’16 Football Recruiting Big Board 3.0
IOWA CITY, Iowa – In mid-May, Iowa sat at two verbal commitments in the 2016 Class. It’d gone nearly five months without a pledge.
That drought ended in a hurry.
Detroit Defensive End teammates Cedrick Lattimore and Chauncey Golston kick started a run of six commitments since May 18. Chicago-area running back/linebacker Barrington Wade became the latest addition on Monday.
In-state offensive linemen Spencer Williams of Cedar Falls and Algona’s Cole Banwart jumped in on June 8 and June 9, respectively. Maryland Linebacker Kyle Taylor also committed last week.
The new names in the fold move the Hawkeyes closer to the finish line of what ultimately will be a group with about 20-25 members. With that in mind, here’s a look at the All Hawkeyes 2016 Big Board 3.0, which saw quite a shake-up since we last did one:
(Explaining the Big Board: It’s not a listing of the top prospects with Iowa offers. Rather, I compile this rundown based on several factors mixed together in hopes of producing my most educated guess for where the Hawkeyes stand with a given class. Recruiting is fluid and ever-changing, and this content should be viewed as a guide, not gospel. In a nutshell, the Big Board consists of prospects with Iowa offers that are realistic targets. I base that on information I gather through my interviews and also outside sources.)
1. Matt Farniok
Height, Weight: 6-5, 310
Position: Offensive Tackle
School: Sioux Falls (SD) Washington High
Reported Offers: Arizona State, California, Florida, Florida State, Iowa State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Penn State, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Washington State, Wisconsin.
Rankings: Rivals (4 stars, No. 23 OT Nationally), Scout (4 stars, No. 25 OT Nationally), 247 (4 stars, No. 13 OT Nationally)
Skinny: The younger brother of former Iowa State center Tom Farniok would be a huge catch, literally and figuratively, for the Hawkeyes. The additions of Spencer Williams and Cole Banwart, who project in the inside, make tackle the top target area on the offensive front. Farniok has said in recent interviews that the Hawkeyes and Nebraska stand out to him right now because of his strong relationships with the coaches. Landing him serves the double purpose of fortifying your roster while keeping off of a rival’s.
2. Jovan Swann
Height, Weight: 6-3, 250
Position: Defensive Tackle
School: Greenwood (IN) Center Grove High
Reported Offers: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Ball State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Miami (OH), Mississippi State, Navy, Western Michigan.
Rankings: Rivals (3 stars, 34th DT Nationally, 4th in Indiana), Scout (3 stars, 29th DT Nationally, 1st in Indiana), 247 (3 stars, 38th DT Nationally, 4th in Indiana)
Skinny: Iowa jumped in relatively early with Swann and positioned itself well. He visited the school in early March and returned for April’s open spring practice. Since that first stop when Swann raved about the Hawkeyes and said they were "a front-runner" in his decision-making process, Michigan State and Vanderbilt have offered. Iowa must continue pushing forward here.
3. Nick Niemann
Height, Weight: 6-3, 210
School: Sycamore (IL) High
Reported Offers: Iowa, Iowa State, Illinois, Wisconsin, Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Miami (Ohio), Montana St., Southern Illinois.
Rankings: Rivals (3 stars, 20th regardless of position in Illinois), Scout (2 stars), 247 (3 stars)
Skinny: Iowa landed the younger brother of current safety Miles Taylor, Kyle Taylor. Niemann’s older brother, Ben, is a projected starter for Iowa at linebacker. Nick looks a lot like his older sibling in body type and projects as an athletic outside linebacker that can run with tight ends. Nick is more heavily recruited than was Ben, who first verbally committed to Northern Illinois as a wide receiver. The Hawkeyes offered Nick early and appear to be in good shape. He visited the school again April.
Height, Weight: 6-5, 220
Position: Tight End
School: Chariton (IA) High
Reported Offers: Iowa, Iowa State, Eastern Michigan.
Rankings: Rivals (2 stars, 5th in Iowa), Scout (3 stars, No. 9 TE in Midwest), 247 (3 stars, 4th in Iowa)
Skinny: Like Austin Schulte, Spencer Williams and Cole Banwart, Hockenson picked up an Iowa offer at camp on June 7. Unlike that trio, Hockenson already held an offer from Iowa State, which has built a strong relationship with the productive in-state tight end. As a junior, Hockenson caught 73 passes for 1,116 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Iowa Newspaper Association named him to the Class 3A all-state first team. Hockenson is camping at Minnesota, Missouri and Iowa State this month and hopes to have a decision by early July.
5. Austin Schulte
Height, Weight: 6-4, 240
Position: Defensive End
School: Pella (IA) High
Reported Offers: Iowa, North Dakota State, Northern Iowa, South Dakota, South Dakota State.
Rankings: Rivals (3 stars, No. 3 in Iowa), Scout (NR), 247 (NR)
Skinny: Iowa worked out Schulte at a team camp on June 7 and offered him a scholarship on the spot. A tight end and linebacker with the Class 3A state champions, Schulte is an excellent athlete who projects as a Drew Ott type off the edge of the front. He might not have a sexy list of scholarship offers but he’s not a kid that attends exposure events to increase his stock. He’s at or near the top of Iowa’s in-state board in ’16 and a top target overall in this cycle.
6. J.D. Spielman
Height, Weight: 5-9, 175
School: Eden Prairie (MN) High
Reported Offers: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska.
Rankings: Rivals (NR), Scout (3 stars, 84th WR Nationally, 2nd WR in Minnesota), 247 (3 stars, 86th ATH Nationally, 7th regardless of position in Minnesota)
Skinny: The adopted son of Rick Spielman, the Minnesota Vikings general manager and brother of former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman, visited Iowa in March. Iowa assistant Chris White worked for the Vikings before joining the Hawkeyes. The connections are good enough here to keep Iowa in the game. If Jonathan Parker can succeed at wide receiver and in the return game, that would be a good hook for J.D. Spielman, who offers a similar skill set.
7. Noah Fant
Height, Weight: 6-5, 210
Position: Tight End/Defensive End
School: Omaha (NE) South High
Reported Offers: Iowa, Buffalo, Iowa State, Nebraska, Ohio, Vanderbilt, Wyoming.
Rankings: Rivals (NR), Scout (3 stars, 64th DE nationally, 14th DE Midlands, 1st DE in Nebraska), 247 (3 stars, 68th WDE nationally, 4th regardless of position in Nebraska)
Skinny: A lot of schools see Fant as an athletic edge rusher. Iowa is in that group but prefers him as a skilled tight end that makes plays with the ball in his hands. Fant likes the idea of playing offense and has the Hawkeyes in his Top 4 after visiting for the open spring scrimmage. He planned to commit in May but has tapped the brakes on that and is letting his process play out some more. The smart money is on the home-state Huskers here but Iowa is in the race.
8. Kendric Pryor
Height, Weight: 6-1, 175
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Homewood (IL) Flossmoor
Reported Offers: Army, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Connecticut, Illinois State, Iowa State, Western Michigan, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
Rankings: Rivals (3 Stars, No. 18 in Illinois), Scout (2 Stars), 247 (3 Stars, No. 25 in Illinois)
Skinny: After adding three wide receivers in last year’s class, Iowa probably will go smaller in this cycle. You can probably expect two pass catchers in this group with Pryor being a key target. The Chicago-area prospect offers good size with high-end speed and athleticism. The path to gaining a commitment from him became more difficult with Wisconsin offering a scholarship and a strong summer could garner more options for the kid at Warren Holloway’s alma mater.
9. Amani Hooker
Height, Weight: 6-1, 195
School: Brooklyn Park (MN) Park Center High
Reported Offers: New Mexico, Northern Iowa, South Dakota.
Rankings: Rivals (3 Stars, No. 9 in Minnesota), Scout (3 stars, No. 60 S Nationally), 247 (3 stars, No. 10 in Minnesota)
Skinny: Hooker visited Iowa in late May and said he would be back this month for another look around. The Hawkeyes jumped in with an offer for the versatile athlete and sit in good position. Their chances were enhanced after he camped at Wisconsin and Minnesota without landing an offer. Hooker has said he’d like to make a commitment by early August.
10. Kristian Welch
Height, Weight: 6-3, 215
School: Iola (WI)-Scandinavia High
Reported Offers: Bowling Green, Illinois State, North Dakota, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Southern Illinois and Western Illinois.
Rankings: Rivals (NR), Scout (2 stars), 247 (3 stars, No. 3 in Wisconsin).
Skinny: The versatile Welch landed an offer at camp on Sunday. He took most of his reps at tight end but also worked at linebacker. He reported running the 40 in 4.52 seconds. Welch is a small-town prospect flying under the radar right now but that could change. He’s camping at NDSU, Northern Illinois and potentially others. He said he’s waiting until late in his season to commit which could also lead to more opportunities if he performs well as a senior.
11. Parker Boudreaux
Height, Weight: 6-5, 290
Position: Offensive Line
School: Orlando (FL) Bishop Moore
Reported Offers: More than 70. Recently released Top 10 of Georgia Southern, Clemson, Penn State, Notre Dame, Auburn, Oklahoma, Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida and Iowa.
Rankings: Rivals (4 stars, 22nd OT Nationally, 42nd regardless of position in Florida), Scout (3 stars, 24th OG Nationally, 4th OG in Florida), 247 (4 stars, 8th OG Nationally, 31st regardless of position in Florida)
Skinny: Yes, this one is a long shot but he put Iowa in his Top 10 and always has had good things to say about the Hawkeyes. Boudreaux doesn’t fill as big of a need as he did a few weeks ago with Williams and Banwart coming onboard but he’s still a high-level road grater who would be welcomed in Iowa City. That said, he visited Notre Dame and Oklahoma in the last week and hasn’t stopped at Iowa.
12. Noah Ellison
Height, Weight: 6-2, 195
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Erial (NJ) Timber Creek High
Reported Offers: Iowa, Temple, Old Dominion.
Rankings: Rivals (2 Stars, 34th regardless of position in New Jersey), Scout (3 stars, 137th WR nationally, 22nd WR in East Region, 6th WR in New Jersey), 247 (3 stars, 111th WR nationally, 27th regardless of position in New Jersey)
Skinny: Iowa stands out as the lone Power-5 offer for Ellison and its building a strong foundation in recruiting him. Schools like Syracuse, Boston College and Rutgers are hosting him on visits and preparing to pounce with an offer if someone higher on their boards comes off of it. Ellison knows former Hawkeye linebacker Quinton Alston, who also prepped at Timer Creek. Ellison is scheduled to visit Iowa City this summer.
13. James Robinson
Height, Weight: 5-11, 200
Position: Running Back
School: Rockford (IL) Lutheran
Reported Offers: Iowa, Illinois State.
Rankings: Rivals (3 Stars), Scout (2 stars), 247 (NR).
Skinny: Iowa signed one running back in each of its last two classes meaning it’s likely to grab at least two of them in this cycle. Wisconsin’s Toren Young is in the fold verbally. Wade is coming in as an athlete but could end up carrying the ball. Robinson is flying under the radar right now due to his competition being of the small-school variety. It’s overshadowing excellent production which has put him in position to break the all-time Illinois rushing record next fall.
14. Brandon Drayton
Height, Weight: 6-2, 180
School: Largo (FL) High
Reported Offers: Iowa, Georgia Southern, Indiana, Liberty, Marshall, South Florida, Syracuse, Toledo.
Rankings: Rivals (NR), Scout (NR), 247 (NR)
Skinny: Iowa hosted 2015 Largo safety Jonathan Crawford on an official visit only to see him end up at Indiana. The Hoosiers are part of the competition for Drayton, who plays at the school coached by former Hawkeye defensive back Marcus Paschal. Drayton said he will visit Iowa City and Bloomington this summer but that his decision will not be influenced by Crawford being at Indiana. Time will tell. He’s not looking to commit until after his high school season.
15. Albert Okwuegbunam
Height, Weight: 6-5, 225
Position: Tight End
School: Springfield (IL) Sacred Heart Griffin
Reported Offers: Iowa, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Miami (Ohio), Minnesota, Nevada, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Southern Miss, Syracuse, Toledo, Western Michigan, Wyoming.
Rankings: Rivals (NR), Scout (2 stars), 247 (3 Stars, No. 18 tight end nationally, No. 9 overall player in Illinois).
Skinny: Like running back, the Hawkeyes need to replenish the tight end position. Okwuegbunam is probably one of their best shots to land one of those that they’ve offered. He visited for spring ball and came away impressed with what he saw. He’s embracing the history of his position at the school and feels like the system will utilize his skills. Minnesota is the stiffest competition among the programs who have offered to date.
16. Jerrion Nelson
Height, Weight: 6-2, 255
Position: Defensive End
School: Columbia (MO) Battle High
Reported Offers: Ball State, Bowling Green, Iowa State, Missouri State, SE Missouri State, Toledo, Western Illinois and Wyoming.
Rankings: Rivals (3 Stars, No. 10 in Missouri), Scout (NR), 247 (3 Stars).
Skinny: Defensive line is a top need in this cycle and Nelson is a player Iowa identified early as one that can help it. He visited the school for a spring practice and said he could see himself fitting in there. Nelson has participated in some combines and team camps this summer but his offers have trickled in. Nelson is trying to get back to Iowa City this summer but is in no rush to end his recruitment.
17. Jarett Cole
Height, Weight: 5-10, 180
School: Norcross (GA) High
Reported Offers: Iowa, Boston College, Buffalo, Furman, Georgia State, Kansas State, Toledo, Wake Forest.
Rankings: Rivals (3 Stars), Scout (NR), 247 (NR).
Skinny: Perhaps Cole helps Iowa break through in the Peach State even if he recently transferred in from North Carolina. It’s come up empty there in the last several cycles but has cultivated relationships at Norcross and other schools in the Atlanta area. Cole visited Iowa in the spring and named the Hawkeyes his leader. This spring, he put them with Georgia Tech, Kansas State and Nebraska as schools standing out to him. He’s an athletic corner who might also grow into a safety.
18. Patrick Johnson II
Height, Weight: 6-0, 180
School: Potomac (MD), Bullis School
Reported Offers: Iowa, Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, Marshall, Michigan State, North Carolina, N.C. State, Oklahoma, Old Dominion, Rutgers, Towson, Wisconsin.
Rankings: Rivals (3 Stars, 26th overall in Maryland), Scout (3 Stars, 42nd Safety nationally, 7th Safety in East, 3rd safety in Maryland), 247 (3 Stars, 63rd athlete nationally, 21st overall in Maryland).
Skinny: Based on talent, Johnson would sit higher on this list. But the competition is stiff and he still needs to visit Iowa City, which he’s said he’d try to do this summer. His aunt lives in the Hawkeye State, so that’s a plus. He projects as a safety at the next level but also is the type of athlete that could end up at other spots depending on the system and his physical development.
19. Tim Wilson
Height, Weight: 6-4, 185
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Plano (TX) East
Reported Offers: Iowa.
Rankings: Rivals (NR), Scout (NR), 247 (NR).
Skinny: Iowa sees something with Wilson that others haven’t. The Hawkeyes know how to spot talent and frequently are ahead of others in offering players. Mississippi State is showing interest in Wilson, who reminds me of Iowa senior Jacob Hillyer, who was another under-recruited, lanky Texas prep. Wilson is looking to visit Iowa City this summer and that could go a long way in bringing in the Lone Star State product.
20. Quinn Nordin
Height, Weight: 6-2, 200
School: Rockford (MI) High
Reported Offers: Iowa, Arizona State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Illinois, Miami (Ohio), Michigan, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Western Michigan.
Rankings: Rivals (NR), Scout (3 Stars), 247 (3 Stars, No. 1 kicker nationally, No. 26 overall in Michigan).
Skinny: The Hawkeyes were among the first schools to offer the top-rated kicker in the country, their opportunity coming a day after Penn State’s and behind Western Michigan and Miami (Ohio). Home-state Michigan and other Power 5s have followed. There was a time when it looked like a Iowa-PSU dual but with Michigan coming in and Michigan State poking around, that might not be good news for the schools outside the Great Lakes State.