August 13, 2013

Iowa City

The annual run through the sports calendar carries a little more repetitiveness for Blake Haluska than most.

The University of Iowa wide receiver goes through camp, attempts to win job and proceeds through the season. Then its off to spring, followed by summer workouts to get back into football shape.

Upon arriving again for fall camp, he finds himself buried at the bottom of the depth chart. Behind all the program's scholarship players and veterans, Haluska continues the challenging cycle.

"I just keep working hard and keep improving," Haluska told the Times Herald during media day activities last Thursday. "The system continues to get easier to pick up."

Haluska, who starred at quarterback at Carroll High School, where he graduated in 2010, walked on to the Hawkeye football team in search of that often-elusive chance. He got a taste of success last April in Iowa's Spring Game.

The redshirt junior caught four passes for 58 yards in the game, working with the second and third string offenses, to help the offense defeat the defense 61-37.

Haluska said he gained a lot of confidence from the spring game and has carried that into this season.

"I wasn't seeing much of the field in spring ball, but a couple guys went down and I just kept making the most out of my opportunities," he said. "It gave me a lot of confidence, so I'm hoping things will just carry over."

Haluska has done what he could to keep the confidence he built in the spring game by focusing on his blocking and catching with the quarterbacks in the off-season.

"They didn't want me to put any weight on because they want me to keep my speed," Haluska said. "I've really focused on my blocking and just getting timing down with everyone, catching with the quarterbacks.

"I'm just going to keep working hard and keep catching routes with other receivers and just working on my speed too. I want to get faster, because it could give me an opportunity to play."

And play is something the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Haluska has yet to do.

Its something that continues to serve as his motivator as the season hits full stride, he says.

"The coaches are watching everything and I just have to take advantage of everything," he said. "Every rep matters and counts. I just want to get on the field in whatever way possible to help the team. If it's special teams, I mean that's one of my goals is to get on special teams, since I haven't played yet I want to get on the field."

The question, then, is whether Haluska will earn the opportunity. He's still facing a climb up the depth chart, one he relishes even if it makes it more difficult to earn a place on the field each year.

"I'm hoping for the best and just going to keep working," Haluska said. "I'm on the depth chart for special teams and I keep improving at wide receiver and hoping to get noticed, so I'm really working hard on the drills."

Iowa opens the 2013-14 season at home against Northern Illinois Aug. 31.

The Hawkeyes are coming off an atypical season of 4-8, void of a trip to a bowl game for the first time since 2007.

"We didn't have the best year last year and ended the season early but we got back to work right away and everybody is just ready to take the field," Haluska said.