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IOWA CITY — February’s National Signing Day wasn’t exactly a beehive of recruiting activity for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
They already had 17 scholarship recruits make their decisions official in December’s early signing period.
The Feb. 2 recruiting holiday included just one more signee — three-star defensive back Deshaun Lee, who chose the Hawkeyes over Pittsburgh, Syracuse and others — as the Hawkeyes replace a relatively small senior class.
Despite the quiet day, Iowa still is looking for more talent for the 2022 roster.
“We're not done yet,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said Wednesday. “We're still looking at some guys and working with some guys.”
The most likely source of that talent at this point in the year will be the transfer portal.
“If we could find the ideal player, it would be like a Jack Heflin, it would be Zach VanValkenburg or a Mekhi Sargent,” Ferentz said.
Those three worked out rather well for Iowa. Heflin and Sargent were on NFL rosters in 2021 while VanValkenburg started every game for the Hawkeyes in 2020 and 2021.
As for the next wave of Heflin, Sargent or VanValkenburg-caliber players, Iowa has scholarship offers out to some players from non-Power Five schools.
Cornell (N.Y.) offensive lineman Hunter Nourzad, Miami (Ohio) defensive end Kam Butler and Lafayette tight end Steven Stilianos all have offers from the Hawkeyes.
“We've identified just a small number of players that we have a real strong interest in,” Ferentz said. “We think we've done enough homework on them, and then we'll see where we're at in May.”
Ferentz doesn’t expect many new names to emerge in the portal between now and spring practices, but another wave of players could enter the portal after spring practices.
“I think there's going to be a whole 'nother round post-spring,” Ferentz said. “It's not uncommon for a guy thinking that he might be at No. 3 (and) thinking he should be one or two. Those tend to be the cases. I'm just going off years before it was a free transfer, so now I think you'll probably see more of that.”
Iowa has a different approach to the massive pool of talent than many of its peers, though. Take Iowa’s last two bowl opponents as examples.
Kentucky announced four additions from the transfer portal. Missouri had 10.
The Hawkeyes are the only Big Ten school without an addition from the transfer portal so far this offseason.
“We look at it a little bit differently,” Ferentz said. “Our numbers of attrition were low, and we're not looking to bring a lot of new guys in that really didn't grow up in the program.”
Iowa saw five athletes — quarterback Deuce Hogan; tight end Josiah Miamen and wide receivers Tyrone Tracy, Quavon Matthews and Desmond Hutson — leave the program via the transfer portal.
“Certainly it is disappointing to lose anybody from the program, but that being said, sometimes it's the best thing for the individuals,” Ferentz said, “and we certainly wish them all the best as they pursue their new options and opportunities moving forward.”
Iowa’s five departures have been the fewest among any Big Ten team, which Ferentz attributed to the environment and athletes’ “chance to develop to their fullest” with the Hawkeyes.
That’s territory Ferentz is happy to be in.
“You hope your guys are staying in the program and working forward,” Ferentz said.
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