When Kirk Ferentz introduced Iowa's 2014 recruiting class in February, he was asked about Iowa's efforts in attracting players from Illinois.
Proximity and population make Illinois an important recruiting ground for Iowa. Is it make or break? You could argue it either way. Still, in '14, linebacker Ben Neimann was the lone recruit from Illinois and he had ties to the state of Iowa. In 2013, Iowa signed two from Illinois (LB Reggie Spearman and OL Colin Goebel). To show that, yes, Iowa does lean on Illinois, just look to the 2012 class, which included six Illinois signees, including Maurice Fleming, a sophomore who's listed at No. 1 cornerback this spring.
Ferentz was aware of the deficit, but wasn't worried that Iowa had faded in Illinois.
"Probably an aberration, but I'm confident we'll be strong in there, and we need to be," he said. "You can go to the Chicagoland area and back in the time it takes you to get up to a high school in northwest Iowa, so a few more people out there though there are a lot of good players in that direction (northwest Iowa) as well. We need to be strong in there and that's something that we're working hard on. I spent a little time in there last week. I feel good about our name and our exposure in there."
Saturday, Iowa made it two Illinois athletes for the 2015 recruiting class. Linebacker Jack Hockaday, 6-0, 205, picked the Hawkeyes over offers from Duke, Illinois, Indiana and Nebraska. As a junior last season for Maroa-Forsyth (Ill.) High School, Hockaday passed for 2,126 yards (66.8 percent completion percentage), 30 TDs vs. two interceptions and rushed for 822 yards and 17 TDs. Those numbers should give you an idea on what type of athlete Hockaday is, but he'll play defense at Iowa, most likely linebacker.
Iowa assistant coaches LeVar Woods and Jim Reid -- the linebacker coaches, outside and inside, respectively -- might have to settle this over an arm wrestling match.
"Coach Woods wants me at LEO [outside LB] and coach Reid says he's going to fight for me to play in the middle or outside, so it's still up in the air," Hockaday told HawkeyeReport.com on Saturday. "They think I can play all three of them [the linebacker spots]."
Iowa was the first school to offer Hockaday a scholarship. Rivals has Hockaday ranked as the No. 17 prep player in Illinois.
"I have been there [Iowa] a few times and I liked it from the beginning. I really like the coaches at Iowa, especially coach Woods, coach Reid and coach [Kirk] Ferentz," Hockaday told HawkeyeReport. "I have a very good relationship with them and it keeps getting better. I couldn't ask for a better fit for me than Iowa."
When Hockaday visited Iowa City during January's junior day, Wood told him what Iowa wants out of the outside linebacker spot: "That person has to be a dynamic athlete because they have to be able to cover people, but they also have to be able rush the quarterback and make plays in the run game too," Hockaday told HawkeyeReport.
Hockaday joins quarterback Jack Beneventi (Benet Academy, Glen Ellyn, Ill.) as the second Illinois prep to commit to the Hawkeyes for the 2015 class. Iowa now has seven commitments.
— Jack Hockaday (@Jack_Hockaday) March 29, 2014
Jacob Newborg, OL/DL, 6-4, 271, West Lyon High School (Inwood) ***
Jack Beneventi, QB, 6-6, 190, Benet Academy (Lisle, Ill.) ***
Drew Cook, ATH, 6-5, 205, Regina High School (Iowa City) **
Landen Paulsen, OT, 6-6, 285, Woodbury Central (Moville) ***
Levi Paulsen, OT, 6-6, 275, Woodbury Central (Moville) ***
Ryan Boyle, QB, 6-1, 215, Dowling Catholic High School (West Des Moines) **
Jack Hockaday, ATH, 6-0, 205, Maroa-Forsyth High School (Maroa, Ill.) ***
(* — Rivals.com rating)