IOWA CITY, Iowa – In nearly 40 years as a college football recruiting analyst, Tom Lemming has evaluated multiple high school running backs who then went on to play for Iowa.
Most of them have shared something in common in that they weren’t considered star recruits.
There have been a few exceptions such as Tony Stewart, Tavian Banks, Ladell Betts and Brandon Wegher. But most of Iowa’s running back recruits were ranked as 3-star prospects or lower in high school.
That’s why landing Eno Benjamin on Monday was such a big deal from a perception standpoint.
The Wylie, Texas native has more than two dozen scholarship offers, including one from Michigan, and is ranked as a 4-star recruit by most services.
“Iowa has done a great job of developing potential guys (at running back),” Lemming said. “But now they’ve got a big-time guy coming in. So it’s a great catch for them.”
Asked what makes the 5-foot-10, 195-pound Benjamin big time, Lemming mentioned physical attributes that often define a great running back.
“His vision and he’s got real good lateral movement,” Lemming said. “You see him just jump out of tackles.”
Benjamin rushed for over 2,600 yards as a junior last season, earning first-team all-state accolades in talent-rich Texas.
“He’s one of the best backs in the country,” Lemming said. “He’s the top back in northern Texas, where he ran for a lot of yards last year.
“A terrific all-around athlete. As a running back, he’s good inside and outside.”
The challenge for Iowa the coaches is to keep Benjamin committed until national signing day in February, which is still more than nine months away.
“He’s a big-time guy,” Lemming said. “You’ve got to hang on to him because there will be a lot of other schools trying to poach him away.”
Lemming thinks Benjamin’s commitment could help Iowa establish an even stronger recruiting pipeline to Texas.
The Lone Star state has been good to the Hawkeyes, producing a number of players over the past four decades who helped rebuild and then sustain the program.
Iowa’s all-time leading rusher, Sedrick Shaw, is from Austin, Texas, while former all-Big Ten quarterback Drew Tate is from Baytown.
“If you could get a pipeline going to Texas, which Iowa needs because there isn’t much local talent, it would really open a lot of doors,” Lemming said.
Benjamin is the ninth player to commit to Iowa’s 2017 class, and the second running back. Illinois running back Ivory Kelly-Martin committed to Iowa earlier this month, reportedly turning down offers from Wisconsin and Arizona.
The class also features five-star defensive end A.J. Epenesa, who is the son of former Iowa defensive lineman Eppy Epenesa and a native of Edwardsville, Ill.
Iowa’s 2017 class is now ranked No. 12 nationally by Rivals in the wake of Benjamin committing on Monday.
“They’re putting together an outstanding 2017 class,” Lemming said.