Ryan Ward's commitment might end up being the most meaningful for the 2012 class.
Iowa beat several direct competitors (Michigan State, Northwestern) to get the 6-5, 275-pounder from Providence Catholic (New Lenox, Ill.), a school that also produced Iowa all-American OL Eric Steinbach. Northwestern had an in, too, where Ward's brother, Patrick, has started 26 straight games at right tackle.
This also shows Iowa can leverage its expertise in offensive line PhDs and go get who it wants. That's why Ward, a U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant, might be the most important Iowa recruit.
Iowa has it going with O-linemen. Robert Gallery turned into Bryan Bulaga who turned into Riley Reiff, who brought along Markus Zusevics who'll have an NFL career along with Steinbach, Bruce Nelson, Pete McMahon and I'm sure I'm forgetting a few.
Ward has already tuned into the laser focus and grind lifestyle it takes to reach elite status.
Check this link from the Chicago Tribune.
The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Iowa recruit usually wakes up before 6 a.m. and goes to bed at 9:30 p.m. He comes from a family with an elite athletic pedigree and a penchant for excelling in the classroom.
His dad, Brian, was an offensive lineman for Illinois. His brother, Patrick, is a starting right tackle for Northwestern.
Working hard is part of Ward's DNA. He scored a 30 on his ACT and earned a 4.0 grade-point average last year. His hectic days force him to miss out on normal teenage pursuits, including watching one of his favorite shows, Workaholics.
Still, Ward remains unapologetic.
"Normal teenagers don't get Division I scholarships," Ward said. "That's who I am, and what I do. I'm in bed by 9:30, even in the offseason, and I'm forced to be an early riser. If I had my way and I wasn't an athlete, I would sleep late."
This should work.
From ESPN.com: Ward is a tough run blocker showing the ability to dominate and knock defenders off the ball. Has the size for the offensive tackle position at the major level of competition and it appears his frame is capable of handling additional body mass. Displays very good flexibility, balance and agility; can play on his feet in space and is very effective downfield; playing out of a three point stance we like the initial quickness and explosion we see. Comes off the ball low and hard with very good fit and pad level; is into defenders quickly, rolling his hips and getting underneath their pads; does a great job sustaining blocks downfield as a result of his blocking base and persistent leg drive. This is a tough customer who demonstrates the nasty, aggressive finishing attitude we expect to see when evaluating offensive linemen.
When asked to pull and trap he is quick out of his stance; shows the ability to get out in front and locate defenders on the move, finishing with crushing results. We see the quickness and agility required to consistently get a hat on active 1st and 2nd level defenders and feel this prospect has the tools to make the necessary run blocks at the next level of play. His arm length, quick hands and nimble feet should be assets in pass protection; demonstrates the ability to short and quick set to the deep point. Can bend and slide his feet displaying the athleticism to stay in front of pass rushers. This guy uses his upper body playing strength well; flashes the ability to get his hands inside with initial punch, working to maintain good extension. Ward's toughness and athleticism along with his excellent potential for physical growth indicate he could have a long and productive career at the BCS level of play.
What Iowa coaches said
Recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson: He's very athletic guy. Tough kid. Very, very smart. Excellent family. Father played in college. Brother plays in college. Younger brother is getting recruited. A great kid. I mean, he is a great kid. He wants to be here and is excited about getting going. It'll be fun to work with him.
What I think
Ward is in the chute. I wrote that very same sentence about Reiff as a redshirt freshman. Now, we should pump the brakes here at least a little bit. It's hard to say what will happen to the raw material, but maybe you can compare Ward to Bulaga. They come from the same general area, Chicago suburbs. They both played OL in high school and were firmly set on that track. Reiff did start out as a D-end at Iowa. Either way, we're talking about first-round NFL draft picks, so I guess I'm not exactly pumping the brakes. Sorry about that. Rivals.com, BTW, compares Ward to the Green Bay Packers' Chad Clifton. Again, not exactly pumping the breaks.