By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Momentum in the 2022 recruiting class has been tough to find for the Iowa football team.
With eight verbal commitments, Iowa is the only Big Ten team other than Nebraska to have fewer than 11 players committed to its 2022 class. The Huskers also have eight commitments.
Iowa hosted 14 players on official visits on June 25 (four of which were already verbally committed to the Hawkeyes) but netted just one verbal commitment from a future scholarship player in three-star Illinois receiver Jacob Bostick.
Eight of the players on campus that weekend have since committed to other schools, including four-star Nebraska tight end Micah Riley-Ducker who committed to Auburn on July 7.
Veteran recruiting analyst Tom Lemming understands the frustration among Iowa fans, but said it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.
“I know Iowa fans are a little upset because they’ve lost some of these guys,” Lemming said. “But Iowa fans are always upset and they continue to win. You see the internet sites ranking them 70th, and all of a sudden they’re ranked in the top 10. It’s coaching, but they’ve also done a real good job of evaluating and then developing, too.”
The first place many fans’ minds would go with regard to Iowa’s recruiting struggles are the events of last June when dozens of Black former Hawkeye players came forward with allegations that mostly centered around former strength and conditioning coordinator Chris Doyle.
Doyle and Iowa reached a separation agreement shortly after, but some of the allegations also implicated head coach Kirk Ferentz and his son, Brian Ferentz, who is the offensive coordinator.
Lemming said Iowa’s recruiting lull has less to do with the events of last year and more to do with the cycle of recruiting under Kirk Ferentz.
“I don’t think it’s the events of last summer,” Lemming said. “It’s just cyclical for Iowa. As long as Kirk (Ferentz) is there, they have one of the best evaluating and developing staffs in the country. They always have since Kirk got there. He’s had those ups and downs in recruiting. It’s never been a linear type recruiting thing for them where they’re always doing great.”
Allen Trieu, who covers Midwest recruiting for 247 Sports, used how Iowa finished its 2021 class as an example.
While Iowa added just four of its 19 players in the class after the racial allegations came to light, only one player, Florida defensive back Jordan Oladokun, de-committed from the class.
Iowa still ended with a top 25 recruiting class according to both Rivals and 247 Sports.
“All this stuff was going on last summer and they had a really good class in 2021, I thought,” Trieu said. “That’s another reason, I guess, not to panic. If you’re going to talk about it in terms of if there is a correlation to any of the off-the-field stuff, it would have affected the 2021 class more than it did.”
Regardless, Kirk Ferentz and his staff still have to navigate other schools using the events of last June against them, as evidenced by a July 1 tweet by director of recruiting Tyler Barnes.
The amount of negative recruiting I’ve heard this last month is laughable…
Recruits, if a school has to negative recruit nonstop against 1 of your top choices, stop & think for a second why they are wasting all that time rather than trying to show you what they are truly about.
— Tyler Barnes (@TylerBarnesIOWA) July 1, 2021
“I don’t worry about it,” Kirk Ferentz said at Big Ten media day. “It’s just a fact of life. I’m not saying that in an accusing way. People have ways of being subtle and all that. That’s just part of life. We anticipate that no different than we did 20 years ago, you go to Iowa, why would you go there you’re not going to win? There’s a story every year and you just have to anticipate that and try to address that.”
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Lemming, who has covered recruiting for more than 40 years, said the difference could simply be that Iowa needs to adjust its strategy.
“Everyone always looks for what’s wrong,” Lemming said. “There’s no clear reason why they aren’t bringing in a great class or doing this. They probably need something to change things up a little, do something a little bit different than they’ve done in the past. That’s what recruiting is all about. You’ve got to constantly go with the flow of change.”