Iowa wasn’t in the market for a junior college offensive lineman. Eric Simmons just completed his freshman season at Iowa Western Community College, so he was sort of on the market but not totally.
Iowa assistant coach Reese Morgan offered a scholarship in December, Simmons accepted and signed and is now on the UI campus.
“I just got the offer, Coach Morgan called and said they were offering me for this semester. I still have some stuff to take care of here as far as dropping classes and everything, but I should be there by next week,” Simmons told HawkeyeReport.com.
A full academic qualifier out of Madrid High School, Simmons, 6-3, 295, was eligible to transfer immediately.
“I’m kind of still in shock to be honest,” Simmons said. “I’m really happy. I’m ecstatic, but I don’t think it’s even hit me yet.”
With four years to play three, Simmons has the option to redshirt next season. He also could end up at center or guard.
“The center we had last year, Dallas Hendrikson, signed with Rutgers and we thought it was going to be impossible to replace him, but Eric stepped right in his shoes,” Iowa Western offensive coordinator Mike Strohmeier told HR.com. “From game one until the end of the season, he just continually improved, and by our bowl game we knew we had something special.”
The sidebar here is Iowa's relationship with Iowa Western, a junior college in Council Bluffs that added football just a few years ago.
Head coach Scott Strohmeier and staff produce double digits in FBS signees on a yearly basis. When running back Rodney Coe didn't qualify with last season's recruiting class, he enrolled at IWCC. He'll be a sophomore next season and is still considering Iowa (more likely as a D-lineman than running back, but that remains to be seen).
Also this year, former Cedar Rapids Washington running back Andre Dawson, who rushed for 263 yards at IWCC last season, will walk on and play running back at Iowa next season.
Here's Iowa Western's 2011 transfers:
Eric Simmons - OL - Iowa
Cory Morrissey - DL - Iowa State
Ryan Hubbell - TE - Louisville
Matt Waters - WR - Ohio
Ty Branz - DL - Ohio
DQ Johnson - DB - North Texas
Alfred Sharp - OL - New Mexico State
Andrew Brown - DB - South Dakota State
Evan Williams - WR - Northern Iowa
Drake Ferch - DB - Iowa State
Andre Dawson - RB - Iowa
Adam Kuhl - LS - Northern Illinois
Austin Knowlton - WR - South Dakota State
Jalen Barnes - DB - Northern Iowa
Cole Jackson - DL - Minnesota Crookston
Nolan Long - OL - Morningside
Quinten Hall - DL - Grandview
Stetzon Bair - DL - Oregon
It probably doesn't hurt Iowa (or Nebraska, for that matter) that Iowa Western is in Council Bluffs.
Again, nothing out there. As a junior college freshman, Simmons' name wasn't really out there. If he would've stayed another season at IWCC, he would've been on the recruiting radar and probably would've gotten a half dozen or so offers.
What Iowa coaches said
Head coach Kirk Ferentz [Iowa losing Riley Reiff early probably made the Iowa staff move on Simmons]: Last time we all visited, I thought it was a 50-50 shot on Riley. I really thought there was more than, you know, probably an even chance that he was going to stay in college so we weren't sure where that was going to go and what was going to happen. He made a decision, and I don't think he could have made a bad one, quite frankly. He was in good shape either way.
So, he made a decision, and it just so happens that Eric Simmons was a guy we knew a little about from a year ago. He was an excellent student, a presidential scholar out of Madrid, and went to Western. Talk about connections, he and Austin Blythe knew each other a little bit through their high school days. So, we talked to Eric about coming in and starting school in January. He was excited about that opportunity. From all reports right now, he's off to a really good start. We're two weeks into this thing right now, so we're just really happy to get him. It's nice to have that option [Iowa Western] available to us.
Recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson: We were impressed with his film. [D-line coach] Reese [Morgan] knew a lot about him coming out of high school. Went to junior college because he didn't get a lot of looks coming out of high school. Again, all his intangibles, wrestling and all that stuff, those excited us. And he made a lot of progress at Iowa Western. They have an excellent offensive line coach [Donnie Woods] and a good program. Reese felt so comfortable with him as a person and a player, there was too much there to pass up. [Where will he play?] I think we're going to start him inside, but we move all those guys around until we find the right combination.
What I think
I think guard, but that's just a guess. I'm not sure what happens at center post-James Ferentz, who'll be a three-year starter as a senior this season. I think Austin Blythe, but if he wins a guard spot, does he stay there? Jordan Walsh snapped the ball in pregame and played there as a redshirt freshman. Is the 6-4, 260-pounder the next center? Or is it Simmons? Or it Conor Boffeli, who'll be a junior next year? Boffeli messed around at guard last season, playing some mop-up duty there, but I believe he was always the No. 2 center and still might be next season.
Kirk Ferentz likes to have three centers in mind, so James Ferentz, Conor Boffeli and probably Walsh for next season.