Hawkeyes expecting to sign 18 recruits Wednesday


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Without any shadow of a doubt, the Iowa football program regressed last year. A team that some had pegged for a potential shot at the Big Ten championship went 7-6 and limped to the finish line with three-straight losses. No championships, not even a win in any of the four trophy contests in which Iowa played.

But today — college football’s national signing day — when the Hawkeyes expect to sign 18 new recruits, they’re hoping it’s one of the first steps to getting the program back on the right track and in good standing with a large portion of the fan base.

Throw in the three members of the 2015 class already enrolled at Iowa, and the class is ranked 52nd in Division I by Rivals.com, ninth in the Big Ten. It likely would’ve been higher had Iowa managed to sign players such as four-star defensive lineman Darrion Daniels, who committed to Oklahoma State late last week.

“I think it’s a pretty typical class for Iowa,” HawkeyeReport.com recruiting analysis Tom Kakert said. “I think they went really offensive-heavy, especially with the offensive line, and I think they’ve got some good players. It’s the defensive side they missed on a few kids.”

Filling holes on the line

There’s a chance it’ll be a strange feeling for Iowa fans inside Kinnick Stadium next season. Brandon Scherff will not play left tackle; he’ll be in the NFL. Andrew Donnal won’t be on the right side of the offensive line.

But what Iowa hopes it gets with the four offensive lineman in this class — two of whom, four-star James Daniels and three-star Brett Waechter are already enrolled — are pieces to eventually fill holes left by graduating seniors Scherff, Donnal, and Tommy Gaul.

That’s not to say one or any of the offensive linemen will play as a freshman (more on that later), but it’s to say Iowa filled holes on the offensive line after signing only two a year ago.

Daniels — the younger brother of running back LeShun Daniels Jr. — is the Hawkeyes, lone four-star in this class and played center at Warren in Vincent, Ohio. He’s 6-4 and 275 pounds and has potential to play elsewhere on the offensive line.

Waechter is 6-5, 265 pounds with room to grow. He doesn’t look 265 pounds on film, and that’s not a bad thing. With a Division I training program, he should begin to fill out his frame quickly.

Then there are the twins.

Enter Landan and Levi Paulsen, offensive linemen from Moville, who played at Woodbury Central. Both rated three-stars, both potential tackles with good size (6-6, 285 and 275 pounds, respectively) and potential to anchor the Iowa offensive line in coming years.

“I like the Paulsen twins,” Kakert said. “… The frame, the competitiveness, what they do in wrestling — they’re both state-championship-level wrestlers. They just have to get in a college weight room … I think you’ve got a really high ceiling for both those guys.”

Adding quarterbacks

Although Iowa signed and redshirted four-star recruit Tyler Wiegers last year, that didn’t stop the Hawkeyes from securing commitments from two three-star quarterbacks right in their backyard.
Dowling Catholic’s Ryan Boyle is expected to sign after turning down offers from Illinois State, Montana State, and Western Michigan. He’s a 6-1, 215 pound pro-style with a strong arm and an ability to run. Boyle has been committed to Iowa since March of his junior year and accumulated more than 3,700 yards through the air, 39 touchdowns, and only 4 interceptions as a junior and senior. He also rushed for more than 2,400 yards and 25 touchdowns while playing varsity.

Depending on the viewpoint, Regina’s Drew Cook is the more intriguing prospect of the two, if only because he could end up elsewhere besides under center. He’s rated as a three-star by most recruiting sites, but ESPN gave him four stars.

Cook, the son of former Hawkeye great Marv Cook, threw for more than 5,000 yards, 53 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions in his junior and senior campaigns.

Listed at 6-5, 218 pounds, there’s been talk of his playing tight end or another position if quarterback doesn’t work out. As with many young quarterbacks, the biggest concerns are decision-making and mechanics.

“[Cook] has a high ceiling; he’s got a long way to get there, too,” Rivals.com Midwest recruiting reporter Josh Helmholdt said. “Boyle is more a sure thing, probably doesn’t have as high of a ceiling as Cook. It’ll be interesting because if it doesn’t work out at quarterback for Cook, he can move to another position, and that’s where [he brings] the added value.”

Early enrollees

Although it’s becoming a trend across the country, it’s not too common, at least not yet, for Iowa recruits to graduate high school a semester early and enroll for the spring semester at Iowa.

This obviously has its advantages, because the player can begin a strength and conditioning program earlier and participate in spring practice. No one in last year’s class enrolled early, but as noted above, this year, three players did.

Given the player’s situations, it’s not too likely this decision will have an effect on playing time right away. Should Daniels play center, he may have to redshirt a year to learn the playbook and could be blocked if Austin Blythe plays in the middle.

Waechter will likely need a year in the weight room before being ready to go, and Brady Reiff, brother of former Hawkeye Riley Reiff could be in the same situation.

“There might be one a year that does it,” Kakert said. “… They’re going to be ready to go in January so they can get spring ball under their belt and not have it on their clock, their eligibility clock.”

True freshmen on the field?

The big question on the minds of some is simple: Will any of the expected signees play right away?

At this point, there’s not much certainty about which, if any, of these newcomers will see the field in 2015. A handful of players from last year’s class got playing time last season, and outside of the offensive line, a few potential positions in which that could happen again are defensive back and linebacker.

Desmond King has started every game but the first of his freshman season for the Hawkeyes, and true freshman Miles Taylor got some time at safety last year. Especially toward the end of the year, Ben Niemann saw time at linebacker, and with Reggie Spearman’s transfer, there are holes there.

Iowa is expected to sign a few potential linebackers and defensive backs, and with the recent history in that department, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise for one or some to get snaps.

Regardless whether anyone has the talent to get on the field, this class should prepare Iowa well in some positions it needs, even if it’s not the most star-studded haul.

“Iowa is coming off a 7-6 season and some grumbling from fans over the way the season went down,”ESPN recruiting reporter Tom VanHaaren wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “Now, they look to recruiting and their team has a class ranked outside the top 40, and I think that’s probably not easy to look at and say they’re content. Given the season and the disadvantages they have geographically, I think it’s a solid class.”

Follow @dannyapayne on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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