Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt ran 40 yards down the field, one-on-one with safety Jack Swanson and had nothing but air between he and the goal line Saturday afternoon.
Then, the whistle blew. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi was whistled for a sack on a cornerback blitz. A sideline official trotted with McNutt and said, ‘You had hit beat.’
“I was gonna kill him,” McNutt said.
Next play, Iowa called the same play. Same result. On the third consecutive play, McNutt ran a fly down the left sideline. This time, cornerback Amari Spievey covered McNutt. Stanzi threw it down the field, away from both players. McNutt just nodded his head, smiled and trotted back to the huddle.
McNutt, a red-shirt sophomore this fall, has become the team’s spring practice surprise. After the final spring practice Saturday, McNutt is listed as a starting wide receiver, opposite Trey Stross, and ahead of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. In Saturday’s scrimmage he caught one pass for 11 yards.
But he’s come a long way from third-round quarterback last fall. McNutt played in three games last year. He completed 1 of 3 passes for 1o yards and an interception. After shifting to wide receiver, he caught one pass for 11 yards.
It wasn’t a difficult decision to shift positions, McNutt said.
“I was very open because I just wanted to be a big part of this team, the Iowa Hawkeyes,” he said. “I wanted to show that I’m here for the Hawkeyes, I’m not here just for Marvin McNutt.
“It wasn’t really any disappointment because I kind of felt like they wanted to use me. I wasn’t looking at it like it like, ‘Oh, man, I’m not a quarterback anymore.’ They tried to get me involved in the program.”
At St. Louis’ Hazelwood Central High School, he was a first-team all-stater quarterback. He threw for 3,308 yards and 31 touchdowns in his career. He also ran for 337 yards and eight touchdowns.
He was an all-around athlete, earning all-state honors in basketball and baseball as well. It was a tough decision to commit to one sport when he picked Iowa.
“It really was,” he said. “Even when they asked me here, right before I came, would I want to try and play basketball. And my decision coming out of high school was, ‘Do I play more sports or do I just want to focus on one?’ And I just chose to focus on one in the beginning.”
McNutt provides a big target, standing 6 feet, 4 inches, and weighing 210 pounds. McNutt said that gives him an advantage over smaller cornerbacks. He’s also earned the respect of his teammates this spring, such as former competitor and starting quarterback Rick Stanzi.
“Hat’s off to Marv,” Stanzi said. “He’s done a great job of going and getting the football. He’s a big body, he’s a big target and he’s really worked on his speed this whole offseason and it showed with his play throughout the spring.
“He’s been really smart guy in the offense, it helps that he knew what was going on from the quarterback standpoint so when he goes out there to receiver it’s a lot easier for him.He’s showed a lot this spring, and we’re excited for the season for him.”