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Finishing up the recruiting series with a group of four athletes.
OK, just one is officially an athlete. That’s Trey Creamer, who might be a cornerback, but you know there’s a need at wide receiver, so he might (probably) end up there.
Iowa’s newest quarterback will be Peyton Mansell, who describes himself as “dual threat-ish.” He did rush for more than 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns, so I’m going to raise this from “ish” to “hey ... this dude can run.”
Iowa City High QB Nate Wieland will be an LB. The Iowa staff visited California and Georgia before finally finding the punter they liked when scouting Ryan Gersonde in Wisconsin.
Trey Creamer committed to Minnesota in October. Then, there was a coaching change at Minnesota and Creamer started looking around.
Late in January, the 6-0, 175-pound defensive back announced on Twitter that he picked Iowa.
“I am so very blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to continue my education and football career at many outstanding universities around the country,” Creamer wrote. “I was able to take all five official visits and each and every staff and school treated me with the utmost respect. I sincerely thank them all for the opportunity to represent them over the next four years.
“But after much thought, careful and prayerful consideration, I have decided to commit to the University of Iowa and will be signing a Letter of Intent ...”
He had 19 offers, including Michigan State, Kansas State and Louisville. Creamer also visited Rutgers and Colorado State.
And now put one on the board for Iowa in what’s quickly becoming a recruiting wrestle-off with Iowa and new Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck. Since Fleck was hired, he’s edged out the Iowa staff for wide receiver Harry Van Dyne. Iowa first offered Creamer after Minnesota fired head coach Tracy Cleays.
Creamer, who did a little bit of everything for his prep team, is from Cartersville, Ga. Cartersville High School has gone unbeaten and won Georgia’s Class 4A state title during the last two seasons. Creamer led Cartersville in rushing last fall.
Creamer is the first Iowa recruit from Georgia since defensive back Tommy Donatell (Duluth, Ga.) joined Iowa as a walk-on (2009-12). Defensive lineman Rashad Dunn was the last Georgia native to sign with the Hawkeyes (2004).
Iowa offered 10 scholarships in Georgia for the 2017 recruiting class (the current one). In 2016, Iowa offered 31 scholarships in Georgia.
Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: “Led team in rushing as a senior ... helped prep team post undefeated records as a junior and senior, winning back-to-back state championships with consecutive 15-0 seasons.”
Noteworthy offer: Michigan State
Depth chart in 2017?: Well, depends. We might get an answer at some point this spring, but we still don’t know where Creamer will play. Just glancing, wide receiver probably needs the bodies more so than corner. If Creamer ends up at wide receiver, he probably gets a really good look in August and maybe plays. Corner seems healthier.
Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: Akrum Wadley
Probably a pretty good chance Creamer plays offense. His Hudl video is Akrum-esque. Great feet, not a lot of east-west and great burst.
Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell (this is more the conversation I had with coach Bell on the prospect) — Me: Trey Cree-mur or Kray-mur?
KB: Well, if you ask Trey, it’s Cree-mur, but in the south, with the accent, when you hear his name over the PA, it’s Kray-mur.
[The Iowa phonetic is CREAM-ir, so we’ll go with that.]
Me: Big battle with Minnesota, he had options. And finally, after 40-something scholarship offers in the state of Georgia in the last two years, you guys get one. Is it a break through? Or is it “OK, let’s plant the flag here and keep building.”
KB: Plant the flag and keep building. That’s how you want to look at it.
Trey was identified in the summer. We went to a satellite camp in Georgia and saw him. Trey saw us play in person when we played at Minnesota for his official visit (to Minnesota). That was the weekend he committed to them. He knew about us, we knew about him, but he was committed. When there was a coaching change at Minnesota, we still had a need at wide receiver and defensive back, here’s this kid. The entire coaching staff had been let go. Let’s go after him. He was open to it. We bring him on a visit, we think he loves it, but doesn’t commit and he visits Rutgers. Rutgers’ offensive coordinator is Jerry Kill, an old Minnesota guy. Ultimately, he ended up choosing the good guys.
We had a need. Unfortunately for Minnesota but fortunately for us, there was a coaching change. There was an opening and an opportunity.
Me: I look at a lot of guys in this class and I think Micah Hyde. Ball skills is a big part of that.
KB: He played running back. He can catch it out of the backfield. He can play receiver. He can play DB. That’s why we like Trey Creamer.
Wherever he fits in to help us is where he’s going to play.
Here’s head coach Kirk Ferentz on Creamer (the question was if Iowa had a position in mind for Creamer): We haven’t. He’s another player who does a nice job on both sides of the ball and you can never have too many guys that are good athletes and dynamic, another championship team, speaking of championships. So, we were pleased to get him here and that’s one we will let it play out when he gets here and he’ll have a vote on that one.
ESPN scouting report excerpt: Nothing on Creamer, which is weird. He was a fairly highly recruited athlete with 19 offers. ESPN did show some of his testing numbers. It had his 40-yard dash at 4.69 seconds. Most of the other numbers (20-yard shuttle, vertical, power throw and SPARQ rating) were in the middle range.
My take: The defensive highlights from Creamer’s Hudl show a few where he starts a mile out of position, but then makes a terrific, TD-saving backside save. It shows pretty good speed and definitely shows determination. Cartersville really wanted to get Creamer the ball in space, where he was dangerous. If it’s offense, you probably see Creamer sooner rather than later.
Northern Illinois offered Iowa City High quarterback Nate Wieland a scholarship last May. Wieland committed to the Huskies in June.
Wieland’s hometown Iowa Hawkeyes offered the 6-3, 220-pounder a scholarship on Jan. 26. He officially decommitted from NIU a day or two later. Then four days later, Wieland announced on Twitter that he would continue his football career at Iowa.
“Very excited to announce that I am committing to the University of Iowa to further my football and academic career #Swarm17,” Wieland wrote.
Wieland played quarterback for the Little Hawks. Last season, he completed 110 of 196 pass attempts for 1,671 yards and nine touchdowns. He also rushed 129 times for 741 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Northern Illinois wanted Wieland as a QB. He’ll go to Iowa to play linebacker.
“The visit ... really impressed me and it’s just too good to turn down,” Wieland told HawkeyeReport.com. “Being a hometown kid, it’s just what you dream of. It feels really great. I’m really excited for the future as a Hawkeye.”
Wieland also had an offer from Eastern Michigan. He fits the outside linebacker profile for Iowa, with a sturdy 6-1, 220-pound frame to build on.
Wieland accounted for more than 1,800 yards of offense and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore at City High. Shoulder and knee injuries limited Wieland to one full game during his junior year. Wieland told HawkeyeReport.com that he sprained his MCL and ACL and also suffered nerve damage in the knee. Clearly, he rebounded for a healthy senior season, guiding the Little Hawks to an 8-3 record and loss in the Class 4A quarterfinals to Cedar Rapids Washington.
Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: “Three-year football letterman as quarterback, defensive back, and linebacker.”
Noteworthy offer: Northern Illinois
Depth chart in 2017?: Probably not. Iowa recruited four linebackers in the 2016 class and two in 2015. A player like Jack Hockaday is probably already playing for the Hawkeyes in most years. With three senior starters, Iowa probably doesn’t need to rush Wieland.
Of course, if he shows wheels and can make open-field tackles, he might be in on special teams. But, really, Iowa kind of has that guy, too, in Kristian Welch.
Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: Mike Klinkenborg
Wieland is a big in-the-box linebacker. Klinkenborg was a big in-the-box linebacker for the Hawkeyes. I think Wieland sticks on the inside. I know I asked about defensive end, but, listed at 6-1, I’m not sure Wieland fits that minimum height requirement. Then again, neither did Nate Meier and, pound for pound, I’m not sure there’s been a badder all-around bleep. The deciding factor will be how well Wieland runs.
Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell (this is more the conversation I had with coach Bell on the prospect) — Me: I wasn’t surprised you guys offered him, I did wonder what took so long.
KB: Every class has needs. We took four linebackers in the 2016 class. Linebacker wasn’t a priority. Your needs change throughout the season. We didn’t need a linebacker, but what’s the next best fit available for Iowa and it was Nate Wieland.
Me: Probably if his wheels are there, he’s an outside linebacker?
KB: He’s a thick kid. He is thicker than ...
Me: Maybe a defensive end?
KB: I hope he sticks at linebacker, but we’ll try him in the trenches, too.
We have a really good relationship with his dad (Chet). He’s up in the booth with us on game days. He handles the headsets. We see his dad, Chet, every Saturday.
ESPN scouting report excerpt: No scouting notes.
My take: Deep Hawkeye roots make Wieland a good bet to contribute. No bold predictions. When Wieland puts on the jersey, the real work starts. His Hudl video is a lot of QB power runs in which Wieland breaks a ton of tackles. He doesn’t shy away from the physical part of the game. That’ll probably be the bedrock of wherever he goes with this opportunity.
Yes, at one point this summer, Iowa’s 2017 recruiting class was bursting with skill players from Texas.
Iowa had commitments from running back Eno Benjamin (4-star from Wylie), cornerback Chevin Calloway (4-star from Dallas), wide receiver Gavin Holmes (3-star from Justin) and wide receiver Beau Corrales (3-star from Georgetown). This also was in the summer, when commits are nice in theory but absolutely non-binding.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that not all Texas skill players jumped the Hawkeyes’ ship.
Belton, Texas, quarterback Peyton Mansell, rated as a 3-star prospect by Rivals, never wavered. He committed around the same time with the others. He remains friends with them, but he never budged from his Iowa commitment.
“The guys who didn’t end up coming are all my friends and it stinks that I didn’t get a chance to play with them,” said Mansell, who completed 189 of 272 passes (69 percent) for 2,558 yards with 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions for Belton High School last season. “I committed to the school and not my friends. I was committed from the school from day 1 and now even with coach Davis, coach Kennedy and coach White leaving, I’m still committed.”
Former Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis was listed as Mansell’s lead recruiter. He retired earlier this month. Former wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy and running backs coach Chris White also had a hand in Mansell’s recruitment. They weren’t retained for next season.
None of that shook Mansell.
“I feel like I’m coming into a good quarterback situation,” he said. “With C.J. (Beathard) just graduating, I’m going to have a chance to go in and compete against great quarterbacks in Nate Stanley and Tyler Wiegers. But they all have the same starting college experience that I do. None of us have started a game. I’m just excited to go in and compete. I really wanted to play in the Big Ten growing up. I really love how tradition-rich the conference is.
“Iowa is a lot like Belton, where I go. We’re not going to attract the biggest athletes, but we’re still going to find ways to win games. We have to replace the lack of raw talent with straight-up grit and hard work. I fell in love with that aspect of Iowa.”
What kind of quarterback is Mansell? In addition to 33 TD passes last season, he also had 1,132 yards and 15 touchdowns on 166 carries.
“My dad and I have always joked that I’m a ‘dual-threat-ish’ quarterback,” Mansell said. “This year I kind of showed I could run a little bit and not just pick up a couple of yards. If I can extend plays, I think that will be really helpful on the next level.”
Yes, Mansell has met with Brian Ferentz, who’ll be in his first season as Iowa’s offensive coordinator. The exact blueprints haven’t been laid out, but you’ll notice some familiar themes.
“I sat down with him on my official and he said we’re still going to play Iowa football,” Mansell said. “We’re going to run hard and run a lot, but we’re still going to throw the ball about 30 times a game. He gave me a crazy stat. It was like when we run the ball more than 40 times a game, we’re undefeated. It was something like that and it made sense with how high of quality our line has every year.”
(Iowa is 13-2 when it has rushed more than 40 times in games the last two seasons. Both losses were this year — Iowa rushed 41 times against Northwestern and Florida.)
Cornerback Matt Hankins (a 3-star from Flower Mound, Texas) also stuck with the Hawkeyes (despite a run from Michigan). Hankins really will have an opportunity for early playing time at cornerback. Mansell will have to catch up with Stanley, a sophomore and odds-on favorite for the job after burning his redshirt last season.
Whatever happens, you probably already have a soft spot for Mansell.
Let’s see, Iowa’s new offensive coordinator has told him the goal is 40 rushes a game, he watched and stood his ground as friends had dramatic decommitments this summer and fall and you caught that Belton/Iowa quote, right?
Iowa and Peyton Mansell are simply meant to be.
Measurements: 6-3, 210 pounds
Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: “Holds school records for rushing yards and total offense in a game, along with most points scored in a season.”
Noteworthy offer: San Diego State
Depth chart in 2017?: No. But ... OK, here’s how Mansell’s path to the field as a true freshman would look like: He impresses new QB coach Ken O’Keefe. Like O’Keefe can’t stop thinking about him. He turns off the film and then goes home and sneaks a few peaks on the iPad. In this rhetorical situation, obviously sophomore Nathan Stanley falters and KOK can’t quite talk himself into Tyler Wiegers. Drew Cook moves to TE. Ryan Boyle moves back to wide receiver.
Pretty far fetched, huh?
I think Stanley and Wiegers will compete fine and Mansell will redshirt.
Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: Drew Tate
Mansell is a bigger version of Drew Tate. When the pocket breaks down, Mansell kept his cool and made plays. What Kelvin Bell said about changing angles and finding late windows is exactly right. When the walls close in, Mansell has a feel for slithering around and, hey, if he has to throw sidearm, so be it.
Tate was as competitive as anyone during Kirk Ferentz’s 18 years here. That was where his leadership oozed from. Mansell has instinctive leadership skills. He wants to be a quarterback on this stage.
Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell (this is more the conversation I had with coach Bell on the prospect) — Me: I liked what you said about him on the internet TV show (still think that was one of the cooler nods to fans from Iowa football in a long time). His feet separate him a little bit. I did talk to him and he said he’s “dual-threat-ish.”
KB: Ish, ish, he’s not Michael Vick. He’s not that type of guy, but he’s not a guy who’s going to be where you think he’s going to be every time he drops back. He’s going to have to maneuver around, find some windows and throw the football. Let me tell you, that wreaks havoc on a defense. You always have the threat to run. Not necessarily the home run, but those 6-yard runs on third-and-5, those move chains. That’s what he adds.
ESPN scouting report excerpt: Possesses an ideal blend of size and athleticism. Looks the part of a pocket passer that is a deceptively good runner capable of being the zone read operator with significant production. Has significant frame development upside to add mass and strength. The type of athlete you want in a passer. ... Mansell is falling way under the radar. Possesses an interesting skill set and blend of passing prowess and athleticism. Definite upside in a conventional offense from under center or out of the shotgun spread. Contributes with his arm and with the mobility to make throws on the move and get first downs with his feet. Could be a sleeper in the same manner Seth Russell at Baylor was.
My take: Maybe not Drew Tate. Maybe C.J. Beathard 2015. The passing highlights in Mansell’s Hudl video are terrific, but the running plays are equally impressive. He really finished runs and punished safeties. Probably can’t get away with that in the Big Ten, but Iowa won’t want him doing that. Brian Ferentz will, however, want Mansell to keep those quick feet churning and keep his head up. Mansell didn’t bury his head when he felt the rush. He made moves and then reset before finding and making a play downfield.
The Iowa coaching staff was determined to hand out a scholarship to a punter this winter. Iowa assistants traveled to California and Georgia looking for the right candidate.
Enter Iowa assistant coach Seth Wallace, who recruits Wisconsin and the Chicagoland area. Wallace, the Hawkeyes’ linebackers coach, was truthful with the Gersonde family from his first overtures. Iowa was interested in Gersonde, but the staff was unsure it would offer a punter a scholarship.
“He never gave us any fake really anything,” Gersonde said. “He didn’t ever promise us anything that wasn’t going to happen. We appreciated that after talking to a lot of coaches that maybe did say, ‘You’re our No. 1 guy,’ and then offer someone else. That was a big factor in our decision.
“It was more like, ‘We want you, but we’re not sure we can offer you a scholarship yet.’ He came to me before, they were having a meeting deciding whether they were going to pursue a punter and he wanted to lay that out. ‘Look, we’re going to have a meeting in the next week to decide that. I’ll let you know.’”
So, Gersonde is on scholarship and will be in the mix for the Iowa punting job next fall.
One other interesting note on Gersonde, he lived in Australia during his grade school years. And he’s left footed.
“I was born in Milwaukee, but moved to Australia when I was two and then moved back to Milwaukee for my freshman year of high school, so I pretty much grew up in Australia,” said Gersonde. “I grew up playing Aussie Rules Football, which is where I learned how to punt.”
Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: “Averaged 40 yards per punt as a senior, with eight punts inside the 20 ... team captain as a senior.”
Noteworthy offer: Wyoming
Depth chart in 2017?: Definitely on the depth chart and maybe the guy.
Sophomore Colten Rastetter sits in the chair right now. Here’s Kirk Ferentz when asked about the punter position going into spring practice:
“Colten has been here a couple years now. He’s at that point where it’s time for him to go. It’s his job to win right now.”
Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: Ryan Donahue
Donahue was tall and thin and that’s where he drew his strength. His leg was a whip. Gersonde is 6-4 and has that potential, averaging 40 yards per punt as a senior, with eight inside the 20.
Eval from Kohl’s Professional Camps (for kickers, punters and snapping) — Gersonde recently attended the 2016 National Scholarship Camp. He has all the tools to be one of the very best punters in high school. Gersonde flashes a powerful leg hitting multiple punts over 50 yards including a massive 68 yard punt in July of 2015. He graded out at the 5 star level since July of 2015. He is a lefty punter who has a D1 frame and can hit a D1 punt. Gersonde is a punter worth looking at because of his upside and potential. He has some rare qualities that should make him attractive to college coaches.
ESPN scouting report excerpt: Gersonde is an excellent HS prospect, who shows high level talent and D1 punting ability. His technique is solid and his long levers allow him to hit for both distance or hang time if needed. He should be able to compete early in his college career. He has great control on his directional punts and has shown the ability to hit some big hang time on punts as well.
My take: It’s impossible to predict how this might go. One of the things Iowa coaches looked at with all of these punters is directional punting. Punters who have that skill give themselves more value.
How Gersonde handles himself on this level will determine if he plays next season. There’s an opportunity here. Iowa’s last true freshman to start at punter was Connor Kornbrath in 2012. Donahue redshirted in 2006, but won the job as a redshirt freshman in 2007 and set a Big Ten and Iowa record with 86 punts (!!!!), including a 76-yarder.
So, freshman punters can really matter.
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