Football signing day notebook: In-state talent dominates Iowa’s 2021 class
Barnes, Ferentz talk about keeping class together; recruiting during COVID
By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – In-state talent dominated the Iowa football team’s 2021 recruiting class.
Nine of the 17 players that signed national letters of intent Wednesday are Iowa natives, the most since Iowa signed eight in-state players in 2015.
“I think it was a huge, huge advantage for us to have this type of regional base in a year where there’s a pandemic where we can’t have kids on campus, and we can’t go and see them, and we can’t have summer camps,” director of recruiting Tyler Barnes said.
“Everybody is well aware that we’re big, in terms of evaluation, in getting kids on campus for camps. It’s huge for us to get guys on campus and actually see campus, see our facility, interact with the support staff around campus that they’re going to be a part of in their everyday life once they get here.”
In fact, all but two of Iowa’s signees – Ohio quarterback Joe Labas and Kansas receiver Arland Bruce – come from states that border Iowa, though Bruce played his senior season in Iowa after Kansas high school football was shut down.
The last time Iowa had nine Iowa natives in a recruiting class was 2009.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz said being able to get recruits on campus prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was a big part in having a more localized recruiting class.
“You think about the pandemic and a lot of these prospects had the ability to be on campus before things got shut down in March,” Ferentz said. “So, that kind of tends a little bit more regional recruiting, if you will. All that being said, we still feel great about it.”
Keeping it together: Iowa’s 2021 class could have fallen apart when allegations of racial bias were made by former players in June that mostly centered around former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
But only one player, Florida defensive back Jordan Oladokun, de-committed from the class.
“With the whole class we had to be open and honest,” Barnes said. “And there were conversations that took place in this building with our current players. You couldn’t run away from it, you had to hit it head on. It’s a huge credit to the class to stick with us, listen to our staff, listen to players here. A lot of those guys talk to current players in the building, current coaches in the building.
“I think that just shows you the type of kids we have. And within that, they talk within each other, too. These guys have group texts, they’re talking all year long and helping recruit each other.”
Ferentz said being proactive rather than reactive was also crucial to keeping the class together.
“We’re going to continue to deal with it the way we have dealt with it – straight on,” Ferentz said. “And just answers questions and encourage people to get facts, not sensational headlines or all this stuff that got all the attention. Let’s look at the facts. The other obvious answer, and I’ve said this many times, is we’re going to continue to try to work forward as a program. I’d venture to say we’ve probably done as much as anybody on that front over the last – whatever it’s been – eight, nine months.”
Looking ahead: At this time last year, Iowa already had six players committed to the 2021 class.
Right now, the only player committed to the 2022 class is Gowrie, Iowa, native Aaron Graves.
A lot of that can be attributed to the extended recruiting dead period due to COVID-19, but with the NCAA essentially giving every player a free year of eligibility, Barnes said Iowa has to be more selective than normal going forward.
“I think, initially right now looking forward, next year is going to be a smaller class than normal anyway,” Barnes said. “And then when you throw in the extra year for our seniors, too. Our roster is as fluid as it’s ever been right now with everything in place with the NCAA.”
Early enrollees: Barnes said Wednesday that offensive linemen Connor Colby and David Davidkov, linebackers Zach Twedt and Justice Sullivan, and receivers Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce will all enroll at Iowa in January.