IOWA CITY – Tyrone Tracy Jr. just wants to be himself.
The Iowa receiver isn’t interested in following the footsteps of Ihmir Smith-Marsette or trying to duplicate what Brandon Smith brought to the field for the Hawkeyes.
He appreciates the work of the two receivers Iowa will replace during the upcoming season, but Tracy is preparing to be his own man.
“I’m the next Tyrone Tracy,’’ he said during a recent interview session. “I’m not trying to be Ihmir. I’m not trying to be Brandon. I’m trying to be Tyrone Tracy.’’
That ability encompasses some of what Smith and Smith-Marsette brought to the team during their years with the Hawkeyes, but it also brings the unique versatility and personality that Tracy expects to bring to the position.
“My ability isn’t just playing the ‘X’ position. That’s not where I’m going to be producing the most,’’ Tracy said. “I’ve already talked to (Iowa receivers assistant Kelton) Copeland about this. I want to be moved around the offense.’’
Tracy sees a role at each of the three receiver spots in the traditional Hawkeye lineup, labeled the X, Y and Z positions, but he sees even more.
He envisions lining up as a running back at times and he has even dabbled a bit at the wildcat position this summer, a role that returning running back Tyler Goodson played at times in taking direct snaps last fall during Iowa’s 6-2 season.
“I want to do everything I can because I can,’’ Tracy said. “That’s what my ability is and I feel like that is one way I can make the team better. If I can move around and help us, I should be able to do that.’’
While many players would be content mastering one spot and one role within the framework of the offense, Tracy believes his ability to absorb the nuances of each and contribute in multiple roles can help Iowa win football games this season.
It’s a belief that isn’t just about Tracy.
“It’s about being able to create some headaches for the opposing defense,’’ Tracy said. “If I can line up at a number of different positions, just like if (Goodson) can line up at a couple of spots, it only makes it more difficult for the defense because they don’t really know what’s coming next and that will only play into our hands.’’
Tracy is unique in that he has not only the athletic ability to fit in at a number of positions for the Hawkeyes but he also developed a good working knowledge of the intracacies of each of Iowa’s receiver positions.
That was something he caught onto quickly as one of 12 true freshmen to see playing time for Iowa in 2018.
Tracy played in four games that year, retaining his redshirt season while recording the first reception of his career for a gain of 22 yards in a win over Northern Iowa.
The 5-foot-11, 203-pound Indianapolis native made eight starts and caught 36 balls as a redshirt freshman in 2019 before expanded roles for Smith and Smith-Marsette during their senior seasons last fall limited Tracy to 14 catches for 154 yards and one score. He also rushed twice as a sophomore for 22 yards.
“I understood where things were at last season. Those guys had earned it and now, we have a new group of receivers, myself, Nico (Ragaini), Charlie (Jones), it’s our time to step up,’’ Tracy said. “We’re working hard to make that happen.’’
Tracy said returning starting quarterback Spencer Petras looks more comfortable under center as he prepares for his second season.
“He’s definitely more comfortable in the pocket now. People forget that last year was his first year and the experience he gained as we won (six straight) games late in the season, it’s helping him now,’’ Tracy said. “I’m sure that has helped build his confidence. He had a good spring and I think he’s only going to get better.’’
Tracy welcomes the chance to help turn that into reality, fitting into Iowa’s plans however he can help the team.
“Anything we can do to help the offense keep one step ahead of the defense, that’s a good thing and something I want to help us do,’’ Tracy said.