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Recruiting 2012: New Hawkeye football class to sign today

BY SETH ROBERTS | FEBRUARY 01, 2012 7:20 AM

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Today is National Signing Day, but none of the roughly two dozen players expected to ink with Iowa are five-star prospects.

Iowa isn't pulling in a top-25 recruiting class. Or a top 30 class. Or even a top 40 class. According to Rivals.com, the 2012 batch of Hawkeyes is the 43rd-best in the country, sixth in the Big Ten.

But that's OK.

"Very quietly, Iowa — especially down the stretch here — has put together a pretty solid class," Scouts Inc. recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "… They're not a team a lot of people are buzzing about, but they've quietly done a good job."

Head coach Kirk Ferentz anticipates at least 23 prep players will fax in their paperwork to become Hawkeyes today. The class includes as many as five four-star players, 14 three-stars, and a handful of two-stars, according to Rivals.

The bigger names

Ferentz restocked his depleted defensive line with a pair of four-star prospects from Illinois, Faith Ekakitie and Jaleel Johnson. Illinois also served as the high-school stomping grounds of 6-6, 270-pound offensive lineman Ryan Ward.

Greg Garmon is the biggest of the big names, especially in the wake of significant departures at running back. But hawkeyereport.com recruiting analyst Tom Kakert said he wouldn't be entirely surprised if Garmon ends up seeing playing time elsewhere.

"There were a lot of people who thought if he was in the right situation, that he could actually be a wide receiver," Kakert said. "He's kind of tall and a little bit thin and kind of rangy. He can certainly play running back at the college level, and I think he'll do really well there; he has all the instincts to do it."

The smaller names

The vast majority of the 2012 class is made up of three-star players, which has been a recurring theme for Iowa over the years.

"They've done a pretty nice job getting a lot of high-end three-star, low-end four-star players that aren't getting that Internet fame, which they could care less about," ESPN senior national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill told ESPN.com on Tuesday.

Kakert called three-star tailback Barkley Hill the "real sleeper in this class," citing his training in a prep offense similar to the one Iowa runs. He also noted that Iowa's new quarterbacks, JuCo transfer Cody Sokol and Tennessee native C.J. Beathard, are solid pickups.

"You've added a young guy and a guy with a little more experience, because you have to think ahead in recruiting," he said. "Next year, James Vandenberg and John Weinke are going to be seniors, so you'd only have Jake Rudock on campus; you have to have more bodies there."

Home cooking

Ferentz didn't have any native Iowans lined up until Jan. 12, when three-star JuCo offensive lineman Eric Simmons signed his letter early (he and Sokol are the only players to have already signed coming into today). Then Hill flipped his commitment from Iowa State on Jan. 23, and two-star linebacker Nate Meier gave his oral on Monday.

Kakert said Iowa fans will likely be surprised by Meier's talent and upside — especially considering he cut his teeth playing eight-man ball in Tabor, where the population in the 2000 census was 993.

"His film is almost comical; it's almost like an adult playing in the backyard with a bunch of kids draped all over him," he said about the 6-2, 235-pound athlete. "It wouldn't surprise me if down the road, he follows the path of [former lineman] Matt Kroul, who came in with about the same measurements. Put 40 or 50 pounds on him, and he ends up as a tackle and having a really good career."

Wait and see

Iowa is still waiting on decisions from at least two sought-after players who won't make their decisions until this morning.

Ian Thomas is three-star wideout from Maryland (the No. 56 receiver in 2012, Rivals says), and is believed to still be considering Iowa, Rutgers, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Aaron Curry has his choice down to two schools, but there's an added wrinkle for the defensive tackle from Texas: That other school is Nebraska. He's being recruited by new Cornhusker D-line coach Rick Kaczenski, the same Kaczenski who tried to bring him to Iowa City while still employed by the Hawkeyes.

Turmoil

All told, 2012 could shape up to be a pretty solid class — especially given the Iowa football program's recent history, from rhabdo to premature departures to the lack of a defensive coordinator.

So it's fair, Kakert said, that fans were a little nervous as January wound down.

"A week ago, I think a lot of fans hit the panic button. 'Oh, they're limping to the finish, maybe some of this stuff is falling back on us,' " he said. "Just the opposite has happened in the last three or four days; it's been a landslide of good news."

That's because the past several days have brought commitments from Beathard, Meier, Draper, and four-star offensive lineman Alex Kozan — and Kakert said that was a good sign.

"I think they've really finished stronger than a lot of people anticipated," he said. "… It's a good class that fills a lot of need areas."

Follow DI Sports Editor Seth Roberts on Twitter.


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