The Iowa football team’s once-heralded 2005 recruiting class turned 10 in February.
The players who were in the class are now in their late 20s with one notable exception. NFL all-Pro offensive lineman Marshal Yanda will turn 31 in September.
It’s easy to forget that Yanda was in Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class because he arrived from junior college with little hype and was a Hawkeye for just two seasons. Yanda was sort of the forgotten piece to a star-studded puzzle that featured some of the top high school recruits in the country, including five from the Chicago area.
Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class had 23 players from eight different states. The class consisted of six offensive linemen, five defensive linemen; four running backs, including 2008 Doak Walker Award winner Shonn Greene, two receivers, two linebackers, two defensive backs, one tight end and one quarterback.
Individual star power is what made the 2005 class special. It was by far Kirk Ferentz’s most heralded recruiting class at Iowa, ranked in the top 10 nationally by most recruiting services.
But that’s also why the 2005 class is largely considered a failure because expectations in many cases went unfulfilled.
The class, which included one five-star recruit and seven four-star prospects according to Rivals.com, was decimated by attrition as only nine of the 22 high school players finished their career at Iowa.
“There are a lot of guys that certainly had their troubles or trials and tribulations,” said Tyler Blum, who was a three-star defensive end in the 2005 class. “That’s well accounted for. And it happened when the team had quite a few in a given period.”
Blum dealt with his share of adversity after arriving at Iowa with considerable hype, including being ranked as a five-star recruit heading into his senior year by veteran recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. Unfortunately, for Blum, a back injury made it hard for him to compete at the Big Ten level.
He stayed the course at Iowa and earned his degree, but stardom never came his way.
“I was just as strong as everybody in the upper body and I was a good athlete,” said Blum, who was a multi-sport star at Walnut Community High School in western Iowa. “But when you’re on one good leg and a crutch out there and you can’t get your feet on the ground, in the Big Ten, man, you’re going to go for a ride in the trenches. I just didn’t really have that solid footing and it starts with your feet.”
Injuries, legal woes, academics, homesickness, a lack of playing time, you name the reason and it probably contributed to the high rate of attrition in the 2005 class.
Trey Stross was a coveted receiver in the 2005 recruiting class, but he missed large chunks of playing time at Iowa because of injuries. Stross stayed at Iowa for his entire career – he was a senior on the 2009 team that defeated Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl to finish 11-2 – but he struggled to stay healthy.
“I don’t know what it was, but when I stepped my foot on Iowa’s campus I was like a walking Band-Aid, Stross said in a phone interview last week. “I had my own personal demons with injuries and everything. I was struggling day in and day out.”
Stross, who now works for Google and lives in Austin, Texas, finished with 73 catches for 964 yards and seven touchdowns as a Hawkeye. His numbers were decent, but not what Stross had envisioned.
“I had a different picture of how it would go down,” Stross said. “But throwing the oranges in the crowd, there was no better way to go out.”
Dan Doering was considered the star among stars in the 2005 class, a consensus five-star offensive lineman from the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Ill. You name the school and chances are that Doering had a scholarship offer from that school.
Iowa was a hot brand at the time, though, coming off three consecutive double-digit win seasons from 2002-04. Ferentz also was popular at the time and was considered an authority on the offensive line. So it made sense why Doering would choose to attend a rising Big Ten power that was located in a bordering state.
He was among seven players in Iowa’s 2005 class who participated in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl that year in San Antonio, Texas.
Doering’s career as a Hawkeye never amounted to much, though, as he played sparingly
Doering, who didn’t respond to an interview request on Facebook, was part of Iowa’s Windy City connection in 2005. He was joined by quarterback Jake Christensen, tight end Tony Moeaki, offensive lineman Dace Richardson and defensive tackle Ryan Bain, all of whom were four-star recruits.
Christensen was one of the first players to commit to Iowa’s 2005 class on June 15, 2004. He then became an effective recruiter for the Hawkeyes, helping to convince his fellow Chicago natives to join him in Iowa City.
All five of the Chicago recruits dealt with more than their share of adversity at Iowa.
Christensen struggled in his only season as the starting quarterback in 2007 and was eventually demoted in 2008 when Ricky Stanzi became the starter. Christensen finished his career at Eastern Illinois.
Bain played sparingly as a defensive lineman at Iowa before transferring to Akron.
Moeaki and Richardson both made first-team all-Big Ten as seniors in 2009, but their careers were hampered by injuries. Richardson was injured midway through the conference schedule in 2009 and didn’t play against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Perhaps what fuels the negative perception more than anything is the fact that Doering, the most decorated player in the class, and Christensen, the only quarterback in the class, both failed to live up to expectations.
“It was just strange because the talent was there,” said Stross, a native of Avon Lake, Ohio. “We had the talent. It was that Iowa adversity that followed us. But fortunately, we stayed tough and did what we did our senior year.”
Injuries also cut short the careers of defensive end Alex Kanellis, who graduated from Iowa City West High School, and defensive tackle Vernon Jackson. Kanellis showed flashes of stardom early on as a Hawkeye, but he had to quit playing football after his sophomore season in 2006 because of concussion-related concerns.
“I remember he was squatting and just fainted one day,” Stross said of Kanellis who is now the strength and conditioning coach at Iowa City Regina. “It was one of the scariest moments that I can remember vividly.
“He was, and I bet everyone in our class would agree, easily a top-five (NFL draft) pick. That was a shame the talent we lost.”
Not all of the talent was lost, though. Iowa’s 2005 recruiting was sort of feast or famine.
Greene set the school single-season rushing record of 1,850 yards in 2008 and has played six seasons in the NFL.
Pat Angerer overcame injuries and being buried on the depth chart to become a force at linebacker in 2008 and 2009.
And Yanda is now considered one of the elite offensive linemen in the NFL.
Rafael Eubanks and Kyle Calloway also became starters on the offensive line while at Iowa.
Success can’t just be measured by individual awards, though, as shown by Ohio native Chris Rowell. He never became a starter for the Hawkeyes, but he stayed the course, graduated and has no regrets about his decision to attend Iowa.
“A lot of people looked at us like, wow, these guys are just busts, transferring and getting kicked out of school and so forth,” said Rowell, who now lives in Cleveland, teaches special education and coaches high school football. “I didn’t enjoy losing a couple friends along the way. But at the same time, the core guys were there for the right reasons and also played in a lot of games.”
Rowell makes no excuses for how his career unfolded at Iowa. He first committed to West Virginia before switching to the Hawkeyes.
Rowell played cornerback at Iowa, but he struggled to get on the field except for contributing on special teams. He played behind cornerbacks such as Bradley Fletcher, Adam Shada and Amari Spievey.
“All those guys were just a bit better than me,” Rowell said.
Rowell lived in Iowa City after college and probably would’ve stayed if not for family reasons. He moved back to Ohio after his mother died about a year-and-a-half ago.
"I loved living in Iowa City," Rowell said. "I’ve always felt comfortable there."
Rowell said when asked why he didn’t consider transferring from Iowa that it was important for him to finish what he started and to honor a commitment. He also admired Ferentz.
“I think it was a couple things in particular, finish what you start, get a degree and having life-long friends,” Rowell said. “It was just something I really wanted to do, just stick with it and win for coach Ferentz. I believed in him. Mainly, at the end of the day, it was just comfort.”
Rowell and Blum became close friends during college and they still talk on a regular basis. They used to work together at Diamond Dreams Sports Academy, which is located in Coralville. Blum still works for Diamond Dreams as an individual instructor.
Blum disagrees with the theory that many of the recruits in Iowa’s 2005 class felt a sense of entitlement when they arrived on campus. That theory has been used to explain why many of the players failed to live up to expectations.
“At least for me, and I would venture to guess it’s that way for a lot of the guys on the team, you walk in and you’re just a freshman,” Blum said. “You’re at the bottom of the totem pole. Now whether those recruits in their eyes think that there is a sense of entitlement, they certainly when I was there didn’t get treated any different whether you were a five-star or a one-star, not by the staff, not by the other players or anything like that. You were a freshman. You were going to learn the ropes.”
Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class
Name Position Hometown Size-Weight, 40 time Rivals Rating
Pat Angerer LB Bettendorf 6-1, 200 4.6 *** 5.5
Kalvin Bailey FB Sefner, Fla. 5-11, 245 4.7 **** 5.9
Ryan Bain DL Bolingbrook, Ill. 6-2, 250 4.7 **** 5.8
Tyler Blum DE Walnut, Ia. 6-6, 250 4.8 *** 5.6
Dana Brown RB Clairton, Pa. 5-11, 200 4.5 ** 5.3
Kyle Calloway OL Belleville, Ill., 6-7, 267 5.2 *** 5.5
Jake Christensen QB Lockport, Ill. 6-0, 200 4.9 **** 5.9
Justin Collins DT Fort Worth, Texas 6-2, 250 4.7 ** 4.9
Dan Doering OL Barrington, Ill. 6-6, 300 5.0 ***** 6.1
Justin Edwards DB Garland, Texas 6-2, 180 4.5 ** 5.3
Rafael Eubanks OL Roseville, Minn. 6-2, 290 5.2 **** 5.9
Shonn Greene RB Sicklerville, N.J. 5-11, 210 4.5 *** NA
Vernon Jackson DT Orlando, Fla. 6-1, 260 5.2 ** 5.0
Alex Kanellis DE Iowa City, Ia. 6-4, 239 4.7 **** 5.8
Andy Kuempel OL Marion, Ia. 6-6, 250 5.3 *** 5.6
Tony Moeaki TE Wheaton, Ill. 6-4, 250 4.7 **** 6.0
Dace Richardson OL Wheaton, Ill. 6-6, 300 5.0 **** 6.0
Corey Robertson RB Denison, Texas 6-1, 205 4.6 *** 5.7
Chris Rowell DB Warrensville Height, Ohio 6-0, 170 4.5 *** 5.5
Trey Stross WR Avon Lake, Ohio 6-3, 196 4.5 *** 5.7
B.J. Travers LB Westlake, Ohio 6-0, 228 4.9 *** 5.7
Marcus Wilson DB Camden, N.J. 6-2, 190 4.5 *** 5.7
Marshall Yanda OL North Iowa Area C.C. 6-4, 310 5.0 *** NA
Rankings courtesy of Rivals.com