Ihmir Smith-Marsette is looking to have a huge season this year for the Hawkeyes after having a mini-breakout campaign as a true freshman in 2017.

Smith-Marsette is long, fast and athletic, and he used those traits to notch 18 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns last season — including a game-winning touchdown on the road against Iowa State. His first college score was against Iowa’s hated rival, the Cyclones, as well.

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He flashed potential and then some, and apparently heading into 2018 head coach Kirk Ferentz and the special teams staff would like to see that potential explored on special teams as well as offense. Smith-Marsette, checking in at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, will be tasked with returning kicks and punts this season for the Hawkeyes along with senior Kyle Groneweg. He did return four kicks last season, averaging 33.5 yards per return, but this will be the first time since high school that he’ll return punts.

Smith-Marsette doesn’t seem worried, though, according to Darren Miller of hawkeyesports.com:

“I returned (punts) in high school, so it won’t be anything new, other than the game speed,” Smith-Marsette said. “It is something I take pride in. It is another area I believe I can cause damage against opponents.”

As far as Ferentz is concerned, it’s quite obvious that the Iowa head coach is hoping to exploit some of Smith-Marsette’s explosiveness and athleticism in the return game:

“We liked Ihmir from day one; he has a good personality and he’s a football guy,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He has a little wiggle to him and part of being a return guy is you have to want to do it, because it takes courage. I think we have guys that can give us a little octane back there in the return game.”

Smith-Marsette is also expected to play a role for the Hawkeyes on offense, though sophomore Brandon Smith and senior Nick Easley are both ahead of him on the two-deeps.

Iowa kicks the 2018 season off this Saturday against Northern Illinois at Kinnick Stadium.