Grading the Iowa football 2013 recruiting class

BY BEN ROSS | FEBRUARY 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa football team will sign around 20 new players on Wednesday as part of national signing day for college football, and while The Daily Iowan will provide full coverage of those fresh faces, let’s take a look at Iowa’s 2013 recruiting class — who contributed, who was a bust, and who is poised to break out down the stretch of his Hawkeye career.

The 2013 class featured 21 players, five of whom saw extensive (to a degree) playing time. Of those five, only two really caught the attention of coaches enough to see the field on a consistent basis. Those two, cornerback Desmond King and receiver Damond Powell, have bright futures in Black and Gold. For the rest, their futures are still to be determined.

The Good

King is obviously the name that jumps out at people. The true freshman filled in for an injured Jordan Lomax almost immediately in the first game of the season and never looked back. King started the rest of the games at corner in 2013, recording 69 tackles, 8 pass break-ups, and 2 fumble recoveries. What is perhaps most promising about King is that he played the best game of the season against LSU, where he faced a group of receivers that will likely get drafted in the NFL. All-conference is not out of the question for King’s bright future.

After King, there’s Powell, whose play was explosive but also incredibly underwhelming. The junior-college transfer reeled in 12 catches for 291 yards and 2 scores, but he didn’t see the field as much as we would have liked. Powell is likely the fastest player on this team, and Iowa is going to have to find a way to get the ball in his hands so he can create some relevance next year.

Reggie Spearman got limited playing time in 2013, but we saw some really good things from the defensive end/linebacker hybrid who will likely start at a linebacker next year. He mostly saw playing time on the defensive line in Iowa’s “prowler” package for passing situations, but he still recorded 10 tackles in 10 games. Remember this name for next year.

The Bad

Matt VandeBerg saw a decent amount of playing time at wide receiver as a true freshman, appearing in 11 games and pulling down 8 passes for 59 yards. Still, it makes little sense to burn a redshirt on a guy who more or less played the exact same role as Jordan Cotton or Don Shumpert. There are five other receivers older than VandeBerg who didn’t see the kind of playing time he did. I’m not sure if that says more about VandeBerg or them, but either way, Kevonte Martin-Manley, Jacob Hillyer, Tevaun Smith, and Powell all return next year, and we know what all those guys are capable of. I don’t see VandeBerg improving too much from 2013-14.

The Unknown

It’s a little unfair, albeit difficult, to pick out warts in the performances of first-year players, but that’s what we do. Even though LeShun Daniels showed he can run with a full head of steam and block for quarterback Jake Rudock, his 3.9 yards/carry average is a little underwhelming when you’re running behind an offensive line such as Iowa’s. He’s going to have to figure out his fumbling problem, too.

Daniels did show a sense of capability at running back, but his sample size was too small (36 carries, 142 yards, 2 fumbles) to make any educated type of assessment of his play.

Iowa doesn’t graduate any running backs from last season, so he’ll likely stay low on the totem pole behind Mark Weisman, Jordan Canzeri, and Damon Bullock.

Coaches always talk about the unsung heroes in practice who never see the field. While that could just be their blowing smoke a lot of the time, there are a few guys from last year’s recruiting class that people should be excited to see.

Jon Wisnieski was Iowa’s lone four-star recruit last year, and he was redshirted because Iowa had a whole saucer full of capable tight ends. Even though C.J. Fiedorowicz graduates, Wisnieski still likely has Ray Hamilton, Henry Krieger-Coble, and Jake Duzey in front of him. We may have to wait another year to see what the Des Moines native can do.

After Wisnieski, few names come to mind. I’m sure some of the offensive linemen will do just fine, as is always the case with Iowa, but Iowa has a somewhat complete roster going into next year. Two guys who Iowa coaches always seem to jump at the chance to talk about are Solomon Warfield at defensive back and running back Akrum Wadley.

Wadley will likely have to wait his turn the same way Daniels will, but Iowa always has room for defensive backs to play around with. Tanner Miller and B.J. Lowery leave the defensive secondary for graduation, so maybe Warfield could fill one of the holes.

Follow Ben Ross on Twitter @benEross

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