Breaking Down Iowa's Football Recruiting Class

By Marc Morehouse, Reporter

DES.s0820.dowlingvalleyFB - PHOTO BY BILL NEIBERGALL/DES MOINES REGISTER, DES MOINES AUG. 19TH - Dowling Catholic's #11 Jon Wisnieski, right, goes to the outside to elude West Des Moines Valley's #30 Brandon Ellingson in football game played at Drake Stadium on Friday night, Aug. 19th, 2011. (shot: 08/19/11) Photo by BILL NEIBERGALL

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By Grant Burkhardt

IOWA CITY, Iowa - The first-blush grades for Iowa's 2013 recruiting class won't send you scrambling for the number to the ticket office.

Rivals.com ranks the Hawkeyes No. 52 nationally and ninth in the Big Ten. 247 Sports has Iowa No. 57 in the country and 10th in the Big Ten. Scout.com has Iowa No. 53 and ninth in the B1G.

"I think it's a traditional type of Iowa class," said Jared Shanker, midwest regional recruiting coordinator for ESPN.com. "It isn't going to jump off the page with huge names."

"I think Iowa met several of its needs very well," said Josh Helmholdt, midwest recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, "but it lacks the true impact player, the true elite guy. That's just not what we expect from Iowa. If you look at the 2014 class, they've got two of those types of guys committed already in [offensive lineman] Ross Pierschbacher and [quarterback] Jay Scheel."

Iowa is poised to sign 20 to letters of intent Wednesday, when the national signing period begins.

Commit No. 20 came in with some drama Tuesday evening.

At Chicago Simeon high School, linebacker Reggie Spearman, a 6-2, 219-pound linebacker, put on a Syracuse hat and announced that was his choice. He then pulled off the cap and announced for Iowa, saying "We are going to win a national championship."

That kind of bravado is decidedly un-Kirk Ferentz, but the national signing day extravaganza is a super-human display of teen spirit.

For Iowa in '13, it was filling some needs.

Iowa needed wide receivers and it went out and got five players who might fit there, including junior college recruit Damond Powell. With three senior starters next season, Iowa will need linebackers. It got three in Spearman, John Kenny and Josey Jewell. Iowa always needs running backs and it got at least one in LeShun Daniels and possibly another in Akrum Wadley.


Snow College wide receiver Damond Powell hauls in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Christian Stewart early in the second quarter to put Snow ahead 35-0 over Everett (Wash.). Snow went on to win in a 66-0 rout. (Photo by Gary Chidester)
As far as the star measure goes, Iowa's 2013 class averages 2.85 stars per player going by Rivals. Of the five classes that will make up the 2013 Hawkeyes, that ranks fourth. The 2011 class averaged 2.96 and '12 and '10 averaged 2.95. The 2009 class is last at 2.45 stars per player.

What do stars accurately measure? Mostly at this point in a player's overall development, it's physical talent. Of course, much more goes into football, like the coaching and physical development. That isn't what national signing day is, however. This is baseball hats and drama and Dramamine.

The stars shape the overall ranking for Iowa's recruiting class, but several factors were in play for the Hawkeyes' 2013 class.

-- When West Des Moines Valley tight end Jon Wisnieski committed on July 12, Iowa had 15 oral commitments. This was the most and the earliest under in Ferentz's 14 seasons. Basically, Iowa's class was finished with some reshaping later to come.

"It might be a traditional Iowa class with guys they have to develop," Shanker said, "but it wasn't traditional how fast they filled up."

Ferentz said that is a national trend and he doesn't expect it to go away. Michigan has offered a sophomore for the 2015 class. High school freshmen have received offers. It's free college, how can they say no?

"I haven’t gone back and looked at things recently, but my guess is now if you don’t have at least 10 or 12 guys committed, you're a total failure as a program," Ferentz said, sarcastically, in November. "That doesn't mean you're getting the 10 or 12 best guys. That's the danger of it. If you think historically about some of the players we've had, there's no way they would've been offered prior to their senior years.

"I'm trying to be mindful of that, but at the same time, I'm really pleased with the guys that seem to be engaged with us right now. The whole process has sped up."

Ferentz threw out some examples of players Iowa offered as seniors -- Chad Greenway, Bob Sanders, Ricky Stanzi, Brandon Myers -- and wondered if the speed of recruiting is leaving talent on the table.

"There's a balance," he said, "I'm not sure I know the formula."

-- De-commitments stung Iowa this year.

Indianapolis, Ind., defensive end David Kenney committed to Iowa after an April visit. Then his dad was hired in an administrative role on the Indiana coaching staff. Kenney switched to Indiana in October. He was a 6-2, 250-pound four-star defensive end. Iowa needs pass rushers and defensive ends. Kenney switched to a Big Ten rival. (His dad has since left IU and is now the D-line coach at Indiana State.)

Not long after Kenney's commitment, Detroit, Mich., safety Delano Hill picked the Hawkeyes. In December, he took a visit to Michigan with a Cass Tech teammate. They both committed to Michigan. Hill is a four-star recruit. Iowa and Minnesota are the Big Ten schools that don't have at least one four-stat commit.

Remember the whole "gentleman's agreement" thing from last season? Ohio State coach Urban Meyer turned up the recruiting heat in the Big Ten when he arrived in 2012, taking commitments from other Big Ten schools. Michigan coach Brady Hoke was the aggressor this year, prying four commits from B1G schools.

"They have a signing day for a reason," Hoke said last month.

-- Iowa's coaching staff had an air of uncertainty about it this offseason.

In early January, news leaked that wide receiver coach Erik Campbell wouldn't return next season. Monday, Ferentz acknowledged this. An assistant coaching position was posted on the UI website Jan. 24. The closing date on that is today, so Ferentz might not even be able to address the opening. or any other staff adjustments, at today's news conference.

-- Geography always plays a role in Iowa's recruiting. This year, the Iowa staff hit 12 states. The four recruits from Ohio were the most for any state. Iowa and Illinois were next with three.

Iowa's recruiting presence in Chicago went silent from April until Tuesday night. The Hawkeyes picked up a commitment from Naperville North's Colin Goebel in April and that was it until Spearman's announcement. In '12 and '11, Iowa had three Chicago-area recruits.

"I think Iowa, even more than a Wisconsin or Nebraska or Illinois, can make a run on the Ohio States and Michigans on the recruiting trail by really being dominant in Chicago," Helmholdt said.

This was the first year Ferentz and his staff didn't have a presence in Florida. And this likely will be Ferentz's first class at Iowa without a Florida signee.

Iowa could add a third signee from St. Louis, Mo., today. Running back Jonathan Parker, who committed to Tulsa in September, has an Iowa offer and will announce his decision this morning. He would join wide receivers Derrick Mitchell Jr. and Andre Harris.
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