Senior Charlie Jones was set to begin his third season as a Hawkeye near the top of the depth chart at wide receiver.
Then he transferred to Purdue after spring camp, just 3 months before the college football season, taking his talents to West Lafayette, Indiana. But it shouldn’t have been a MAJOR loss for the Hawkeyes offense; they lost a player who caught just 21 passes in 2021.
Then he matched that total in just his second game.
Jones explained why he left in the first place.
“I came here for the offense,” he told goldandblack.com. “The past couple of years they’ve shown that being a receiver in this type of offense means a lot of opportunities.”
In regards to Jones breaking out in 2022, Kirk Ferentz doesn’t have any regret with how the Hawkeyes used him last season.
“I would argue he’s a much better player than he was,” Ferentz said. “He’s really progressed as a receiver. Not saying he was a bad receiver then, but he’s a much better one, much better in April.”
Ferentz even compared the situation to an NFL all-pro.
“George Kittle was a good player when he left here,” Ferentz said. “Good players ascend. That’s part of the process. Same thing about Jack Campbell. Talk about good players — he’s a better player now than he was two years ago, going through every phase. It’s important.”
Now Iowa’s going to have to face Charlie Jones with a receiving core that has struggled without him.
His former quarterback Spencer Petras said the two still have a relationship, texting nearly bi-weekly. Petras said he wasn’t surprised Jones has done so well. They haven’t spoken this week but Petras added: “We’ll see leading up to the game, and I might have to throw a couple jabs at him. It’s all friendly.”
Another former teammate of Jones, safety Kaevon Merriweather, said Jones is still in some group chats with the current Hawkeyes. They haven’t chatted during the week but Merriweather said he might try and connect before kickoff.
“I might call him Friday to see how he’s doing, butter him up a little bit before the game.” Merriweather joked.
Riley Moss downplayed the matchup, saying that it’s more likely Jones will line up against Cooper DeJean because neither corner travels with the top receiver. But the possibility of Jones and Moss on opposite sides of the line of scrimmage had the Hawkeyes defensive back thinking about practice.
“He was one of the better — if not best — receivers we had and it was always a competition,” Moss remembered. “Iron sharpens iron type of thing. It’ll be similar to that this week.”
Moss also echoed the same sentiments Ferentz talked about, praising Jones for his growth as a pass catcher.
“He’s got great feet and great hands,” Moss said. “He catches most things that come to him. He’s also got a pretty good connection with the quarterback, which helps. They know each other pretty well. So they have that type of trust, too.”
Not sure if that was meant to be a jab at his current quarterback, but you never know with this team. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. at Ross-Ade stadium, where Moss and his fellow “Dough Boyz” will do battle with one of their own. It’s not a trophy game, but I’ll call it the “Charlie Jones Bowl.”
Speaking of bowl games, Purdue can clinch one with a win. If Iowa can snag their fifth win, they’ll be just one away from getting into one of their own.