Iowa Football

Hawkeyes Swarm '19: Big O-linemen, tight ends, yep, it's an Iowa recruiting class

You won't like the rankings, but you might like the 'check in two years' rankings

Cedar Falls’ Jack Campbell is a 6-foot-4, 215-pound and could end up at linebacker or defensive end. (Brandon Pollock/Waterloo Courier)
Cedar Falls’ Jack Campbell is a 6-foot-4, 215-pound and could end up at linebacker or defensive end. (Brandon Pollock/Waterloo Courier)

You’ve probably followed Iowa football and recruiting long enough to know not to get twisted by the rankings.

Recruiting grades will be issued today or tomorrow, which does begin the national signing period. They should come with a giant caveat that reads “Let’s see in two years.”

Of course, that’s the motto for teams that don’t sign a mile of super heroes, which is most programs.

Rivals has Iowa ranked No. 50 going into Wednesday. It also has the Hawkeyes with 16 commitments, all with 3-star rankings.

You know with Iowa and head coach Kirk Ferentz that it’s more about fit and culture.

That said, the Hawkeyes filled needs on the offensive line and tight end. Let’s drop all pretense and just agree Iowa is the premier tight end school in the country. The Hawkeyes found two in Logan Lee and Josiah Miamen, both of whom have offer lists that stack up with any midwestern prospect.

Get to know Ezra Miller. He’s 6-foot-7, 310 pounds. The Holstein native might have a legit shot at the lineup next season. Yes, as a true freshman offensive lineman.

There can be additions and subtractions, but here’s something on the 16 prospects Iowa plans to sign Wednesday.

OFFENSIVE LINE RELOAD

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After the Outback Bowl, the Hawkeyes will have just 11 scholarship offensive linemen. There will be a walk-on or two who makes a move (guard Kyler Schott might be that guy), but an infusion was needed.

Once again, the Iowa staff mostly stayed instate, and the state of Iowa put out more Power Five-level prospects this year than a lot of years (Rivals’ top 10 in the state committed to Power Five schools).

Miller got looks from big names, but he committed so early to the Hawkeyes (April 2017) that the offers didn’t pour in. This was a long relationship and one that might have Miller pushing for a job as early as next season.

Norwalk’s Tyler Endress committed not too long after Miller. He had offers from Iowa, Iowa State, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

New Hampton’s Noah Fenske is a long, lean 6-5, 280 and might bring a ton of position flexibility. That matters. This week, O-line coach Tim Polasek mentioned four candidates for next year’s center spot. Redshirt freshman Tyler Linderbaum seems destined for the position, too.

Indianapolis Warren Central O-lineman Justin Britt had an impressive list of 12 offers, including Michigan State and Purdue. Britt did suffer a torn ACL his senior year, but don’t be shocked to see him make a push for an inside spot, either guard or center.

DEFENSIVE LINE QUESTIONS

First, will defensive end Anthony Nelson return for his senior year? The latest on that is he wants to see what kind of feedback he receives from the Iowa staff and league. So, we’ll see.

D-line coaches Reese Morgan and Kelvin Bell have rotated in eight and sometimes more defensive linemen into games the last three seasons. That’s where the right freshman could find a way to the field.

Van Meter’s Chris Reames will take some time to fill his 6-7 frame. Just for comparison, Nelson was 6-6, 210 when he signed with Iowa out of Waukee. DePere, Wis., native Jake Karchinski might pair well with Reames at an end spot, but at 6-5, 245, he also could develop into a tackle. Iowa could use a boost there.

Bell closed the deal with tackle prospect Jalen Hunt, and it was a battle with Michigan State to secure the commitment from the Belleville, Mich., native. Hunt will start and defensive end and see where the body goes from there.

DRILLING FOR SKILL PLAYERS

You will take the Akrum Wadley comparisons that Georgia running back Tyler Goodson has drawn. He’s 5-10, 192, so he’s starting with a bigger body than Wadley did. He will get a chance to crack the depth chart. It’s running back. Everyone is in because everyone has to be in.

Iowa found another running back before signing day, picking up a commitment from Alabama’s Shadrick Byrd. He had 15 offers, including Duke, Louisville and North Carolina. He rushed for 1,340 yards and scored 17 TDs last season, along with 500 receiving yards.

Colorado’s Alex Padilla is the quarterback in this class. He received a late offer from Georgia, which is something you’d put on your resume. This season, Padilla completed 170 of 251 passes for 1,951 yards with 24 touchdowns and four interceptions helping Cherry Creek to a 12-2 record.

Tight end is the second-most important position on Iowa’s offense behind quarterback. Noah Fant passed on his final season at Iowa, signed with an agent and is prepping for the NFL draft. T.J. Hockenson won the Mackey Award this season and is deciding on a return in 2019. It is possible the Hawkeyes are in the market for a pair of tight ends next season.

Logan Lee and Josiah Miamen, Illinois natives, might be next. Lee had nine offers, all from schools you’ve heard of and see a lot on TV (Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin). Miamen also had a super-sterling offer list (Notre Dame, Penn State). Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz is the tight end whisperer. Seriously, he’s spinning gold at that position.

Iowa worked overtime before signing day and added another TE in Sam LaPorta. The Iowa staff waited on offering LaPorta because it didn’t want to set off alarms. He’s 6-4, 215 and had an amazingly productive career at Highland (Ill.) High School, sitting second in Illinois prep history with 50 receiving TDs and third with 3,793 receiving yards.

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The one time Iowa did an in-house recruiting webcast it was fantastic. Full of great info, including Ferentz saying he preferred wide receivers with some size. Raytown, Mo., wide receiver Desmond Hutson is 6-4, 219. Hutson caught 47 passes for 729 yards and eight TDs this season.

THE BACK SEVEN

Iowa dipped heavily into linebackers in the 2018 class, signing Jayden McDonald, Dillon Doyle, Seth Benson and Logan Klemp. But Iowa also is going through somewhat of an overhaul in the back seven. Throughout the second half of the season, defensive coordinator Phil Parker switched between Iowa’s standard 4-3 with three linebackers to a 4-2-5, with safety Amani Hooker transforming the outside linebacker spot to a hybrid position. Parker wanted more speed and athleticism on the field against a Big Ten West that has become spread-heavy on offense.

Maybe Ohio linebacker Jestin Jacobs fits there. The Clayton, Ohio, native committed to the Hawkeyes in November. With Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer announcing his retirement earlier this month, the Buckeyes did end up offering. Jacobs stuck with Iowa. That does happen sometimes, and, of course, that automatically makes Jacobs one of your favorite recruits.

Jacobs had 25 offers. Bell and linebackers coach Seth Wallace teamed up for this recruitment. Again, they proved that they are two of Iowa’s better recruiters.

Florida linebacker Yahweh Jeudy joined the class late, flipping him from Kansas State. Jeudy played defensive end and linebacker for Cardinal Gibbons High School (Pompano Beach, Fla.). The 6-2, 210-pounder made 122 tackles as a senior. Side note, he has size 15 1/2 shoes and XXXXL gloves.

Cedar Falls linebacker Jack Campbell has fun highlight tape. What he hits stays hit. At 6-4, 215, he could end up staying at linebacker or he could be a Drew Ott starter kit for a defensive end.

At one point this season, Iowa played a pair of true freshman corners. Parker has stacked the secondary with a ridiculous amount of talent.

Parker has never been afraid of playing true freshmen, so if Dane Belton (Tampa, Fla., with 26 offers including Pitt, Louisville and West Virginia) and Sebastian Castro (Oak Lawn, Ill., with offers from Iowa State, Minnesota and Northern Illinois) come in and click, they could find themselves on the field in 2019.

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Parker has developed a reputation for sneaking recruits in before the wire. This year, that was Dauron McKinney, a defensive back from River Rouge, Mich. He returned 23 punts and kicks for TDs as a prep.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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