Editor’s note: This story was originally supposed to be a part of the launch of HawkFanatic, but due to the allegations of racial disparity facing the Iowa football program, we felt that it was inappropriate and chose to focus all of our reporting on that story. But two weeks have since passed, and while the story is still developing, we feel the circumstances are better for us to now publish this story.
By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Though it has gained a reputation as a developmental program under head coach Kirk Ferentz, the Iowa football team has signed its fair share of nationally-ranked recruits.
But recruiting accolades don’t necessarily translate to college.
So, how did the top 10 recruits in the Ferentz era fare in college?
We took a look at all the recruiting classes dating back to 2004 and through 2017 and narrowed them down to a list of all of the Ferentz recruits rated 5.9 or higher by Rivals.com (there were no Rivals ratings available in previous classes).
If multiple players had the same rating, the tiebreaker came down to their national ranking and players currently on the active roster were excluded.
The results were interesting as seven of the top 10 Ferentz recruits through the 2017 class were Illinois natives, including the top three, and only four of the top 10 became NFL draft picks, with only one, offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga, selected in the first round.
In fact, half the players on the list either played sparingly at Iowa or transferred.
Five of the players on the list came from Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class which was ranked No. 11 nationally.
All heights, weights, rankings and hometowns were provided by the Rivals.com recruiting database.
Pos., Name, Height, Weight, Hometown, Star rating, Rivals rating, National ranking, Class
- LB Kyle Williams, 6-2, 217, Bolingbrook, Ill., *****, 6.1, No. 14, 2004
Williams never stepped foot on the field at Iowa for academic reasons. He eventually transferred to Purdue before getting into legal trouble. He is currently serving a prison sentence with parole set for 2023.
- OL Dan Doering, 6-6, 300, Barrington, Ill., *****, 6.1, No. 27, 2005
Doering was the highest-rated recruit in Iowa’s heralded 2005 recruiting class which featured seven players that played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Doering was named the Illinois Player of the Year as a senior and was a first-team All-American by Parade and USA Today. Doering battled injuries throughout his Iowa career and played in just 19 games.
- DL A.J. Epenesa, 6-5, 270, Edwardsville, Ill., *****, 6.1, No. 30, 2017
Though he has yet to play professionally, Epenesa could be considered the biggest success on this list. Epenesa played in all 39 games during his three-year Hawkeye career and recorded 26.5 sacks, 36.5 tackles for loss and forced nine fumbles. He was named a second-team All-American by the Associated Press after his sophomore and junior seasons. Epenesa decided to forego his senior season and was drafted 54th overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2020 NFL Draft.
- DB Jordan Bernstine, 5-10, 200, Des Moines, ****, 6, No. 51, 2007
Bernstine was a Parade All-American as a high school senior. He played in 44 games as a Hawkeye, recording 114 tackles and one interception. Bernstine was a seventh-round pick by the Washington Redskins. In his first NFL game, he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament that ended his football career.
- TE Tony Moeaki, 6-4, 250, Wheaton, Ill., ****, 6, No. 52, 2005
Though he battled injuries during his career, Moeaki played in 23 games as a Hawkeye and caught 57 passes for 701 yards and eight touchdowns. He was named second-team All-Big Ten as a senior and was a third-round draft pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010. Moeaki played five seasons in the NFL with Kansas City, Buffalo, Seattle and Atlanta.
- OL Dace Richardson, 6-6, 300, Wheaton, Ill., ****, 6, No. 54, 2005
Richardson was high school teammates with Moeaki and they announced their commitments to Iowa together at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. But Richardson’s Iowa career went a different route than Moeaki’s. The often-injured Richardson played in 12 games as a Hawkeye and his now a police officer in Waukee.
- OL Bryan Bulaga, 6-5, 270, Woodstock, Ill., ****, 6, No. 70, 2007
Bulaga has easily had the most successful professional career out of all the players on this list. He was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2009 before skipping his senior season and being drafted 23rd overall by the Green Bay Packers. In nine seasons with the Packers, Bulaga started in 111 games. He recently signed a contract with the Los Angeles Chargers.
- LB Jeremiha Hunter, 6-2, 200, Harrisburg, Pa., ****, No. 78, 2006
Hunter enjoyed a solid collegiate career. He played in 46 games and recorded 269 tackles, three interceptions and was named second-team All-Big Ten by league coaches in 2010. Hunter signed a free agent contract with the New Orleans Saints but his NFL career never took off.
- QB Jake Christensen, 6-0, 200, Lockport, Ill., ****, No. 89, 2005
Christensen started one season at Iowa, throwing for 2,269 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2007. He ultimately lost his starting job to Ricky Stanzi and transferred to Eastern Illinois before playing one season in the German Football League.
- FB Kalvin Bailey, 5-11, 245, Seffner, Fla., ****, 5.9, No. 97, 2005
Bailey redshirted in 2005 before transferring for academic reasons.