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IOWA CITY — Filling “six or seven spots” of Iowa’s recruiting class at the last second doesn’t faze Tyler Barnes.
“We know most years we can go out and we can fill those spots,” said Iowa football’s director of recruiting.
The calculus for the 2022 recruiting class is a little more complicated than usual, though.
The NCAA gave all athletes an additional year of eligibility last year because of the COVID-19 disruption of sports.
The adjustment to the disruption of COVID-19 adds a longer-term disruption to recruiting. Some ambiguity in the number of open spots in a recruiting class is typical.
“You’re always looking at any possible NFL entries and other attrition,” Barnes said.
The COVID-19 eligibility extension adds another question mark to that “tricky” process.
“It’s, I wouldn’t say stressful, but it’s tough,” Barnes said.
If seniors want to come back, Barnes said the staff will “take them back with open arms.”
“If you have somebody that’s put their blood, sweat and tears into our program for one, two or three years, you’re certainly going to stick with those guys,” Barnes said.
The Iowa alumnus understands, though, if someone doesn’t want to stick around for a fifth or sixth year of college classes.
“I know we’re talking about student-athletes, but I don’t know how many people want to be in college for six years,” Barnes said. “That’s not something they probably set out to do unless they’re doctors.”
Should they stay or should they go, Barnes could face a handful of different scenarios. In the “extremely small” 13-person senior class, Barnes said it could be four returners. Or seven. Or eight.
Preparing for spots that don’t exist yet is not a simple task from a recruiting standpoint.
“Right now, if we had six guys that wanted to commit, I’m not sure we could take six commitments,” Barnes said, “because then we’d get into a numbers crunch at the end of the year.”
Barnes said Iowa likely won’t know which players are staying until after this season.
“We’ve had some conversations, but nothing’s been decided on any of those guys,” Barnes said.
Recruiting challenges aside, the staff isn’t exactly expecting answers either.
“During the season, we’re certainly not going to press those guys for answers,” Barnes said. “That’s the last thing we want them to worry about.”
Iowa has 11 commits so far in the 2022 recruiting class. Barnes said the program is targeting 16-18.
The “most pressing need” is at cornerback.
“We didn’t take one in the last class,” Barnes said. “We don’t have one committed in this class. Obviously going to lose a couple of guys this year.”
After that, it goes down to offensive and defensive line, linebacker and best available.
Xavier Nwankpa, the top safety in the 2022 recruiting class and 14th-best prospect nationally according to Rivals, is the highest-profile recruit still on the board.
Nwankpa plans to announce his decision on Dec. 8. His final three schools are Iowa, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
Fellow Iowa target Aidan Vaughan doesn’t have the four- and five-star ratings that Nwankpa boasts, but Vaughan picked up offers from Wisconsin, Florida State, Minnesota and Illinois in a one-week span in October. Iowa offered him a scholarship two days later.
Barnes said head coach Kirk Ferentz “has been so patient in his process” of finding recruits. That was beneficial when sifting through a class of recruits with many COVID-19-affected seasons.
“His biggest thing is, ‘Let’s see some senior film on kids,’” Barnes said.
Nwankpa, the Southeast Polk standout, has been on Iowa’s radar long before his senior year, picking up an offer in October 2019. Others on the recruiting board like Vaughan, however, are newer faces to Iowa’s staff.
“We probably have five or six guys that we’ve offered in the last month or so that weren’t on our radar in the summertime that have really come along and have had huge senior years,” Barnes said.
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