Iowa Football

Iowa football recruiting 2019: Filling gaps in the skill groups

How many running backs was a debate; the NFL forced the Hawkeyes' hand at tight end

Iowa recruit Desmond Hutson (center) poses for a photo with Chris Hutson and Jaiden Hutson before Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa recruit Desmond Hutson (center) poses for a photo with Chris Hutson and Jaiden Hutson before Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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Here’s one thing that’s taken me forever to figure out about Iowa/Ferentz football: Just because it looks one way one year doesn’t mean it’s going to look that way the next year.

So, last year. Iowa had tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson. One of them likely will be the first TE taken in April’s NFL draft. They’re really, really good football players and they were the reason why the Hawkeyes played two tight ends in 58 percent of their snaps last season.

You know that’s going to change. The staff went looking for a sizable chunk of skill players in the 2019 signing class. At Iowa, you count tight ends as skill players, and the Hawkeyes signed three in this class.

Running back lacked explosive plays last year, producing just six running plays of 20 yards or more. Iowa’s seven overall was 124th in the country. That put a lot of pressure on the passing game. It put a lot of pressure on third down.

It also forced Iowa to put together longer drives than most any team wants. It also made extending drives difficult. In the 14-10 loss to Northwestern at Kinnick, the Hawkeyes averaged just 4.0 plays per drive. Iowa has a three-game losing streak vs. the Wildcats and NU controlling tempo and the line of scrimmage is a big reason why.

The sign is always up at wide receiver, and so one signee this year. Iowa is back in the “one QB per year” mode at quarterback.

— Did Iowa need to find a running back?

Yes. The explosive rushing plays were non-existent and there is no softening that, not after Akrum Wadley rolled through with 2,872 yards in three seasons (that’s not three 1,000-yard seasons, but on Iowa’s measure of running backs, that makes Wadley No. 1 or 2 in Kirk Ferentz’s 20 years as head coach).

— Is three tight ends enough?

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Yes. There will need to be some stagger in classes between Logan Lee, Josiah Miamen and Sam LaPorta. One of them will see the field this year. Maybe two if they come in ready. But Iowa is shopping top shelf for TEs in the 2020 class and one or two of them will join the fray. Maybe it becomes as competitive as Iowa’s secondary.

— Is one wide receiver enough?

Yes. I did ask wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland if he wanted to get more WRs in rotation in 2018. He said nah. He liked the snaps Ihmir Smith-Marsette (348) and Brandon Smith (572) got and wanted them on the field. Don’t expect that to change with totally untested tight ends.

Tyler Goodson

Of course, signing day coverage is chock-full of hyperbole. You know every coach loves his class. You know whatever analyst is going to make a star out of a kid before the kid knows where his dorm is.

What’s real and what’s loud noises is on you to figure out. But when the hype goes your team’s way, especially a program like Iowa that isn’t a recruiting showroom school, eh, take it for what it’s worth, but enjoy it.

I enjoy Big Ten Network’s Gerry DiNardo. He has a ton of football knowledge and presents it in an entertaining way. He coached at places with big stakes (LSU) and Indiana. Can he be wrong? Certainly. His experience always has me at least listening.

He likes Georgia running back Tyler Goodson.

“He’s got it all,” DiNardo said during BTN’s signing day special. “He’s going to play next year, he’s going to break records. I love this guy. He’s got great vision and you look at his moves. He’s got it all. He’s my sleeper guy. He’s way underrated at three stars.”

There are some procedural questions during every recruiting news conference. It’s stuff you roll your eyes at, visits, number of visits, when were the visits.

With the NCAA allowing spring visitors for the first time this year, Goodson was the first spring official visit. It was just Goodson, his mom and Iowa showing the Goodsons the campus.

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Goodson committed early and Iowa hung on. Oh hey, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh popped into the Goodsons' Suwanee, Ga., home at some point before signing day.

Don’t blame Jim, you guys. The Wolverines lost to Ohio State 62-39 this year. Harbaugh is the first UM coach to start his tenure 0-4 vs. the Buckeyes. That’ll make the khakis pinch in uncomfortable areas.

Goodson always called Iowa and told the staff who was visiting and that he remained 100-percent Iowa. It wasn’t just lip service.

 

Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: Georgia player of the year as a senior.

Noteworthy offers: Michigan State, Nebraska, Iowa State

Depth chart in 2019?: Yes.

Kirk Ferentz was asked if Goodson or Shadrick Byrd could impact the running back depth chart in 2019.

“I guess I’m just kind of leaning that direction where we can’t have too many backs, and I think both guys that we signed are really capable guys,” he said. “They’re going to come in and compete hard, and if they can enter into the mix, that would be a great thing for us.”

But ...

“But you know, it’s a tough position.”

Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: Akrum Wadley

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Iowa doesn’t often get backs who can move laterally like this. Wadley made a lot of defenders miss every which way during a career that saw him rush for almost 3,000 yards. Wadley has “stop and start” that made him so dangerous. Goodson looks to have a mean jump cut. Has a knack for beating edge defenders.

Iowa recruiting director Tyler Barnes: “First and foremost, he’s really an impressive kid from a very impressive family. Tyler is a very mature kid, very humble, but he is a talented kid. He was one of the first guys (running backs) coach (Derrick) Foster brought up when he joined the staff. Credit him and Seth Wallace for recruiting Tyler and starting that process.

“Tyler was our first-ever spring official visit here at Iowa. When we got him up here — his mom made it up, his dad didn’t make that visit — you just felt really good about the kid. Another kid who made you feel good. I was with coach Foster at Brian Ferentz’s house and we had a chance to watch Tyler’s first game this year, his senior year. I was kind of laughing. It’s halfway through the second half, and I’m like, ‘Man, we’re going to have to fight to keep this kid. This kid is really good.’

“Credit to Tyler and his family. They were very open and honest. They’d call and say, ‘So and so called, so and so stopped by.’ Every conversation ended with ‘Coach, we’re going to Iowa. You have nothing to worry about.’ They stuck to it. There’s something to be said for that. That’s a big credit to coach Foster and the relationship he built with Tyler and his family. It’ll be good to get Tyler in here in June. He and Shad will be a nice 1-2 punch there.”

ESPN rankings: 39th-ranked running back nationally, 280th-ranked prospect in the region and No. 67 in the state of Georgia.

My take: The highlights are amazing. The lateral quickness, the stop-and-go, the vision, Goodson is a greasy running back. No one seems to get a big shot on him. Ran inside a ton and did it fearlessly. Caught passes on the perimeter and exploited outflanked defenses. Goodson has good-enough size at 5-10, 190. Not sure you need or want him bulking up. Let those knees and hips do their thing. One thing: It looks like Goodson only took handoffs out of the shotgun and in a read-option situation. Iowa does that, but it’s a look more than it’s something where the QB will keep the ball. It’s more of a spread look. Iowa doesn’t do that. That will take some adjustment.

Shadrick Byrd

We’re probably not talking enough about Shadrick Byrd.

He’s 5-10, 210 pounds and from Alabaster, Ala. He played with Taulia Tagovailoa, and, yes, that’s Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa’s younger brother. Thompson High School is the highest of the high levels in high school football in the country. Thompson fell in Alabama’s Class 7A state football championship this season.

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Thompson posted a 24-3 record during Byrd’s junior and senior seasons. Oh yeah, Byrd helped. As a junior, he hit 1,167 yards, 243 receiving yards and 21 TDs. Last season, it was 1,340 yards, 500 receiving yards and 17 TDs.

Iowa was a late offer for Byrd. He visited on Dec. 16 and committed to the Hawkeyes on Dec. 19, just before the first signing period began.

It came down to Troy, Vanderbilt and Iowa.

In Byrd, you can see where system and style might affect a running back. According to a post on AL.com, Byrd liked the spread scheme that Troy runs.

Iowa RB coach Derrick Foster, who coached at Samford before joining Iowa’s staff last year, made a connection with Byrd. The schedule was tight for a visit. It worked and the Hawkeyes suddenly found themselves with two RBs in this class (Goodson being the other) to go along with juniors Toren Young, Ivory Kelly-Martin and Mekhi Sargent and redshirt freshman Henry Geil.

On one hand, yeah, that is a lot of running backs. On the other, that’s a lot of competition. Does Iowa have a playmaker?

Byrd is an early enrollee. When the “early enrollee” thing started happening, Iowa had a player come in and transfer out quickly thereafter. Obviously, this has evolved. Iowa has six this year and is conscious on building an environment that will help them stay.

“It’s not something that we request of first-year guys,” Ferentz said. “I know a lot of people are probably encouraging that. We don’t. But if a player is really invested in doing it and really is excited about doing it, and we’re convinced he’s not going to be homesick and all those kind of things, have problems academically, socially, all those kind of deals.

“ ... The other guys have done a great job I think reaching out to them. I go back to ‘81. I was really impressed in ‘81 just how the guys on the team were really inclusive with younger players. It’s been a great tradition here, not one we started but it makes it really helpful. It’s been great. Great to have them around here.”

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Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: Four-year member of prep honor roll and also lettered in baseball.

Noteworthy offers: Troy, Vanderbilt, North Carolina

Depth chart in 2019?: Yeah, there’s a chance. Yes, Iowa’s backfield needs explosion, but it’s a tough position and there’s a lot of competition. But, yes, definitely a very good shot.

Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: I watch the tape and I think Albert Young.

Byrd probably doesn’t have Young’s size, but everywhere his weight is listed it’s 210-plus, so he’s compact and put together like Young. The tape shows a versatile weapon. Young is the Ferentz-era leading rusher with 3,173 rushing yards and what I think is a Ferentz-era record for running backs with 79 receptions.

Iowa recruiting director Tyler Barnes: “Initially, we were going to take two running backs. That was the plan. And then we looked at our needs and looking at the roster, we decided to take one. That was Tyler Goodson’s commitment. And then, as any year goes, everything is fluid. Plans change sometimes daily. But we got to the point this year, we had three backs we really feel good about, but only two of them were healthy in any given week, so we had attrition at that spot. As a staff, we talked about it and decided to go out and get a second running back. We had a few on our board we really liked. Shad was one who coach Foster knew and liked from his previous time in Alabama. He knew a lot about him. It worked out. We were able to go in on the last hour and pick Shad up.”

ESPN rankings: 108th-ranked running back, 687th-ranked in the region and No. 57 in Alabama. 20-yard shuttle time: 4.47 seconds (best for RBs was 3.96; worst 4.90). Vertical jump: 31.3 inches (best was 42; worst 24.7). Power throw: 31 feet, 5 inches (best 45.5; worst 25.5).

My take: I like that Byrd is from a big program and a super-competitive environment. I also like that he’s an RB who started school early. It has to help with the playbook. As a player, he’s instinctive. Head is up and he is seeing the field the way a running back needs to. Byrd also is the kind of runner who never seems to be in a hurry. That’s good body control, patience and seeing the game on a high level. Gorgeous catching the ball out of the backfield. The measurement numbers are a start. Let’s see what the strength staff can do there, but at 210, Byrd is ready to do this whenever he wedges his way in there. This is going to be an extremely competitive spring and fall at RB.

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Josiah Miamen

Before T.J. Hockenson won the Mackey Award, before Noah Fant won the NFL combine, Josiah Miamen thought it would be a good idea to jump on the Iowa tight end bandwagon.

The Peoria, Ill., native committed to the Hawkeyes in September. Miamen is a 6-4, 225-pound tight end. Iowa does big things with tight ends. It’s around a three-hour drive to Iowa City. This could be a great fit.

“It just felt right,” Miamen told HawkeyeReport.com. “Tight ends are a huge part of their offense and I believe that Iowa will help optimize my potential.”

Miamen caught 25 passes for 500 yards and six TDs last season. During his junior season for Dunlap High School, Miamen had 22 catches for 634 yards and 11 TDs.

You can be Tight End U one minute and then, at Iowa, Offensive Line U the next. It’s hard to buy claims that one school is “whatever U.” But ... you can make a great case for Iowa being TE U.

Miamen’s comments after his commitment just drip with this.

“The culture is amazing and a culture that seems to really help develop young men, and the tight ends are a key element of their offense,” Miamen said. “It’s pretty clear to anyone who watches the game that they’re a huge focal point.”

Fant played host to Miamen on his visit.

“They have been recruiting me pretty hard and feel that if I come and do all the right things I could a pretty useful piece of the offense,” Miamen told HawkeyeReport.com.

Part of this was Miamen picking the best TE school. The other part is Iowa successfully recruiting a highly-coveted athlete. Miamen had 15 offers and they were all from schools whose brands you’d find on any random department store sweatshirt. Let’s just keep it Big Ten: Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin. And, oh yeah, Notre Dame.

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Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: Earned academic all-state recognition with a 4.0 GPA.

Noteworthy offers: Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Northwestern

Depth chart in 2019?: Maybe. Iowa did lose Fant and Hockenson. It’s junior Shaun Beyer’s turn and then probably senior Nate Wieting. Because of the short resumes, the lineup could be cracked by a freshman who ... you know what’s coming ... shows he has a nose for blocking. That’s not everything, but it is a big thing for Iowa TEs. It’s just not something you’ll be able to yada yada through with Ferentzes on staff.

Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: Scott Chandler

Chandler was taller, but Miamen seems to have that “box out” really good pass catchers have when going for contested balls. How many balls were defenders able to knock out of Hockenson? Maybe one. One of the reasons Hockenson is about to be paid millions is his ability to shield the ball from defenders. Miamen seems to have that. The last Chandler comparison comes from the possibility of fade routes. Miamen looks to be a strong candidate, but you generally don’t see a lot of those coming out of Iowa’s offense.

Iowa recruiting director Tyler Barnes: “I was born in Peoria and I always joke that I try to do my best to make sure we’re not missing anybody from around there. Josiah came into a camp two years ago as a receiver. At the time, he was a slower receiver. Didn’t really stand out. He had a teammate who was looking to walk on here. I had a chance when I was on the road to see Josiah in school. I saw him from afar and came back and said, ‘We should probably take another look at this kid. I think this kid hit a growth spurt.’ We did. Coach (Kelvin) Bell and Brian (Ferentz) had chances to go see him. It’s crazy, because if he was into the recruiting stuff, he would’ve blown up more quickly than he did. He doesn’t really care about social media. It’s not really his style. He’s a pretty quiet kid. He didn’t do a lot of camps, which probably hurt him a little. Once schools started to figure out who he was and saw him in person, everybody was like, ‘Yeah, this kid is the real deal.’ He had really good junior film. He played on a state championship football team. The rest speaks for itself. He’s a big kid with really good ball skills who runs really well and who has some position flexibility at that tight end spot. Not sure he’s done growing. He’s got big hands, big feet, he could keep going. Also, very, very smart.”

ESPN rankings: 103rd-ranked tight end, 76th-ranked in the region and No. 13 in Illinois.

My take: Miamen lined up outside a lot for Dunlap. One little thing from his tape that’s not so little? When it’s time to block, Miamen likes to deliver the boom. Sometimes on perimeter players, you just go to the nearest defender and do your best. Miamen is a good enough athlete to be able to turn, take a second to set himself and then lower the boom. That’s kind of fun to watch. Miamen also lined up in the slot. Shows great hands. Really like the way he creates separation coming out of his cuts. Shows he’s had some good coaching and has listened. He has Fant potential, but maybe with a little more body control.

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Logan Lee

I still haven’t met Logan Lee and won’t be able to interview him for another 17 months (Frentz's rules), but I do remember the first time I heard his name.

He had committed to the Hawkeyes. We get the chance to talk with staff members about recruiting. One said Iowa was extremely high on this new commit out of Illinois. That was Lee. And then Michigan offered and the expectation was Lee’s recruiting would turn into a talk show, with rotating guests (coaches) flying in and out of the Iowa commit’s life.

(Early commits make the school a target sometimes. There’s nothing more competitive than college football recruiting except maybe Russian slap fights. It’s an official sport and everything.)

Michigan/Harbaugh is Iowa’s “energy vampire” when it comes to recruiting. It walks into the room and sucks the life out of it. Karan Higdon ended up being a solid running back for the Wolverines. He switched on signing day. Iowa lost another linebacker and let’s wait and see how much that one stings.

Maybe the tide is turning a bit? Energy Vampire Harbaugh showed up at Tyler Goodson’s house and got to take a selfie with the future Iowa RB. Michigan offered Lee, along with Michigan State, Ole Miss, Wisconsin and Northwestern, and Lee signed with the Hawkeyes.

Lee committed in mid-June 2017 and signed in December 2018. That’s commitment. Yes, commitment means different things to different prospects and coaches have to take that ride. Maybe there were some close calls with Lee, but you know this kind of commitment is in Iowa’s wheelhouse.

Put Lee in the circle of trust now.

The 6-foot-5 and 245-pound tight end from Orion, Ill., won WR/TE MVP honors in May at Rivals 3 Stripe Camp in Chicago.

 

Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: Four-year football letterman as a DE and TE.

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Noteworthy offers: Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ole Miss

Depth chart in 2019?: I think yes and I think at 6-5, 245 (hey, that’s what the Iowa bio says, I’m going with it) he’s probably more game-ready walking in than Miamen and Sam LaPorta. But hey, on the #oniowapod, The Athletic’s Scott Dochterman (you know Scott) picked Miamen for early playing time. We’re all kind of just grasping, but I do think Lee’s size gives him an edge here.

Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: C.J. Fiedorowicz

They played on similar levels, with Lee playing for Orion High School and Fiedorowicz at Johnsburg High School. Lee isn’t the 6-7 behemoth that CJF was, but he is 6-5, 245. One big difference: CJF wasn’t asked to do a ton of blocking when he was a prep. He played perimeter on offense and safety on defense. Lee played inline TE and holds Orion’s career record for sacks (35). And, of course, the discussion on where Lee ultimately ends up is open. Of course, he could be a defensive end. Maybe somewhere in the neighborhood of Drew Ott. For next year, he might be the freshman TE who sees the field.

Iowa recruiting director Tyler Barnes: “It’s funny how recruiting works, right? There’s a reason we didn’t offer some these late guys until the last weekend. Once we offer, other schools are going to come. Logan is a good example of that. If we don’t offer Logan ... I’m not saying he wouldn’t have gotten those offers, but maybe they wouldn’t have come so quickly. Logan is a tough kid. We offered early and he came to campus. Logan fits everything we are. He is 100 percent. He’s one of the toughest guys in this class without a doubt. Extremely humble. Completely selfless, team-first guy. Everything you want. The best part about Logan, he came here for his visit and he had some offers and made some visits. His dad and he let us know that everywhere they went, Logan compared everything to Iowa. ‘Dad, at Iowa they have this.’ That’s when you know you might have a chance at this kid. He fits who we are and he understands who we are. Logan has been like Ezra. He’s been a great ambassador and a great recruiter the whole way through. We could ask Logan to play corner next year and he’d probably do it and just smile and try as hard as he can. That’s just the type of kid he is. Those are the kind of guys you want to build your team on.”

ESPN rankings: 16th-ranked TE, 55th-ranked in the region and No. 9 in Illinois. Lee’s overall SPARQ score was 102.8 (110.22 was the top number for prep TEs). Lee was timed at 5.13 seconds in the 40 (best was 4.59; worst 5.40). His 20-yard shuttle time was 4.42 seconds (best was 4.20; worst 5.10). Lee’s vertical was 33.0 inches (best 40.0; worst 23.2). Power throw for Lee was 42.0 feet (best 43.5; worst 31.0).

My take: Jumbo athlete is what I see. Probably a finer athlete than people will give Lee credit for, but he’ll probably eventually get paid for power. As a TE, he does create separation in his breaks. He also has wonderful hands and thrives in traffic. He really does have nice, soft hands. Orion wasn’t afraid to throw the jump ball his way. He played inline, so he has blocking skills. He’s also strong and powerful. As a defensive end? Tougher to say. I didn’t see much film on that, but the frame and the power are there. We all want to be a fly on the wall for the kinds of personnel meetings where things like this are decided.

I’m not throwing this out there to say Lee has a bona fide badge of courage. When he suffered a lacerated spleen during a game in October, I’m sure his parents and family freaked out. It had to have been frightening. He bounced back quickly, only missing a few plays and finishing the game with eight catches for 208 yards and two TDs, but he was held out for the rest of the season.

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Sam LaPorta

Near signing day if not on it, the Hawkeyes had three players make the call for Iowa — running back Shadrick Byrd, linebacker Yahweh Jeudy and tight end Sam LaPorta.

Tight end? Iowa already had two. This was, however, after Fant declared for the NFL and right around the time Hockenson won the Mackey Award. At that point, Iowa probably knew it was losing both TEs.

So, yes, a third tight end in this recruiting class.

Three at one position is a rarity, but Iowa is working on establishing itself as a tight end factory. This has happened once before with the Hawkeyes.

In 2011, then-Iowa tight ends coach Eric Johnson (back in coaching at Wisconsin after running a Culver’s, great guy and wish him the best) told the tight ends in the ’11 class they wanted two. They ended up with three, but not before Johnson asked the first two — Henry Krieger-Coble and Hamilton — what they thought about bringing in Jake Duzey.

That worked OK and no one even had to switch positions.

LaPorta, a two-time all-state wide receiver at Highland (Ill.) High School, has multiple receiving records at the school.

The 6-4, 225-pounder holds the school mark for most receiving yards in a season (1,457) and career (3,793). He also has a career-best 50 TD catches.

LaPorta has already been asked this question.

“I think we’re just going to make each other better,” he told STLhighschoolsports.com.

 

Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: Academic all-state for three years. Three-year team captain.

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Noteworthy offers: It came down to Iowa and Bowling Green. Also had offers from Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Yale.

Depth chart in 2019?: Probably not.

What could change this is if Lee is shipped to defense. Kirk Ferentz was asked about that during the second signing day news conference. He basically said let’s see what happens. He did say that Lee would have to be on board. The only way that works. Still, LaPorta was a wide receiver at Highland. The blocking is going to come with a learning curve.

Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: George Kittle

Kittle was a big wide receiver coming out of Norman (Okla.) High School in 2012 and was just 6-4, 200. Kittle obviously kept his speed and quickness while building himself into a 250-pound tight end who set the NFL record for tight end receiving yards last season. LaPorta is coming from a similar starting point. He is 25 pounds heavier. If his speed is there, maybe that gets him to the field quicker than we might think.

Iowa recruiting director Tyler Barnes: “Sam came to camp this summer. At the time we were just going to take two TEs. We had Logan who committed before the summer. Josiah was a guy we felt good about in the spring and summer, someone we were going to swing away on. Sam has been on board the whole fall. Credit to coach (LeVar) Woods for digging up Sam. From Highland, Ill., not everybody gets down in that area. It’s about an hour from St. Louis. It’s a smaller town. If Sam were in Chicago, he would’ve had a million offers. You’re talking about a kid who I think is second in Illinois high school history in receiving touchdowns and is third in yards. The kid is an incredibly productive multisport athlete. Incredible basketball player and comes from a very athletic family. Once Noah declared for the draft, that fluidity thing came in. We had to think fast and talk about if we wanted another tight end in this class or wait. Brian (Ferentz) had a chance to see six or seven tight ends during the contact period. Sam was a guy he fell in love with. Just the makeup of the kid, the community he’s from, the type of kid he is. It made sense and we went ahead and pulled the trigger and moved quickly on Sam.”

ESPN rankings: 173rd-ranked TE, 162nd-ranked in the region and No. 28 in Illinois. LaPorta performed his SPARQ tests as a wide receiver. His overall score was 81.63 (120.33 was the top number for prep TEs). LaPorta was timed at 4.78 seconds in the 40 (best was 4.45; worst 5.21). His 20-yard shuttle time was 4.88 seconds (best was 3.95; worst 4.96). LaPorta’s vertical was 31.6 inches (best 40.9; worst 24.8). Power throw for LaPorta was 38.0 feet (best 44.0; worst 26.5).

My take: I imagine part of putting together LaPorta’s profile for the Iowa staff was finding out how he would handle being challenged. From Highland High School to Kinnick Stadium, it’s a leap. And then beyond that, LaPorta also will be making the switch from WR to TE. He’s dealing with a major step in his football career. You read what Barnes said. Brian Ferentz made a trip. They probably see something they really like. I like how he uses his body. He has some Hockenson magic that way. LaPorta also can go up and get it. He really looks to high-point when he can. On the Highland level, that usually worked. Making it go here will be part of the homework. Iowa needs TEs who can threaten with speed and who can split out (Fant did that so much in 2018, I can’t see Iowa getting away from it, adds so much versatility and creates some conflict of assignment) and LaPorta fits that. Highland used LaPorta in bubble screens. I could see that at Iowa.

Alex Padilla

Somewhere in grade school, Alex Padilla got the idea he wanted to be a big-time quarterback. By ninth grade, things started to move for him.

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Padilla (6-1, 190) landed some reps as a freshman at Cherry Creek (Colo.). OK, more than “reps.” He played in five games and threw for 456 yards and four TDs. Cherry Creek is a storied Colorado Class 5A program. Cherry Creek won a title in 2014 and fell to Valor Christian and Nebraska-bound QB Luke McCaffrey in last year’s finals.

Padilla suffered a torn thumb ligament and missed his sophomore season. It could’ve been an “uh oh” for his recruitment, but he rebounded with a terrific junior year, throwing for 2,678 yards and 40 TDs. From torn thumb ligament to very much on the recruiting radar.

The offers started coming. Central Michigan was the first. Seven months later, Padilla, who threw for 1,951 yards and 24 TDs as a senior, committed to the Hawkeyes.

“He’s a winner,” Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s what a quarterback should be. He’s pretty smooth with what he does. I think he’s pretty nifty. There’s a guy in the Big Ten he kind of reminds me of that we played against this year that I think is a really good player. So time will tell, but I think everything that we’re hoping for we saw in him, and we’re thrilled he’s with us.”

I’m going to guess Purdue’s David Blough. He dropped 333 yards and four TDs on the Hawkeyes. That will get you respect.

 

Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: Neuroscience major.

Noteworthy offers: Georgia, Colorado State, UNLV

Depth chart in 2019?: No. It’s the Nate Stanley show. When for Padilla? He’ll be in competition in 2020 with Spencer Petras, Duece Hogan and Peyton Mansell.

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Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: Jake Rudock

Padilla had a 3.67 GPA at Cherry Creek and he wants to major in neuroscience. Rudock talked about something really science-y once during interviews. So, there’s the smarts. I think the body type is similar. Rudock was a little taller. And just going off the schools that recruited, Padilla isn’t a dual-threat runner, but he has been timed at 4.73 in the 40 and has hands that measure 9 3/4 inches.

Iowa recruiting director Tyler Barnes: “He’s a three-time captain at a powerhouse high school, which certainly doesn’t happen very often. He commands the respect of his teammates, his school. In that area, everyone talks about Alex. I have to give some credit to our wide receivers GA Josh Sinagoga, who actually was the first to bring up Alex. He knew about him from a previous stop. When we got Alex here for camp, that’s when he really wowed coach (Ken) O’Keefe. That bond kind of started there and he felt good about his performance. Comes from a great family. The Georgia offer comes in ... You worry a little bit, but they were quick to shoot it down and say, ‘Coach, we’re coming, we’re coming. You guys were with us on day one and have been with us the whole way through.’ That just makes you feel good. Good family and they were open and honest about that. It’s always good to find a QB you feel good about.”

ESPN rankings: 30th-ranked QB, 195th-ranked in the region and No. 8 in Colorado. Padilla’s overall SPARQ score was 85.2 (107.31 was best for QBs; worst 43.65). His 40 was 4.89 (4.62 was the best for prostyle QBs; 5.48 was the worst). 4.45-second 20-yard shuttle for Padilla (4.13 best; 5.01 worst). Vertical was 32.1 inches (best 43.2; worst 22.2). Power throw was 38 feet, 5 inches (45.0 best; 26.0 worst).

My take: Fluid-looking athlete. Picks his spots in the pocket and seems to have a knack for making plays on the move. Very disciplined with his eyes. They’re always scanning down field. Wonderfully quick feet. Gets into drop quickly. He also uses his feet well to creep up in the pocket and buy himself time. I don’t usually like to talk QB arms in these things. So hard to know what is what. But, going off the Hudl, Padilla’s placement and accuracy is terrific. He’s got zip, too. More than zip. Also, he anticipates very well. That’s a credit to the Cherry Creek staff. This is a good-looking passing offense. I’m not in the huddle, so I don’t know how Cherry Creek’s reads are supposed to go, but Padilla doesn’t mess around. The ball gets out fast.

If Padilla redshirts (probably when), he’ll join the fight for starter in 2020. It’s going to be a fight, but Padilla has a slickness to his game that should give him a shot.

Desmond Hutson

I want Desmond Hutson to realize all of his goals and dreams.

Objectivity much? Well yeah, and it’s important to me to keep that in the front lobe.

I read this and I don’t care. It’s a Kansas City Star story by Sam McDowell. If you follow me on Twitter, I think you’ve seen it. If you haven’t, you need to.

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Christopher Hutson Jr., Desmond’s older brother, was murdered in a road rage shooting. He was an organ donor. I want to leave the rest to the click. This story deserves your time.

I have a harder and harder time playing “Mr. Detachment” every year. And I don’t even want to here. I want to get to know the Hutsons and watch their brother/son soar. If it drives you nuts, call congress and have me removed from office.

And I’ll still follow this story.

“If you can stay, stay,” she said. “But if you gotta go, let go.”

When Hutson signed with the Hawkeyes, he honored his brother.

“Today has been a day I have been dreaming about since I was young,” Hutson wrote. “I lost my brother on 5/26/17 and from that day on I made a promise to him that I will make him proud. He was always my No. 1 supporter and this one is for him.”

Hutson, who had 47 catches for 729 yards and eight touchdowns his senior year at Raytown (Mo.) High School, talked with wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland on Iowa’s junior day.

“He told me that I’m a very physical receiver and my ability to go up over a defender and high point the ball is amazing,” Hutson told HawkeyeReport.com. “He said I would fit in because of my physicality and as big receiver, it wouldn’t be hard to get acclimated to the program.”

 

Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: Engineering or nursing major.

Noteworthy offers: South Dakota State

Depth chart in 2019?: Never say never when it comes to Iowa wide receiver. Nick Easley didn’t even get one of these profiles when he walked on before the 2017 season. He caught 103 passes in two seasons. Hutson’s size (6-3, 185) might work for him. It will be tough to crack the lineup at X, but you could see Hutson backing up Brandon Smith.

Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: Clinton Solomon.

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Solomon was a 6-4, 180-pound fresh face from Fort Worth, Texas, when he arrived at Iowa in 2002. He was a 2-star recruit according to Rivals (Hutson is a 3-star). Solomon was just a long, lean WR from Texas, but he ended his Iowa career with 1,864 receiving yards, 118 receptions and 14 TDs. Solomon still is ninth in career receiving yards at Iowa.

Iowa recruiting director Tyler Barnes: “Desmond is a big kid who really can go up and get the football. You saw it as reference on his highlight film and that dunk you’re referencing. He’s another really good kid. He was in Cope’s area (Copeland). So, not only is it his position but it’s also his recruiting area. He’s known about Desmond for a while. He saw him several times before he decided to pull the trigger. He was on campus a couple of times before he committed. Every time he visited, it just affirmed what we thought we had in Desmond. You can’t teach length. You’d love to see what he’s going to do when he flourishes downstairs with coach Doyle and with Cope when it comes to development.”

ESPN rankings: 153rd-ranked WR, 259th-ranked in the region and No. 25 in Missouri.

My take: You don’t often see long, lanky wide receivers being targeted in bubble screen plays, but Hutson ran that with maximum effort for Raytown. Uses the sideline, uses his body and has an idea on creating separation coming out of his cuts. Beautiful hands and wonderfully fluid catching on the run. Also, Hutson is pretty hard to bring down once he hits top speed. Hustling defensive backs got a nice stiff arm for their efforts. He’s not as big as Brandon Smith and he might not get to that because Smith is a natural wonder. But it feels like Hutson is this type of model. And he might be faster.

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

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