3 and Out: What Iowa football development looks like

What development looks like; recruiting minute with Hawkeye Report; Big Ten Love Tester

Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz congratulates offensive lineman Keegan Render after a 43-yard LeShun Daniels touchdown against Iowa State. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz congratulates offensive lineman Keegan Render after a 43-yard LeShun Daniels touchdown against Iowa State. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)


I know, I know, I write about this topic a lot. Like a lot a lot. But I remain fascinated with the science, technology and, for lack of a better word, sweat that goes on in building college football bodies.

The first three Hawkeyes in the interview area this week were offensive linemen Lucas LeGrand and Keegan Render and wide receiver Jay Scheel. The trip of third-year sophomores couldn’t be better examples of the stages of development the majority of Iowa players go through when they arrive in Iowa City and start working with head strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle and his staff.

The success stories are easy to tell. Left tackle Cole Croston has put on some 80 pounds in his five years at Iowa. His body never hit a plateau. He became a starter last year and is now one of Iowa’s highest-graded O-linemen on a weekly basis. He had a great line a few weeks ago that crystallizes this process.

“It’s a good feeling when you’re able to get out there and actually move guys,” Croston said. “Before I was just stomping grapes out there, not moving anybody. It’s nice to be able to move a little weight.”

LeGrand, who may or may not make his second start at center with James Daniels possibly ready to return from a knee injury, was an athletic 240-pounder coming out of Dubuque Senior High School. LeGrand was a solid contributor for a state tourney-level basketball team.

“I was decent,” he said with a laugh. “I wasn’t the scorer, by any means.”

His only other offer was from Northern Colorado, so, it was obvious to LeGrand and Iowa, there was going to be some development.


“I forget the exact weight I was coming in here, but I think I’m about 50 pounds heavier,” said the 6-5, 290-pounder. “I’ve gotten faster and a lot stronger. I didn’t lift that much during high school.”

Render (6-4, 308) got away with being the biggest dude when he prepped at Indianola High School. He said his body hasn’t changed as much as the weight has shifted.

“It’s like where the weight is, I guess,” said Render, who played 17 snaps last week when starting right guard Sean Welsh left the game with an ankle sprain. “A lot of it went up into my chest and shoulders now. It changes with more muscle being added on.”

Scheel had to build his body and deal with a knee injury he suffered during his days as QB at Union High School. He had surgery during his true freshman year. Last year, he narrowly missed the cut for making the rotation. This year, a hamstring injury kept him out of the lineup in week 1, but against Iowa State, Scheel gathered his first career reception on his first career target.

For wide receivers, the demands of the game are obviously different. Scheel said he’s 20 pounds heavier and yet he feels faster than he ever has.

“You have to build up that armor to play in a physical game,” said Scheel, who’s gained 20 pounds since high school.

You really notice the finished products. You know, like former Iowa OL Brandon Scherff putting up 443 pounds three times in the hang clean. They make videos about that sort of thing. There are other players in the weightroom whose lifts are just as crucial.

Render was a true freshman during those days in 2014.

“You come in knowing Iowa is a developmental program and so in that first year you know they’re going to push you hard in the weight room,” Render said. “You have to know to be mentally and physically prepared.”


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Here are three cases where you’re starting to see what and how much development means to Iowa.


I thought everyone could use some recruiting news, so I asked publisher Tom Kakert three questions and here we go:


Who’s next?

Well, the Hawk signal was shining bright last night after 2017 commit Eno Benjamin tweeted that there would be a new commitment on Thursday. All signs point to Texas wide receiver Beau Corrales being the next commitment.

The 6-foot-4 and 205 wide out was committed to Texas State until Iowa came in with a scholarship offer. He de-committed from Texas State and then made an unofficial visit to Iowa this past weekend and watched the Hawkeyes defeat the Cyclones. Since then, he has picked up an offer from Indiana and Wisconsin is starting to show interest.

— What’s up with Calloway and Hankins (aka, it’s a long way until signing day)?

Anyone who believes that the recruitment of a prospect ends when they verbally commit to a school is mistaken.

Sure, some prospects really don’t listen to other schools who come calling, but that’s hard for an 18-year-old to do when some of the top programs in the country show interest. That is especially true of highly rated prospects.


For Iowa, once 4-star cornerback Chevin Calloway committed, they knew the next battle would be to hold on to him. He had a long list of offers before picking Iowa, and schools were never going to throw in the towel. He’s still getting interest from Arkansas and now Nebraska is trying to get involved.

The interesting note with Calloway is one of his best friends is high school teammate Damion Daniels, a 3-star defensive tackle who visited Nebraska recently and who has a visit to Iowa scheduled for the Northwestern game. The Huskers are trying to sell the package deal, and so are the Hawkeyes. The duo have said they would like to play together in college.

Calloway still is verbally committed to Iowa and has that news pinned to the top of his Twitter feed. Until that changes, he’s an Iowa commit.

As far as Texas cornerback Matt Hankins, he picked up an offer from Michigan this week, which caught more than a few people by surprise. He had a solid offer list when he picked Iowa in late June, but Michigan is a significant offer. He says despite the offer from the Wolverines, he is solid with Iowa.

— What’s the latest on Iowa City West WR Oliver Martin?

There might have to be a book written about the recruitment of Oliver Martin, because it’s had several twists and turns along with a whole lot of silence.

The 6-foot-3 wide receiver from Iowa City West High School isn’t big on interviews, so information is hard to come by and when he does do in-person interviews, it’s always big news.

Martin has attended both Iowa games this season and last week he postponed an official visit to Oregon to stay home in Iowa City. He says he plans on taking official visits to Notre Dame and Michigan State in the coming weeks, but there’s no timeline for a decision at this point.


Martin blew up on the recruiting trail this summer after several strong camp performances and earned an invite to Nike’s prestigious “The Opening” event in Oregon, where he played very well. His stock rose and the offers from Iowa, Oregon, Michigan, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Michigan State poured in.

Obviously, he’s playing his recruitment close to the vest, but when a prospect makes in-season visits, that tells me he’s looking to make his college choice sooner rather than later. Iowa will certainly be there until the very end and the Hawkeyes sit well with him. As far as his final choice, that one is up in the air.

Thank you to Tom for the recruiting knowledge. I can see why fans get excited about it, and I can see why fans need Xanax to follow it.


First, let’s give some respect — let’s make it mad respect, even — to Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State. The Buckeyes travel to Oklahoma this weekend. You might’ve heard that. I think the game will be televised.

Nebraska is playing host to Oregon. Yes, the Ducks have lost some cachet (Indiana does the “what uniform are they wearing” thing), but the Huskers are swinging for the fences with this one. I like it.

Michigan State is going to Notre Dame for a night game. It will be a bright and beautiful national stage for the Spartans.

(I’ll just throw in here that Iowa AD Gary Barta and deputy athletics director Gene Taylor said in the last week that they’d like to shake up Iowa’s non-conference schedule. Don’t ask them how, but that’s what they said.)

With the Big Ten moving to a nine-game conference schedule this year, this is the last non-conference weekend for most schools. It’s not a bad slate, really. Colorado at Michigan is interesting. I would watch Duke at Northwestern just to see if the Wildcats can rise from the grave. Penn State plays host to Temple, which beat the Nittany Lions last season.


Let’s get to the game that will test your Big Ten love. I’m throwing out Rutgers (New Mexico) and Maryland (Central Florida). And I think I have to go with Wisconsin playing host to Georgia State (11 a.m. on BTN).

I was a little reluctant to do this, because the Badgers did just beat LSU at Lambeau Field two weeks ago. It’s not even that Georgia State is that bad. The Panthers finished 6-7 last season and made it to the [Your sponsorship here] Cure Bowl and are off to a 2-0 start.

Maybe it’s just that I think Western Michigan at Illinois is going to be a great game, which may or may not be a great thing for the Big Ten.

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