By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – While most of the sports world has been shut down due to the threat of the Coronavirus, it’s still pretty much business as usual for veteran football recruiting analyst Tom Lemming.
He is nearing the end of his annual trek across the United States in which tries to interview as many football recruits as possible in the junior class.
Lemming just met with about 60 prospects this past Saturday on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles.
“As long as you don’t shake hands, especially outdoors, it’s not as bad,” Lemming said. “If you’re enclosed in a place it’s tough. But we were outdoors. It was a ghost town, the campus, which is good for me. The problem is it was raining like crazy.”
Lemming’s travels also recently took him to Council Bluffs where he interviewed four-star tight end Thomas Fidone, who attends Lewis Central High School.
Lemming ranks the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Fidone as the top recruit in Iowa in the 2021 class, and as one of the top tight ends in the country.
“He’s like a tall wide receiver, but he’s got a great frame," Lemming said. "He’ll weigh like 250 in another year or two.”
Fidone recently announced his top six schools, which included Iowa. The other five schools he still is considering are Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan, Louisiana State and Nebraska.
“Iowa, Penn State and Notre Dame are all famous tight end schools,” said Lemming, who has worked as a recruiting analyst since the late 1970s.
Asked what he likes the most about Fidone, Lemming said:
“Athleticism. He’s exceptionally athletic. . He can run, he can jump. He’s got real soft hands. He’s got all the tools except strength right now, which will come later, to be an outstanding tight end.”
Iowa already has received eight verbal commitments from players in the 2021 class, including six from in state.
Cooper DeJean, a 6-2, 198-pound athlete from Ida Grove, was the most recent addition to the class as he announced his commitment to Iowa on Tuesday. DeJean is expected to play defensive back at Iowa.
Lemming likes Iowa’s 2021 class enough to have recently ranked it eighth nationally.
“It’s early, but they’re off to a really good start,” Lemming said.
As for the impact from the coronavirus, Lemming thinks it’ll be felt more in the 2022 recruiting cycle than the 2021 cycle.
College coaches are currently prohibited from recruiting off campus, and from having recruits on campus as part of the fallout from the global pandemic.
“The coaches aren’t on the road and they won’t be on the road for a long time, so the impact will be with the coaches that didn’t do their job early,” Lemming said. “They didn’t have a real good data base on the top players and now they’ve got to scramble to fill a class.
“But I think the coaches that did their work already know who they’re zooming in on for 2021. So I don’t think it’s going to hurt most of them because everything now is a year in advance. It’ll hurt a little bit more in getting a jump start on the 2022 class.”
Lemming praised Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, and his assistant coaches, for having done their homework and for being in a good position with the 2021 class.
“Iowa does a great job,” Lemming said. “As long as Kirk Ferentz is the head coach, they’re never going to have a problem because he understands about recruiting and developing and everything else. He does a real good job.”