donned the black and gold. For him to even have a shot at breaking records set by guys who played all four years at Iowa, when he is only going into his third full year of playing time, is remarkable. If he does break these records, there will be no doubt in my mind that he is the best in Iowa history. In all honesty, if he has a repeat of last season, there could still be a very strong argument made for McNutt as the best ever. After all, it's not his fault he was a receiver for only three full years.

But, like I said, I won't be surprised if Marvin doesn't quite get there this season. Only three people have ever crossed that 1000 yard mark. It's not easy. But, then again, if any wide receiver in any year could do it, I'd put money down, that it would #7 in 2011.

Note: There is a poll on the side of the page. Vote and let me know what records you think McNutt will break this year.

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