Hawkeye football lacks big names in latest recruiting class

BY BEN ROSS | FEBRUARY 06, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa football team is expected to sign at least 20 new recruits today as part of its National Signing Day efforts for the class of 2013. This is the first year since 2008 when Iowa hasn’t had a four-star recruit as a part of its haul.

Coming off a four-win season, it’s not surprising Iowa isn’t reeling a top-25 or even a top-40 class. The Hawkeyes have the 52nd best recruiting class, according to rivals.com. It’s the lowest-rated an Iowa class has been since 2004, when the team had the 67th most desirable group of recruits in the country.

While this class doesn’t feature a well-known name like those of past — such as C.J. Fiedorowicz and A.J. Derby in 2010, or Keenan Davis the year before — Iowa did fill some holes in a roster that at times resembled Swiss cheese during a 4-8 2012 campaign.

Passing was a large problem for the 2012 Hawkeyes — a squad that scored just seven times through the air. The 2013 recruiting class features at least three wide receivers, one of whom could be poised to have an immediate effect.

“Wide receiver was a big position they have tried to fill,” ESPN Midwest recruiting reporter Jared Shanker said. “They had to go for guys lower on their board. Iowa traditionally does a good job of developing players, so I wouldn’t be freaking out if I was an Iowa fan.”

Of Iowa’s 19 or so recruits, 13 orally committed to play for the Black and Gold prior to August 2012, before the Hawkeyes had even played a down. The squad has gone on a recent surge, though, signing five recruits in the last 20 days.

Immediate impact

Since Iowa lacks a big name in its latest class, it is uncertain which players will see the field immediately. Hawkeyereport.com recruiting analyst Tom Kakert said that doesn’t mean none of the recent Hawkeyes is capable of making his mark right away, though.

“The one thing this class doesn’t have is a highly ranked kid,” Kakert said. “They wanted to improve their speed and athletic ability with this class. They got guys like [athlete] Andre Harris, [defensive back] Solomon Warfield, [defensive back] Malik Rucker, and [wide receiver] Damond Powell. They’re all speed guys; I think that’s what they wanted to get.”

Powell is the lone junior-college commitment in this year’s class. In his second year at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, he caught 41 passes for 1,231 yards and 14 touchdowns. That translates to a whopping 30-yard average per reception. The Toledo, Ohio, native could be the receiver that turns Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis’ four-yard hitch routes into big gains.

In addition to Powell, this class brings in at least three defensive backs, a position that historically sees a lot of freshmen on the field for Iowa. Sean Draper and Kevin Buford saw significant playing time in passing situations for the Iowa defense a year ago, and with two cornerbacks graduating — Micah Hyde and Greg Castillo — Iowa could continue that trend with three solid secondary players coming in —Warfield, Rucker, and Desmond King.

“You have to look at one of the defensive backs,” Kakert said. “That’s Iowa’s thing — they always play a D-back as a freshman in nickel and dime situations.”

Wait and see

At least three players in Iowa’s class had previously committed to a different school before changing their minds. While most of the schools — Ball State, Colorado State, and Toledo — are in smaller conferences, Kakert said that doesn’t mean those players don’t have Big Ten talent, noting Hawkeye great Bob Sanders, who was committed to Kent State before joining the Black and Gold.

“We’ve seen that before with guys,” Kakert said. “It tells me they missed some guys early on that went to other schools. They could be taking time to look at senior film to figure out if they are worthy of an offer, but there’s a long list of guys they have stolen from the [Midwest Athletic Conference] that have had good careers … I don’t think [Iowa] would offer them if they didn’t think they couldn’t come in and help them.”

In addition to the 20 or so that are expected to sign with Iowa today, the Hawkeyes reeled in a large crop of walk-on players — a group that contains at least 11 players, 10 of which come from the state of Iowa.

Bad luck

It’s not like Iowa didn’t have an opportunity to sign more highly touted names, either. The Hawkeyes had oral commitments from two four star-recruits earlier in the year — defensive back Delano Hill and defensive end David Kenney III.

Hill, a Detroit native, decommitted from the Hawkeyes in mid-December after the University of Michigan sent an offer his way. Kenney backed out of his commitment from Iowa in October. He chose to attend Indiana when his father secured a job on the Hoosier coaching staff.

‘Benefit of the doubt’

While it may be easy to discount this recruiting class and chalk it up as a result of a 4-8 season, that might be jumping the gun. Iowa was poised to have a class ranked lower than Iowa State for the first time in the Kirk Ferentz era until Tuesday evening, when Chicago linebacker and three-star recruit Reggie Spearman announced his plans to attend Iowa, jumping Iowa’s class over the Cyclones.

That being said, Iowa fans shouldn’t get too down on the 2013 class. Ferentz is famous for turning raw players into All-Big Ten talent. Given the squad’s performance in 2012, things could be a lot worse.

“It’s not the world’s worst class,” Shanker said. “There is a little reason for concern since the high start before the season. But looking at Iowa’s track record, they’re never going to have a high-rated class.

“At this point, I’d still give Kirk Ferentz benefit of the doubt.”

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