Harty: Iowa’s 2016 recruiting class has versatility and some amazing stat stuffers
IOWA CITY, Iowa – With the Iowa football team 7-0 and gaining more national acclaim on a weekly basis, the future in most cases can wait.
Recruiting is an exception.
It’s a never-ending process of which fans can’t seem to get enough.
There hasn’t been a lot of action on the Iowa recruiting front, but that’s understandable after what happened in June when 16 high school seniors-to-be made verbal commitments to Iowa’s 2016 recruiting class. Nearly two-thirds of the class was added in just one month, which is highly unusual.
Tight end Noah Fant was the last player to commit to Iowa on Aug. 28, although, the Omaha native appears to still be sniffing around, considering he recently visited Nebraska. Fant was the 23rd player to commit to Iowa’s 2016 class, all of whom are high school seniors.
Iowa is believed to only have two scholarships still available in the 2016 class. By my estimation, there are at least four high school seniors who are being heavily pursued to fill those two spots.
They are South Dakota offensive lineman Matt Farniok, Detroit offensive lineman Alaric Jackson, Indiana defensive lineman Jovan Swann and Florida defensive back K.J. Sails.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy tight end Shaun Beyer is also on Iowa’s radar, but hasn’t been offered a scholarship to this point. I watched the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Beyer play in the season opener against Iowa City West and was very impressed with his size and athleticism.
He committed to FCS power North Dakota State in August, but it’ll be interesting to see what Beyer does if Iowa offers him a scholarship. My guess is that Beyer would choose the Hawkeyes. And who could blame him?
As for the players already committed to Iowa, running back Toren Young has been close to unstoppable this fall.
A native of Monona Grove, Wis., Young leads the state of Wisconsin in rushing among high school players with 2,318 yards in 10 games. The 5-10, 220-pounder also has scored 25 touchdowns this season.
Young rushed for 318 yards on just 13 carries this past Friday, leading his team to a 31-0 victory.
It’s only natural to wonder with the kind of season that Young is having whether the home-state Wisconsin Badgers ultimately would offer him a scholarship. Young appears on film to be a classic down-hill runner who doesn’t have blazing speed, but compensates with power, patience and vision.
He would seem to fit nicely in Wisconsin’s run-oriented system, but he also fits just as well with Iowa’s offense.
Young was a recent guest on our podcast in which he gave no signs of wavering. He raved about the Iowa coaches and said his commitment to Iowa was solid, even if the Badgers were to offer him a scholarship.
“I like everything about Iowa,” Young said on the podcast. “I have a great relationship with the coaches and the players.”
Right now, there is a lot for Young to like about Iowa, with his future team still undefeated under Kirk Ferentz, who is the dean of Big Ten coaches.
Ferentz showed his faith in Young by offering him a scholarship pretty early in the recruiting process. Young was the second player to commit to Iowa’s 2016 class, announcing his decision on Jan. 15.
Young has since spent the past 10 months strengthening his bond with the Hawkeyes.
Wisconsin recently lost a 4-star running back who de-committed, so the search for a replacement is underway. You never say never in the unpredictable world of recruiting. But I’d be surprised if the Badgers could persuade Young to change his mind by finally offering him a scholarship.
Young is among nine skill players in Iowa’s 2016 class. A skill player is somebody who is being recruited to play either running back, receiver, quarterback or defensive back.
Minnesota native Amani Hooker just finished a spectacular senior season in which he was a dominant two-way player as a dual-threat quarterback, receiver and defensive back. Iowa recruited the 6-1, 185-pound Hooker as a defensive back, but he looks talented enough to also play receiver in college.
Hooker scored six touchdowns in leading his team to a victory in the playoffs last week.
Oddly, enough, he hasn’t attracted much attention on the recruiting front. It’s hard to say why other schools haven’t shown much interest because Hooker certainly has the size and statistics to support his case.
Speaking of statistics, Chariton tight end T.J. Hockenson, who committed to Iowa on June 19, is nearing the end of a record-breaking career. He enters the playoffs on Wednesday with 81 catches on the season for 1,114 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Hockenson already owns the state career records for catches (234), touchdown receptions (49) and is second in receiving yards (3,455). The 6-6, 235-pounder also excels in basketball, which speaks volumes about his athleticism.
Maybe what impresses me the most about Iowa’s 2016 recruiting class is the ver satility of some of the players, like for example, Barrington Wade, who is from Skokie, Ill. He seems capable of playing either linebacker or running back in college.
Indiana native Toks Akrinibade also fits into that category as somebody who could play multiple positions for the Hawkeyes. He rushed for over 1,400 yards this season as a running back, but also has the physical skills to play defensive back.
Iowa’s 2016 recruiting class is currently ranked 27th nationally by Scout.com and 32nd by Rival.com. That’s an improvement from last season, just like Iowa’s performance on the field has been this fall.
I’ve been asked if Iowa’s success this season could convince some of the more heralded recruits in the 2016 class to look closer at the Hawkeyes. I’m sure some eye brows have been raised. But unless one of the committed players fails to live up to his responsibilities on and off the field, I couldn’t see Ferentz pulling a scholarship.
Iowa’s success this fall should have its biggest impact in the 2017 senior class, which includes star defensive end and legacy recruit A.J. Epenesa. He wants to play for a winner in college. And right now, that certainly describes his father’s alma mater.