IOWA CITY, Iowa – Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio is sort of where Kirk Ferentz was at Iowa about a decade ago.
The Spartans are having a glorious run, arguably the best in school history, and it’s paying huge dividends in recruiting.
Michigan State’s 2016 recruiting class is currently ranked fourth nationally by Rivals.com and sixth by Scout.com.
Turn the calendar back to 2005 and Iowa was in a similar situation under Ferentz, coming off three consecutive double-digit win seasons and winning two Big Ten titles during that time.
Ferentz and his staff used that success to their advantage in recruiting.
Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class was a consensus top-10 class in the national rankings. The class was rocked by attrition, but still produced several star players, including tight end Tony Moeaki, running back Shonn Greene and linebacker Pat Angerer.
Time and performance ultimately will determine whether Michigan State’s class is as good as advertised, but there is no denying its strength on paper.
Seven of the 20 players in Michigan State’s 2016 recruiting class are four-star prospects and a majority of them have multiple power five scholarship offers, including from Iowa.
Iowa’s 2016 class, on the other hand, lacks star power. There are no four-star prospects in the class – which grew to 21 players with a commitment from Wisconsin native Kristian Welch on Monday – nor are there any players in the class who are believed to have a scholarship offer from Michigan State.
Should Iowa fans be concerned about that?
“No, because Michigan State is having one of the best years in the country right now for the first time in a long time,” said veteran recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “See what happens is, all you have to do is have one real good season.
“Michigan State had been doing what Iowa is doing now, evaluating the heck out of ball players and then developing them. And now with that great success they’ve had the last two years, there is no need to do that.”
Michigan State and Iowa both have a strong Chicago presence in their 2016 recruiting classes. The Spartans currently have five players from the Chicago area in their class, while Iowa has four if you include linebacker Nick Niemann, who lives about 50 miles outside of Chicago in Sycamore, Ill., which is near DeKalb.
Two of the five Chicago-area recruits in Michigan State’s 2016 class are ranked as four-star prospects by Rivals.com, while the other three are ranked with three stars.
All four of Iowa’s recruits from the Chicago area are ranked by Rivals.com as three-star prospects.
Iowa’s 2016 class is similar to most recruiting classes under Ferentz with exception to how quickly it has been formed. Iowa added 16 players to the 2016 class in the month of June, and 19 of the 21 commitments have occurred since May 18.
“I’d put them in the middle of the Big Ten right now,” Lemming said of where he would rank Iowa’s 2016 recruiting class. “But you can’t really go by now because there are so many great players still out there. I would put them around the middle. They’re doing a good job. I like the guys they’re getting.”
“(Iowa) and Michigan State are kind of cleaning up in Chicago.”
It’s clear now that Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class was an aberration, a product of its time. Iowa had a combined record of 31-7 during the three-year stretch from 2002-04. However, those three teams had rosters filled with lightly recruited players.
“Before that (run of success), Iowa was doing what it’s doing now,” Lemming said. “Getting ball players that they think have great potential and developing them.
That approach hasn’t worked as well recently, considering Iowa’s record is just 19-19 over the past three seasons.
Recruiting classes often are judged in part by the current status of the program. Fans are more willing to give unheralded recruits the benefit of the doubt during good times because they have more trust in the coaches.
Iowa is expected to have approximately 25 players in its 2016 class. So all that’s left is adding the final pieces.
Iowa recruiting coordinator Seth Wallace was optimistic about recruiting while addressing the media in April. He said the staff was being more aggressive in recruiting and had cast a larger net, but one thing hadn’t changed.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” said Wallace, who was hired as Iowa’s recruiting coordinator barely a year ago last June. “The big thing is just continuing to follow the foundation of this program with recruiting and who we’re looking for, what type of kid we’re looking for. That really hasn’t changed since I got back.”