Charlie Jones Enters the Transfer Portal
The news broke early Wednesday morning that Iowa kick return specialist and wide receiver Charlie Jones had entered the transfer portal. The announcement came as a surprise to Hawkeye Nation. Jones had previously opted to return to Iowa for his sixth and final season with “unfinished business.” He, alongside a handful of other notable Hawkeyes, announced his return in January following the Hawkeyes’ 10-win season. His social media bio remains unchanged, still showing his affiliation with the Hawkeyes. However, he will at least pursue other opportunities before the season this fall.
The NCAA mandated deadline to enter the transfer portal was May 1, 2022, in order to remain immediately eligible for the 2022 football season. Jones’ entrance into the portal came on May 25th, after the given deadline. However, that doesn’t rule out a chance to play this fall for another program. The sixth-year senior would need to go through a formal approval process in conjunction with the NCAA’s protocol prior to lacing up elsewhere. In addition, he could still announce a return to Iowa. Entering the portal does not eliminate the ability to stay at the original school.
Why Enter The Portal?
There are a few immediate thoughts that come to mind when looking deeper at Jones’ choice to explore his options. One factor is be NIL opportunities. Withdrawing one’s name post-spring practice and after the formal deadline could indicate that Jones received the notion of another program willing to offer him an attractive NIL deal. The former Hawkeye return man earned First-Team All-Big Ten honors last season for his impact as a kick returner. Jones averaged 7.7 yards per punt return and 25.7 yards per kickoff return with a return touchdown last season. He has the capability to change a game by himself. Jones is an attractive transfer pickup to a team needing a special team boost.
The other side of Jones’ decision to enter the portal could be a possible NIL negotiation tactic with Iowa. The University of Iowa has not gone public with their NIL numbers in the football program. This makes it difficult to determine exactly where and how each athlete is earning compensation. Jones’ talent in the open field makes him a valuable member of the team. He could be using this as an effort to earn a hefty NIL deal in his final season.
Wide Receiver Film
The third, and most likely, potential motive for Jones’ late entry into the transfer portal is to strengthen his tape as a wide receiver. Last season, Jones tallied 323 yards receiving with three touchdowns. He also showed his athleticism making a handful of acrobatic catches throughout the season. There is no doubt that Jones has the talent at receiver, but he isn’t being fully utilized at the position in Iowa City.
It’s pretty well-known at this point that the Hawkeye offense is below average in production levels. In 2021, Iowa averaged 23.4 points per game with 180 passing yards per game. Those numbers are good for 99th and 109th in the nation, respectively. The Brian Ferentz offense is quite the opposite of an “air-raid”, and is not necessarily the dream school of a top receiver. While Jones has been effective in the passing game, he is being underutilized. His biggest impact to the team has been on special teams. The super-senior has made a national name for himself as a specialist since transferring from Buffalo in 2019. However, Jones has said he wants to improve his tape as a wide receiver before his collegiate career ends. Another school might help him better suit that goal.
Former Iowa wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. transferred immediately following the 2021 season with similar intentions. The highly talented, but underutilized, wideout landed at Purdue. He is now with an offense that is more known for its effective passing game in the Big Ten. After the Boilermakers lost David Bell to the NFL, Tracy Jr. and the potential pickup of Jones could keep their offense running at a high level. Not to mention the added strength that would give the Purdue kick return game. Jones transferred from Buffalo to Iowa City to be closer to his hometown of Deerfield, IL. West Lafayette is almost equidistant.
Next In At Return Man
If Jones follows through with his decision to leave the program, it opens the door for a couple of other options at return man. Kaden Wetjen is the first name that comes to mind. The sophomore transfer from Iowa Western Community College has experience as a punt returner. Last season, he returned 31 punts for 460 yards and two touchdowns. That’s nearly 15 yards per punt return. Similar to Jones, Wetjen came to Iowa City as a transfer and could be the most realistic option at the position.
Arland Bruce IV is another guy who can fill the spot. The slot receiver is a former four-star who has explosive, down-field speed. As a freshman last season, Bruce had four touchdowns from scrimmage. He averaged 7.7 yards per rush and 8.4 yards per pass in 2021. His ability to accelerate quickly is essential in the punt return game, giving him a shot to take over at the position.
The third guy who would be exciting to see in the return game is true freshman Xavier Nwankpa. While he is the more unlikely pick, the former five-star safety from Southeast Polk High School has the physical traits to be game-changing in the return game. He returned kicks in high school at a very effective clip, in addition to his roles on offense and defense. Getting in on punt returns at Iowa would be a great opportunity to see his athleticism early on this fall.