IOWA CITY, Ia. – On May 17, the Iowa football program ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten with just two verbal commitments in the 2016 class.
The class had been stuck on two commitments for nearly four months. Fans were concerned about the inactivity because it didn’t make sense with the Iowa coaches offering scholarships at an accelerated pace in this new age of recruiting.
But then something significant happened on May 18. Iowa’s 2016 recruiting class doubled in size on that day when Detroit natives and high school teammates Cedrick Lattimore and Chauncey Golston both committed to the Hawkeyes.
Barely a month later, Iowa now has 16 commitments in the 2016 class, eight of whom committed in the past week.
The flurry of commitments can be traced to several factors in addition to the Iowa coaches offering more scholarships, which was over 200 at last count.
However, despite all the offers, until about a month ago, West Des Moines Valley offensive lineman John Raridon, who is committed to Nebraska, was believed to be the only player from instate in the 2016 class to have an Iowa offer.
The Iowa coaches held a one-day camp earlier this month in which they took a closer look at some of the top instate recruits who were being considered for scholarships.
The up-close evaluations led to four players from instate in the 2016 class being offered scholarships, along with one from the 2017 class. All five players committed to Iowa shortly after being offered a scholarship.
The four players in the 2016 class are Cedar Falls offensive lineman Spencer Williams, who committed to Iowa on June 8; Algona offensive lineman Cole Banwart, who committed on June 9; Chariton tight end T.J. Hockenson, who committed on June 19 and Pella defensive end Austin Schulte, who committed on June 20.
Madrid defensive end Coy Kirkpatrick, who is in the 2017 class, committed to Iowa on June 8, just hours after being offered a scholarship after attending the one-day camp.
The Iowa coaches also hosted a barbecue for recruits this past Saturday that seems to have had a positive effect. Receivers Devonte Young and Frank Darby, who are from Waldorf, Md., and Jersey City, N.J., respectively, both attended the barbecue while on their visit and then committed to Iowa shortly thereafter.
Chicago linebacker Amani Jones also switched his commitment from Illinois to Iowa this past weekend.
“It’s just an amazing community,” Young said to Rob Howe from allhawkeyes.com. “Also the facilities were great and the coaching staff showed amazing hospitality. They made it feel like home.”
Darby also raved about the new facilities, as have most of the recruits in the 2016 class.
“When I went there, the new facility blew my mind,” Darby said.
Another factor could be the rise in social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook. It’s easier for recruits to stay connected these days. You often hear a kid say after committing that he now wants to get others to follow him. Social media is used as a recruiting device in those situations.
A typical Iowa recruiting class has approximately 20 to 25 players, so the 2016 class is more than half full with the national signing day in February 2016 still more than seven months away.
Iowa recruiting coordinator Seth Wallace talked in April about the staff casting a larger recruiting net and being more aggressive. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz also has acknowledged the need to be more aggressive in recruiting.
It’s more than just talk, though, considering the Iowa coaches have offered at least 200 scholarships to members of the 2016 class.
That’s a dramatic increase compared to as recently as last year.
“You have to keep up with the Joneses,” said veteran recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “That’s what everybody is doing now.”
Iowa’s 2016 class is currently tied with Ohio State for third in the Big Ten with 16 commitments. Michigan State has the most with 19 followed by Michigan with 17.
Adding so many players in such a short time has helped Iowa’s class climb to No. 25 nationally in the latest rankings by Rivals.com.
Lemming, who has worked as a recruiting analyst since the late 1970s, said the size of Iowa’s 2016 class at this early stage is not the only thing that’s different about it.
“You know what they’re doing; they’re going after athletes,” Lemming said. “It’s an athletic class, if you’ve noticed.”
It’s not a star-studded class, though, at least in regard to the star-rating system.
Most of the players in Iowa’s 2016 class are ranked as three-star prospects on a scale where five stars is the highest ranking. There isn’t a four-star or a five-star recruit in the class.
Iowa also doesn’t have a player in the 2016 class with a scholarship offer from Michigan State, whereas the Spartans have at least 10 players in their 2016 class who reportedly have offers from Iowa.
Lemming said Iowa’s recruiting is similar to where Michigan State was before its current run of success, which includes winning at least 11 games in four of the past five seasons.
“Michigan State was doing the same thing Iowa is doing and they’re winning Big Ten titles getting two- and three-star players,” Lemming said. “Before this, they would’ve never beaten Michigan, Notre Dame or Ohio State on players.
“Now you can see them doing it because they are having success.”
Wisconsin quarterback Nathan Stanley was the first player to commit to Iowa’s 2016 class back on Nov. 10, 2014. He was then joined by Wisconsin running back Toren Young, who committed to Iowa on Jan. 25.
Since then, Iowa has landed 13 players from seven different states and one from Washington D.C.
The challenge now is to keep the 16 players committed because nothing is official until each recruit signs a national letter of intent.
The making of a recruiting class
Order in which players have committed to Iowa’s 2016 recruiting class, starting with the most recent commitments:
June 22 – Frank Darby, WR
June 21 – Devonte Young, WR
June 20 – Austin Schulte, DE; Amani Jones, LB
June 19 – Nick Niemann, LB; T.J. Hockenson, TE
June 18 – Toks Akrinibade, RB
June 16 – Amani Hooker, DB
June 15 – Barrington Wade, RB/LB
June 9 – Kyle Taylor, LB; Cole Wanwart, OL
June 8 – Spencer Williams, OL
May 18 – Cedrick Lattimore, DE; Chauncey Golston, DE
Jan. 25 – Toren Young, RB
Nov. 11, 2014 – Nathan Stanley, QB