IOWA FOOTBALL RECRUITING

Iowa football caps off best recruiting class in years despite challenges

Notes on spring football and other roster changes

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during a news conference at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, July 16
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during a news conference at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, July 16, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

On the traditional February national signing day, Iowa tallied its final list of recruits at 19, including seven with four-star ratings. The class, ranked No. 23 by 247Sports and No. 24 on Rivals, is the second-best recruiting class under head coach Kirk Ferentz next to 2005, which hosted eight four-star recruits.

But Ferentz’s mantra still emphasizes development over hype — some of the best players might only have two stars to their names or come off the walk-on list.

“Good players come from all places,” Ferentz said. “Whether you’re talking about pro football, not everybody comes from Power Five institutions. It’s the same way with our program, especially if you consider how many walk-ons we’ve had who have really excelled here.”

Not only did the Hawkeyes pull off a dazzling recruiting class, they also capped off the recruiting season with late additions in the final week, including three-star offensive lineman Michael Myslinski and running back Deavin Hilson.

Myslinski was not from a place Iowa normally looks — Jacksonville, Fla. — but his dad, Tom Myslinski, a strength coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, knew a thing or two about recruitment. While Michael originally committed to Texas, his decommitment didn’t change Iowa’s approach.

“He was always very deliberate,” Ferentz said. “Our intent was to continue to recruit him until he told us otherwise, and we just feel fortunate that things opened back up and we had the opportunity to continue on.”

Recruits couldn’t take their normal visits to campus to meet current players due to the pandemic, so recruiting meant a lot of Zoom and FaceTime calls. But it somehow worked.

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“In some strange way, I feel like I know these prospects better than a normal year,” Ferentz said. “Just because we had so much time to dedicate toward the fact when we should’ve been having spring practice, should’ve been in a summer program and all those kinds of things. In some strange way, I think it was almost a benefit.”

But the challenge in recruiting will be the years ahead with no camps on campus to identify future prospects and spending time on the road in the fall or in January. It will be a lot of relying on film, but even that is short, since some states either didn’t have high school football during the pandemic or held restricted seasons. Three members of the 2021 recruiting class — David Davidkov, Gennings Dunker and Jeremiah Pittman — are from Illinois, which will tentatively start its season in March.

Ferentz noted that recent recruit Hilson’s school, Des Moines North, only played two games this year due to holding classes online, which added difficulty to his evaluation. But two other things caught Ferentz’s eye: his athleticism on the basketball court and willingness to improve his grades.

It’s the same mantra that holds true for taking any athlete.

“What we’re looking for is an effort in that commitment to getting something done and going after a goal and achieving it.” Ferentz said.

In addition to the pandemic, Iowa released strength coach Chris Doyle following allegations of racist remarks and bullying of Black players. Former players launched a lawsuit this fall over racial disparities and three-star cornerback Jordan Oladokun decommitted from the class over the concerns.

Ferentz met with diversity and inclusion officer Broderick Binns this offseason to move forward on creating a healthier culture in the program, arranging Zoom guest speakers and other programming to be integrated during the offseason.

“We’re kind of in that stage right now,” Ferentz said. “To look at other things that we can do structurally or educationally, programming, just to keep the dialogue going.”

Iowa spring football schedule unknown

In Ferentz’s 32 years with the Iowa football program, he said he’s never had a break that long, and the wait for spring football will continue.

The hope is to start practice in the vicinity of March 31. Iowa will not have a spring break, but with the late start, players will need eight weeks of training.

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“Right now, we are writing everything in pencil just like all you guys,” Ferentz said.

Other Iowa football roster changes

Defensive back Xavior Williams joins the Hawkeyes as a transfer from Northern Iowa. Ferentz said Williams has position flexibility, but will start at cornerback and see what happens during spring football.

Defensive lineman Austin Schulte is on scholarship and will return for sixth year.

Redshirt freshman defensive end Taajhir McCall opted out of the 2020 season due to the pandemic. His name was not on the spring roster, because the opt-out period extends through the academic calendar year. He still is on the team.

Raimond Brathwaite, who took the interim role as strength and conditioning coach following Doyle’s departure, will maintain his role as head strength and conditioning coach with top assistant Cody Myers.

Comments: (319) 398-8387; leah.vann@thegazette.com

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