Notes from . . .

Publisher Tom Kakert hands out the annual Signing Day awards

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As we wait for the offensive coordinator, offensive line and linebackers coaches to be named, we will explore the 2012 Iowa recruiting class. (I swear, the "Hello, my name is . . ." series will continue. Just not yet.)

Today, publisher Tom Kakert offers some awards for the 2012 class.

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Signing Day 2012 has officially arrived and Hawkeye fans are taking a long look at the future of Iowa Football. With that theme in mind, we hand out our annual signing day awards, this time with the focus on the offensive side of the football. We pick the best prospect on offense, who will earn early playing time for the Hawkeyes, and which player is the sleeper prospect in this class.

The Hawkeyes needed help and depth up front on defense and the Iowa coaches hit the recruiting trail and loaded up a class that includes two four star prospects on the line. We had out our annual signing day awards to the Iowa defensive recruits, including the best prospect, the sleeper in this class, and which prospect might see the field early on in their Hawkeye career.

Best Prospect: Jaleel Johnson

It doesn’t take a football expert to realize that Iowa needs help up front on the defensive line. Help is on the way. Iowa’s most highly rated prospect up front at a position of need is Jaleel Johnson. At 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds, the Lombard, IL prep has a great frame for a defensive tackle with a large lower body and powerful build up top. It’s usually hard for a defensive lineman to come in and play right away, especially at the tackle position, but Johnson should have a very good career at Iowa.

The Sleeper: Nate Meier

Playing 8 man football at Fremont Mills High School makes finding interest from BCS schools pretty difficult. But, Nate Meier was patient and the Hawkeyes took notice of his amazing performances this past season, including rushing for nearly 2,500 yards and a staggering 57 touchdowns in his senior season. On defense, 34 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. Meier could project to a variety of different positions for the Hawkeyes, but at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, could this be another Matt Kroul type story in the making?

Surprise Commit: Faith Ekakitie

The Hawkeyes had faith that they would add several very talented defensive linemen in this class and that faith paid off. The good news arrived in early December when 6-foot-2 and 270 pound defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie committed to the Hawkeyes. The long armed prospect has only been playing football for a few years, but has star type potential. The Lake Forest Academy prep star kind of surprised a few people when he selected Iowa over the likes of Northwestern, Georgia Tech, and Oregon.

Most Likely To Play Early: Ruben Lile

At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Ruben Lile just oozes athleticism on the football field. The Cass Tech prep standout could follow a path much like the similarly sized Nico Law did this past year and find early playing time on special teams, which is an area the Hawkeyes need to upgrade in 2012. Lile will start out at the safety position, but with his level of athletic ability, he could project to several spots depending on his growth and development.

Biggest Steal: Anthony Morgan

Much like Ruben Lile, Morgan will immediately upgrade Iowa’s roster in terms of athletic ability. The 6-foot-1 and 185 pound defensive back from Plano, TX is rated as a three star prospect and likely projects to the safety position at the college level. Iowa has been able to steal quite a few very good under the radar type prospects out of the Lone Star State over the years and Morgan has the potential to be the next prospect in that line.

Forgotten Man: Drew Ott

Much like Mitch Keppy on the offensive side, when you commit early and play for a small school in a small population state, followers of recruiting tend to lose you on their radar. But, the staggering numbers in his senior year and being honored as a Parade All American, suggest that Iowa fans shouldn’t sleep on Drew Ott. The 6-foot-4 and 235 pound projected defensive end from Nebraska will have to come in and add some bulk to his frame, but he has a high motor and the type of work ethic that could have Iowa fans remembering his name in a couple of years.

Best Get: Maurice Fleming 

Every recruiting class needs a Pied Piper and that was Reese Fleming. While the 6-foot-1 and 185 pound future cornerback spent most of his senior year sidelined with a knee injury, he was busy working the phones and talking to other prospects, especially in the Chicago area, and getting them to take a long look at the Hawkeyes. Fleming has the potential to be a very good player starting out at cornerback for Iowa, but his most immediate dividend has been helping to put together this recruiting class.

One That Got Away: Jake Sheffield

There was a few days in December when it seemed that Jake Sheffield was leaning heavily towards switching his verbal commitment from Arizona State, who had just fired their head coach, to Iowa. But, then Norm Parker retired and shortly after that, defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski bolted for Big Ten rival Nebraska. The former Marine would have provided immediate help up front on the defensive line, but he stuck with the Sun Devils.

Best Prospect: Ryan Ward

Big, strong, powerful, and a pretty good bloodline. Ryan Ward has all the tools to be a very good offensive lineman at the college level. Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing in at 270 pounds, Ward has the natural frame to add a few more pounds and eventually help anchor the offensive line in Iowa City. The four star prospect initially projects to the tackle position and will have time to learn and grow thanks to the Hawkeyes depth up front. But, expect him to push for playing time early in his Iowa career.

The Sleeper: Barkley Hill

The three star running back from Cedar Falls made a late change in plans and switched his commitment from Iowa State to Iowa in January. The hard charging back ran in an offense that is very similar to the one in Iowa City and that could pay dividends down the road. Hill injured his knee in his final high school game, but thankfully it wasn’t serious and should be a player to watch down the road.

Surprise Commit: C.J. Beathard

Beathard wasn’t really even on Iowa’s recruiting radar for most of the year, having committed to Mississippi in April. But, the firing of Houston Nutt and the hiring of Hugh Freeze as the new head coach of the Rebels led to a change in offensive philosophy and Beathard having second thoughts about his college plans. Iowa snuck him in on the final weekend of official visits and the three star signal caller quickly changed his commitment to Iowa early this week.

Most Likely To Play Early: Greg Garmon

The four star running back from Erie, PA has had plenty of battles early in his life and never gave up on his dream. He realizes that dream on Wednesday by signing a national letter of intent to play for the University of Iowa. Garmon brings size, speed, and elusiveness to the field for the Hawkeyes at a real position on need following the departures of Marcus Coker and Mikail McCall at the end of the season.

Biggest Steal: Greg Maybin

Iowa usually tries to steal one or two players out of the Sunshine State every year and they may have found a good one in Greg Maybin. The 6-foot-2 and 190 pound wide receiver put up impressive numbers and was very productive against good competition in Florida. Iowa has a habit of playing at least one freshman wide receiver each year and on the surface, Maybin could be that player in this class.

Forgotten Man: Mitch Keppy

Usually the guy who commits first gets forgotten by the fans that follow recruiting closely. Such is the case with Mitch Keppy, who’s father played for the Hawkeyes during the Hayden Fry era. At 6-foot-5 and 287 pounds, Keppy is likely slotted for one guard at the college level. He is an outstanding high school wrestler and that is a trait that Iowa fans should know that the Hawkeye coaches usually look for in a line prospect.

Best Get: Cameron Wilson

The under the radar three star prospect from Ohio jumped on board in June picking Iowa over a dozen other scholarship offers. Wilson’s stats this past season won’t turn heads, but he’s a very athletic prospect at a position of need for the Hawkeyes. Also, Wilson has a younger brother, Donovan, who rushed for over 1,400 yards and 17 touchdowns in his junior year. Iowa has shown early interest and having his older brother already on the Iowa team could help in his recruitment if Iowa offers.

One That Got Away: Amarah Darboh

The Hawkeyes hate losing four star skill position players from the state of Iowa. Much like Adrian Arrington did several years ago, a highly rated wide receiver from Iowa is headed to Michigan. The Hawkeyes made his final four, along with Notre Dame and Wisconsin, but couldn’t keep Darboh in the state of Iowa.

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