IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa’s unexpected (at least from the outside) 5-0 start naturally can produce delusions of grandeur. So, here’s a warning: A Festivus miracle isn’t coming on the recruiting trail.
The Hawkeyes have 22 known verbals in the 2016 Class. There’s room for three more guys.
A couple times in the last two days, I’ve been asked if I could see Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz pulling scholarships to make room for higher-ranked prospects.
Few things in sports shock me anymore, but I’d be real surprised if that happened.
Yes, the Hawkeyes pulled back from Illinois Quarterback Jack Beneventi in the last cycle but that was the exception not the rule. They had three signal callers pledged in the class and Beneventi really struggled. They saw a need to fill another hole on the roster.
I’m not saying it’s a crazy question. It’s actually logical. And maybe Iowa could land a few athletes who wouldn’t have given them the time a day in August.
The chances of that occurring aren’t great, however. Most times, a non-blue blood program benefits from a strong season in the next recruiting cycle. History shows us that’s the case at Iowa.
The Hawkeyes most highly-regarded group in Ferentz’s 17 years signed in 2005. It came on the heels of a three-year run of finishing in the nation’s Top 10 and two Big Ten titles. Following a 20-6 spurt from ’08-09, they signed four, four-star prospects in ’10 and again in ’11, per Rivals.
That’s not to say Iowa won’t prosper from this season’s success in the ’16 period. It’s fair to say that their top remaining targets wanted to see the program tick up after last year’s underwhelming 7-6 campaign.
South Dakota Offensive Tackle Matt Farniok, perhaps the No. 1 player on Iowa’s wish list, has the Hawkeyes in his Top 4 with Florida State, Michigan State and Nebraska. He really likes the Iowa staff and a big finish in ’15 might motivate him call Kinnick Stadium home.
It was reported by the 247 Network Monday that Indiana Defensive Tackle Jovan Swann put Stanford atop his list after this weekend’s visit. He’s twice stopped at Iowa and has talked about the Hawkeyes getting an official visit. He’s told me he wants to go to medical school, and while Iowa isn’t Stanford academically, it’s also not half a country away.
Michigan Offensive Tackle Alaric Jackson stays pretty quiet when it comes to his recruitment. Relatively new to football, his ceiling is high and the Hawkeyes are intrigued by the raw material. He likes Iowa and is friends with fellow Michigan preps, Cedrick Lattimore and Chauncey Golston, who are Hawkeye verbals.
Florida Defensive Back K.J. Sails unofficially visited Iowa in July before officially stopping for the Pitt game last month. A week later, he saw another of his favorites, Wisconsin, pound Hawaii. The Hawkeyes’ win in Madison Saturday was a notch on their belt in the pursuit of Sails.
Another player slightly under the radar on which to keep an eye is Minneapolis North High athlete Tyler Johnson. Like Jackson, he’s off the grid when it comes to sharing his thoughts on schools, but Iowa is positioned well after being the first Power 5 school to offer him way back in November of ’14.
The Iowa staff still is evaluating seniors in the state and out of it. De-commitments are possible. New names will emerge.
That pool will be relatively small, however. I’d turn your focus to ’17 and beyond if you’re hoping for the Hawkeyes to be involved with high-ranked players. In-state juniors with offers, Tristan Wirfs (Mount Vernon) and Jacob Coons (Solon), must be feeling even better about Iowa after this start.
UNSUNG HEROES: We’ve praised a group of players for Iowa’s fast start. C.J. Beathard, Desmond King, Drew Ott, Jordan Canzeri, Matt Vandeberg and Marshall Koehn all have deserved the recognition.
When the Hawkeyes are going well, however, usually there are guys performing in the shadows. Left guard Jordan Walsh and LEO linebacker Ben Niemann are two of those athletes this season.
Walsh and Center Austin Blythe have been the team’s top offensive linemen with the former receiving a lot less publicity. When the Hawkeyes have needed tough yards, they’ve run behind Walsh, who has enjoyed high notes throughout his three years as a starter but has consistently manhandled the opposition in ’15.
Niemann plays a much overlooked position that might be the most important to the defense experiencing success. He covers tight ends, contains the edge and stops the inside run at a high level. That takes a special athlete with great versatility.
TIP-OFF TIME: The Iowa men’s basketball team officially tipped off its season on Monday with practice. The Hawkeyes annual media day has been set for Wednesday.
The football program’s resurgence maybe is overshadowing hoops’ hype but this has a chance to be a very good season on the hardwood. Four starters return and back-up point guard Anthony Clemmons provides Coach Fran McCaffery with another experienced player.
While some folks are wringing their hands over what the Hawkeyes will do in ’16-17 at the lead guard spot, they’re overlooking this year’s luxury of having two seniors at the position in Clemmons and Mike Gesell. Few teams in the country enjoy that type of maturity at such a critical spot.
I haven’t worked out my prediction for this winter but I can tell you that it will be brighter than what I’ve seen nationally, which is somewhere in the middle of the Big Ten pack. I like this team.
WEIRD BEARD: My kids like it when I grow facial hair. My wife doesn’t. I’m neutral.
Bored in August, I decided to sprout a goatee. My son and two daughters asked how long I’d keep it. I told them until Iowa football loses a game.
I had the Hawkeyes falling at Iowa State and Wisconsin before the season. Yesterday I considered "Just for Men" to cover up the ever-emerging gray.