Hawkeyes haul in solid 2014 class


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Last year’s National Signing Day was the first in five years that Iowa didn’t land a four-star recruit. This didn’t come as much of a surprise, seeing as the Hawkeyes finished that year’s football season with an abysmal 4-8 record.

Fast forward a year, and Kirk Ferentz and Company are expected to sign 21 new recruits today — two of which are pegged as four-star guys — during college football’s National Signing Day.

Many recruiting pundits have graded Iowa’s 2014 recruiting class as solid — Rivals.com ranks the class at 47th nationally, eighth in the Big Ten — a typical Ferentz haul that will fill holes and add depth to a roster that went 8-5 and returns 14 starters between the offense and defense.

“It’s a solid class that fills a lot of needs,” HawkeyeReport.com recruiting analyst Tom Kakert said. “Depth at linebacker, some offensive linemen, some defensive linemen. They hit a lot of the spots that I thought they needed.”

Iowa’s recruiting class was held much higher and would’ve likely been more impressive if not for the loss of Ross Pierschbacher, a four-star prospect from Cedar Falls High. The 6-4, 295-pound offensive guard originally committed to play for Iowa but switched his commitment to Alabama before his senior football season in August 2013.

Still, Iowa’s 2014 class is a respectable bunch, highlighted by two four-star recruits and 12 three-star players — many of whom have been called pliable and will make solid players for the program.

Two four-star studs

The two recruits who highlight Iowa’s class are, of course, the two four-star athletes — both of whom played quarterback during their prep careers.

Tyler Wiegers, a 6-4, 213-pound pro-style gunslinger out of Detroit Country Day, announced his commitment fewer than two months ago. Wiegers originally committed to play for Rutgers, but there was some uncertainty among the coaching staff, causing Wiegers to reopen his recruitment.

From there, he was practically Iowa’s to lose. Wiegers upped his worth during various camps and combines. He was heralded for his accuracy, and, with some practice and technique work, has the potential to produce a very strong arm, according to recruiting experts at Rivals.com.

“It was what he was able to do in the camps,” ESPN recruiting analyst Jared Shanker said. “He threw the ball very well at all of these camps, at team camps. Every time, he was one of the more impressive guys.”

The other, 6-1, 170-pound Jay Scheel from La Porte City, gave his oral commitment in January 2013, when Pierschbacher was orally commited to the Hawkeyes. Scheel is listed as an athlete — many recruiting experts project him as a wide receiver for Greg Davis’s offense — though he was a dual-threat quarterback for Union High School.

Scheel has a kind of athleticism that jumps off highlight reels. A straight-A student, Scheel is very coachable — during his sophomore year at Union, he switched from receiver to quarterback and led his school to a 3A state title.

“He is the only ESPN 300 commit the Hawkeyes have in 2014 and will bring a ton of versatility to the team,” ESPN Big Ten recruiting reporter Tom VanHaaren wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “He could probably help out in a few different spots.”

Adding depth

The rest of the class is littered with potential depth for Ferentz’s roster. There are several defensive players, as well as some talented offensive linemen.

“You had three senior linebackers on the roster, so that was definitely a priority,” VanHaaren said. “And the coaches did a nice job filling a lot of those holes.”

Highlighting a slew of defensive ends is ASA College transfer Torey Hendrick, a 6-4, 225-pound three-star prospect who helped the Avengers to a 9-1 record. The backbone of their success was a defense that allowed just 95 rushing yards per game. Hendrick was an integral piece of that success, racking up 26 tackles and 6.5 sacks in seven games.

“The main question right now is when he will actually see the field,” VanHaaren said. “He still has some development to do and needs to improve on a few aspects of his game. He shows flashes of great play but needs to work on being more consistent.”

Hendrick will lead a pack of defensive linemen that will add depth to Iowa’s always-rotating defensive line. Kakert said it’s important to have those younger guys practice alongside the returning starters to learn the system once they start playing significant amounts of time.

There are also plenty other defensive players who will help add depth to the roster — most notably at defensive back, where both current and former Hawkeyes have found varying levels of success.
Marcel Joly and Miles Taylor, two three-star guys who will come to Iowa City from the East, both boast frames that are typical for Iowa defensive backs. Joly is listed at 5-11, 180 while Taylor is an inch taller and five pounds heavier.

And while losing Pierschbacher hurt, Iowa is still in good hands with the three listed offensive lineman, especially Keegan Render, who’s listed at 6-3 and 310 pounds. Render first cracked the varsity lineup as a freshman at Indianola, which put him on plenty of recruiting boards almost immediately.

The graduation of both Brett Van Sloten and Connor Boffeli leave big holes to fill, and Render will most certainly be called on to help fill them.

Iowa also received oral commitments from a myriad of linebackers and running backs — positions that have been crucial to Ferentz’s success over the years. The added depth will be a good thing for Iowa, and Kakert said there’s a chance that some of these guys may see the field come fall.

Early playing time?

The emergence of some true freshmen on defense — most notably Desmond King, who took hold of the starting cornerback spot opposite of B.J. Lowery — has become somewhat normal in recent years for Iowa.

“There’s always a defensive back who works his way onto the field as a true freshman,” Kakert said. “I think a kid to watch out of this class is Jalen Embry, another Detroit kid. He has kind of the same makeup as Desmond King and from the same neck of the woods.

“He may be a guy that, down the road, we’re going to say ‘Hey, maybe he is going to play right away.’”

Kakert said he wouldn’t put it past Ferentz to allow some of these defensive backs to play in nickel and dime packages on defense. Shanker noted that Markel Smith, a three-star running back from St. Louis might make a good third-down back who helps pick up blitzes.

“The position just naturally lends itself to being able to make an immediate impact,” Shanker said. “There’s not as much of a learning curve at running back as there are at other positions. … I know he was somebody that the Iowa staff really wanted. He was always a priority for them.”

In all, this class certainly isn’t going to compete with the likes of the SEC powers, or even with certain other conference foes. But it’s the haul that, down the road, will help Iowa become more competitive — which is more of a credit to the coaches than anything.

“The names aren’t going to be overly flashy,” Shanker said. “But the track record is there that a couple of these guys are going to be some pretty good players for Iowa.”

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