By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – For the 19th time as the Iowa football coach, Kirk Ferentz introduced a new recruiting class on Wednesday.
And just like all the previous classes, he spoke highly of the 2017 class, which consists of 22 high school seniors from 10 different states, including six from Iowa.
“It’s really, I think, important that we try to go out and find players that are going to fit well within our system, understand the way we play football and fit the way we play football,” Ferentz said. “I think, secondly, it's important that they understand and embrace the values that we think are at the heart of our program as well, things such as having a strong work ethic, being competitive, having toughness, and it's mostly mental, being selfless, having a desire to really improve in all areas of their life and a passion for the game.
“Those are the things that we've seen in our past players and teams that have been successful. So those are the things we really look for when we go out and try to identify prospects that we think would fit in our program.”
The Iowa coaches had to scramble to fill the class, and did so by adding seven players since Monday.
And they did it short-handed, considering Ferentz still has to hire two assistant coaches after running backs coach Chris White and receivers coach Bobby Kennedy both were relieved of their duties shortly after the 2016 season.
Ferentz filled those two voids by sending Iowa director of recruiting Tyler Barnes and player personnel director Scott Southmayd on road to recruit.
Ferentz praised their efforts and spoke highly of Kelvin Bell’s leadership during the entire recruiting process. Bell has been Iowa’s recruiting coordinator since last February.
“I think our staff has done a great job over the last two plus weeks,” Ferentz said. “I want to compliment, we went to the bullpen and Tyler Barnes and Scott Southmayd went out on the road and did a great job filling in where we were short.
“And certainly, I want to commend the leadership, Kelvin Bell, Scott and Tyler all working together to provide leadership with our efforts.”
No regrets with Oliver Martin: Nobody ever bats .1000 in recruiting, not even Alabama.
Iowa missed on lots of recruits in the 2017 class, but Oliver Martin’s decision to sign with Michigan probably hurts the most from a perception standpoint.
Martin not only lives just a few blocks from the Iowa campus, but the West High senior also plays receiver, which is a position of need for the Hawkeyes.
Ferentz said Wednesday that his staff worked as hard as it possibly could to land Martin, who is ranked as a four-star recruit.
“You never know what a prospect is thinking,” Ferentz said. “I've read we were right there until the end and I think we were, we were legitimately right there. It would be wonderful if we got every guy we wanted to get. We don't.
“We played against a guy on that team from this year from our state. Somehow we have to find a way to win, even though they get good players from our state. We don't want that to happen. Certainly I think we worked as hard as we possibly could to recruit him and there are no regrets there.”
Ferentz was referring to former West Des Moines Dowling star Amara Darboh, who was a senior for Michigan this past season. Darboh also was ranked as four-star recruit coming out of high school.
Ferentz said every recruit has earned the right to make his own decision.
“So for me to tell a prospect, to act like I know what's best for them, I think that's probably off center on and would really be presumptuous on my part,” Ferentz said. “We don't do that, but we try to present our school and the program as well as we can and players have to make that choice from there.”
Two is better than one: Given how heavily Iowa relies on its rushing attack, restocking at running back is almost always a recruiting priority.
Iowa has two running backs in the 2017 class with Florida native Kyshaun Bryan having picked the Hawkeyes this week, while Illinois native Ivory Kelly-Martin had been committed for several months.
Bryan previously was committed to South Carolina, but then decided to explore other options.
“We started getting on to him in December and evaluating him and the next component was we did a lot of evaluation in that dead period,” Ferentz said of Bryan. “The next step was to get in front of him and try to learn more about him and the kind of person he was. He's got an unbelievable mom and dad, tremendous people.
“He's an impressive young man and we think he's going to fit really well, his running style fits well with what we do. And Ivory is a different type of running back, but I think that's good, diversity with the way they approach things.”
Ferentz addresses his no-visit policy: Ferentz’s no-visit policy for his committed players became a hot topic during this recruiting period after Iowa lost four recruits from Texas.
Running back Eno Benjamin, receivers Gavin Holmes and Beau Corrales and defensive back Chevin Calloway all de-committed from Iowa because they wanted to visit other schools and didn’t agree with Ferentz’s no-visit policy.
Holmes accused Ferentz of having a double standard based on the fact that Ferentz is willing recruit players who are committed to other schools.
Ferentz was asked Wednesday how he reconciles that.
“To me, it's easy if you talk to a player and he's not sure, same thing, he may have said he's committed to the school,” Ferentz said. “But if he's not sure, he's not sure. We're going to keep recruiting him, just like people recruit our players as well. So you test those commitments.”
Coaching search update: Ferentz was asked Wednesday why Chris White and Bobby Kennedy weren’t retained as assistant coaches.
They both had been with the staff for the past four seasons with White coaching the running backs and Kennedy the receivers.
“Those are just decisions I made that I think had to be made,” Ferentz said. “They're never easy. I've got the utmost respect for both Chris and Bobby. They're both tremendous people, but I felt like for this program at this time this is what we needed to do at this point.
“And that being said, our focus now turns to making sure we get the right people in the right seats over the next couple of weeks and I've been working on that as you might imagine.”
Welcome to Georgia: The Iowa coaches have worked hard recently in the state of Georgia from a recruiting standpoint.
Their work finally paid dividends in the 2017 class as Cartersville, Ga. athlete Trey Creamer signed with the Hawkeyes. Creamer could play defensive back or receiver in college.
“We were pleased with the way it panned out,” Ferentz said of Creamer’s recruitment. “It happened late, pretty quickly and it was great getting him on campus, Trey came up and that Monday morning had a chance to meet with his mom and visit with her at school and meet with the coaches.
“We were impressed with him. I think he's a great football player and comes out of a championship-level program. I'm happy to get good players from anywhere, but certainly one out of Atlanta is a plus.”
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