’16 Football Recruiting Big Board 4.0
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Recruiting is a game. Coaches play it fiercely and fans follow it passionately.
Unlike the competition on the field, however, the prospecting process is ever-changing. While we’re stuck in a quicksand of TV timeouts on Saturdays in the fall, blink and you’ll miss something in recruiting. Heck, news can slip by you even if you’re paying attention with how fast the game is played.
It makes my big boards a challenge like I’ve not witnessed in the past. I welcome it. It’s fun and, I hope, entertaining for you folks.
When I published 3.0 eight days ago, I figured I had a few weeks before we needed an update. Yeah, right. This one could have been constructed last week with the flurry of verbal commitments to the Hawkeyes.
Iowa has landed 14 prospects since May 18 raising its total to 16 in 2016. Nine of the pledges have come since two weekends ago.
Back to the drawing board.
To date, the coaches have addressed needs at linebacker, running back and defensive line with their verbals. They’ve left tight end, cornerback and offensive tackle as target areas.
Offensive tackle is the position where I expect to see new names to emerge. It also could happen at cornerback.
Like de-commitments, attrition and injuries fuel the fluidity of recruiting. But where we stand roster wise now, this should be a big class and finish with up to 25 commitments.
With that in mind, we tackle The All Hawkeyes 2016 Big Board 4.0:
(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. 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. The Iowa coaches got him to come to last weekend’s tailgate and are doing a good job convincing him to turn his back on the home-state school. That’s a tall task but he’s the No. 1 TE on the board.
4. Max Wariboko
Height, Weight: 5-10, 170
School: Oklahoma State (OK) Casady High
Reported Offers: Iowa, Louisville, SMU, Tulsa, UCLA.
Rankings: Rivals (3 stars), Scout (2 Stars), 247 (3 Stars and No. 17 overall in Oklahoma).
Skinny: Playing at a position of need, Wariboko visited Iowa for last weekend’s recruiting tailgate and three days later he put the Hawkeyes in his Top 3 with Louisville and UCLA. He’s expected to decide soon. That could be good news for Iowa as he has yet to visit his two other finalists. Wariboko looks like a natural corner with good hip action, athleticism and closing speed.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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. He released his Top 13 a few weeks ago and Iowa made it.
8. 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 earlier this month. 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.
9. Andrew Fitzgerald
Height, Weight: 6-5, 245
Position: Defensive End
School: Flower Mounds (TX) Marcus High
Reported Offers: Iowa, Baylor, Boise State, Cal, Kansas State, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Oregon, SMU, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, Virginia, among others.
Rankings: Rivals (3 Stars), Scout (3 Stars, No. 26 DE nationally), 247 (3 Stars, No. 75 in Texas)
Skinny: Fitzgerald hops on the big board not as a player at a position of need but one too good to pass up if he wants to come. The physical defensive end visited Iowa City last week as part of a summer tour that took him through Baylor, Kansas State, North Carolina and Vanderbilt. He said good things about the Hawkeyes but is the type of positive kids that free with compliments for the schools that offer and host him. If Fitzgerald came to Iowa, it might seem like an overload at defensive end but remember that one or two of these guys could slide inside.
10. Albert Okwuegbunam
Height, Weight: 6-5, 225
Position: Tight End
School: Springfield (IL) Sacred Heart Griffin
Reported Offers: Iowa, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Miami (Ohio), Michigan State, Minnesota, Nevada, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Southern Miss, Syracuse, Toledo, Western Michigan, Wyoming.
Rankings: Rivals (3 Stars, No. 15 player in Illinois), Scout (3 stars, No. 23 TE nationally), 247 (3 Stars, No. 25 tight end nationally, No. 18 overall player in Illinois).
Skinny: Okwuegbunam is probably one of the fastest risers nationally on this board. He visited Iowa 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 has been the stiffest competition among the programs who had offered until Michigan State jumped in last week. The Spartans have been cleaning up in Illinois and could swoop in and grab a player who Iowa really could use.
11. A.J. Taylor
Height, Weight: 5-11, 190
School: Kansas City (MO) Rockhurts High
Reported Offers: Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin, among others.
Rankings: Rivals (4 Stars, No. 1 overall player in Missouri), Scout (3 stars, No. 92 WR nationally), 247 (4 Stars, No. 5 overall player in Missouri).
Skinny: Opinions vary on what position Taylor will play at the next level but all agree he’s a special talent. He visited Iowa’s tailgate last weekend. The Hawkeyes appear willing to give Taylor a crack at running back, which could be a key to landing him. If things don’t work out and he has to go to a different position, so be it. The Hawkeyes need to keep adding athletes like Turner.
12. Romeo McKnight
Height, Weight: 6-5, 230
Position: Defensive End
School: Crystal Lake (IL) Central High
Reported Offers: Iowa, Miami (OH), Ball State, Bowling Green, Toledo, Western Illinois and Wyoming.
Rankings: Rivals (3 Stars), Scout (3 Stars, No. 14 DE in Midwest), 247 (3 Stars, No. 15 player in Illinois).
Skinny: Like many others on this board, McKnight visited for the recruiting tailgate last weekend. He was expected to visit Toledo this week and then possibly Illinois and Miami (Ohio). The Hawkeyes appear to be the leaders in the clubhouse here with a decision slated for Monday, June 29. McKnight could end up pushing one of the committed DEs inside eventually if jumps on board. He’s very athletic and won a state wrestling title last winter.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
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: Like players on previous big boards, Nelson could become a victim of the numbers game. Once one of Iowa’s top targets, he plays a position that Iowa is close to filling. 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. It could cost him.