IOWA CITY, Iowa – Veteran recruiting analyst Tom Lemming was in Iowa City on Sunday to meet with the top juniors from the state of Iowa, along with a few prospects from bordering states.
He likes what he saw.
"I think it’s an outstanding year," Lemming said of the 2017 senior class in Iowa. "When you talk about the state of Iowa, I think it’s going to be one of those years where people are talking about it in the future because there are a good number of them.
"I would imagine Iowa could be offering seven or eight or maybe even nine guys from instate, which is an unusual number. But there are so many good ones."
Iowa already has received five verbal commitments from players in the 2017 class, including four from Iowa. They are are defensive tackle Juan Harris from North Fayette, defensive end Coy Kirkpatrick from Madrid, offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs from Mount Vernon and linebacker/tight end Jacob Coons from Solon.
The lone out-of-state recruit in the 2017 class is five-star defensive end A.J. Epenesa, who is from Edwardsville, Ill., and the son of former Iowa defensive tackle Eppy Epenesa.
In addition to the four players from instate who already have committed to Iowa’s 2017 recruiting class, Bettendorf offensive lineman Mark Kallenberger also reportedly has an Iowa offer.
Lemming met with more than 30 recruits on Sunday and took photos of each prospect that will be published in Lemming’s annual recruiting book. Lemming travels to Iowa City each year from his home in suburban Chicago to gather information on the junior class.
He arranged this year’s trip to coincide with Iowa’s junior day, which also was held on Sunday.
Lemming praised the junior class in Iowa for being loaded with offensive and defensive linemen.
"It always is that way, it seems" Lemming said Iowa producing linemen on a regular basis. "Every now and then you get some pretty good skill players.
"But for the most part, tight ends, linemen and linebackers are what comes out of Iowa."
Lemming raved about A.J. Epenesa and thinks he has a chance to be star for the Hawkeyes.
"He’s the number one player in Illinois and he’s a national recruit and that really helps them a lot because every school would’ve been after A.J.," Lemming said. "He’s a talented ball player.
"I went down there to see him last year and I really liked his personality. He’s a good kid and he can play inside or outside as a defensive lineman."
Lemming said approximately two weeks before Epenesa committed to Iowa in January that he felt Iowa was the team to beat.
"His dad really has a passion for the Iowa Hawkeyes," said Lemming, who has worked as a recruiting analyst since the late 1970s. "I knew that talking on the phone. So I think his dad influenced him, which all fathers should.
"I think they seem to be a lot smarter than their 17 or 18-year old kids. And I think it really benefits them in the long run. And it’s really going to benefit Iowa because he is a big-time ball player and I think a guy who is going to do nothing but improve."
The Iowa football team is coming off a 2015 season in which it won the Big Ten West Division and played in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1991.
Lemming said Iowa’s resurgence combined with Kirk Ferentz’s ability to evaluate talent will pay dividends in recruiting.
"It’s the best evaluating staff in the country," Lemming said of Ferentz’s staff at Iowa. "So even though when they go into Michigan, they can’t beat Michigan or Michigan State and they can’t beat Ohio State in Ohio, they do a great job of evaluating and then developing ball players.