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Football to haul in latest batch of Hawkeyes

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | FEBRUARY 02, 2011 7:10 AM

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Iowa may have slid to a disappointing 8-5 record this past season, but the Hawks certainly didn’t slide on the recruiting trail. Head coach Kirk Ferentz appears to have reeled in arguably his best batch of prospects since taking over in 1999.

Heading into signing day, Iowa holds one written commitment (Iowa Western Community College offensive tackle Dan Heiar) and 23 oral commitments. As of Tuesday night, Rivals.com ranks Iowa’s class the nation’s 28th-best.

Ferentz’s classes have traditionally been overflowing with recruits labeled with such terms as “blue-collar” and “underrated.” But on paper, this class boasts plenty of players who may soon step in and star.

Cream of the Crop

Iowa enters Wednesday with oral commitments from four four-star prospects (Rivals).

After losing their top three running backs — Brandon Wegher (transfer), Jewel Hampton (transfer), Adam Robinson (dismissed from team) — the Hawkeyes badly needed help in the backfield. Four new backs, highlighted by Rodney Coe, should provide that. Listed at 6-3, 230 pounds and clocking in at a time of 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash (Rivals), Coe will be one of the team’s best athletes as soon as he arrives on campus.

In the future, Coe may have the opportunity to run behind two of the cornerstones of Iowa’s class. Four-star offensive guards Austin Blythe (6-3, 280 pounds) and Jordan Walsh (6-3, 275 pounds) will help shore up the O-line, Tom Kakert of hawkeyereport.com said. Kakert expects both to compete for playing time after most likely redshirting in their first season.

“[They’re] really hard-working kids who have a lot of talent for the run game and as pass blockers,” Kakert said.

And not surprisingly, Iowa also appears to have landed yet another blue-chip prospect at tight end in Ray Hamilton of Strongsville, Ohio.

Kakert said the 6-5, 230-pound Hamilton is the most refined of the three tight ends committed to Iowa.

“He has the size in terms of height and weight and also very good at catching the football,” he said. “He’s a kid who potentially, you could see coming in and getting some limited action as a freshman.”

Under the radar

Other recruits may not have received as much national recognition as players such as Coe, but their talent shouldn’t be overlooked. Kakert points to Iowa’s three commitments at wide receiver as being full of “sleeper” potential.

The Hawkeyes hope Marcus Grant (Groton, Mass.), Jacob Hillyer (Somerset,Texas), and Austin Vincent (DeSoto, Texas) can shore up what looks to be a depleted receiving corps.

Because Hillyer played in a “pass-happy” offense at the high-school level, Kakert said he may arrive at Iowa as a more polished player.

“Some of those guys develop pretty well because they’ve played in a passing game,” Kakert said. “So they understand how to run routes, catch the football, and make plays.”

Last-minute shopping

Iowa is still actively involved in the recruiting of four-star defensive tackle Darian Cooper and the nation’s top-ranked offensive tackle, Cyrus Kouandjio. Both were teammates at DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md., and former teammates of current Hawkeye running back Marcus Coker.

Kouandjio has the potential to start as a true freshman for virtually any program in the nation. The Washington Post reported last week that Kouandjio narrowed his final list of schools to Alabama, Auburn, and Iowa. His older brother, Arie, is a member of the Crimson Tide. Kouandjio and Cooper are expected to announce their decisions today. Sports Illustrated’s experts expect Kouandjio to choose Alabama.

Another DeMatha product — defensive back Jordan Lomax — gave Iowa his word on Monday, and running back Damon Bullock (Mansfield, Texas) and linebacker Johnny Lowdermilk (Kensington, Ohio) committed Tuesday.

Fitting the mold

Overall, Kakert said, he believes Iowa has done a good job recruiting the appropriate players to fill its needs — particularly at offensive line, wide receiver, tight end, and linebacker.

Perhaps more importantly, the Hawkeyes are adding players that fit the program.

Hamilton, who has met a number of fellow Iowa commitments, said, “All these guys that I’ve met, the kids in the [recruiting] class, they all have the Iowa mold. The coaches know exactly what they’re doing and what they’re looking for.”


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