IOWA CITY — Of course, the recruiting guy gets nervous when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh shows up at the running back’s house a week or so before signing day.
Absolutely, the Hawkeyes sweated when Ohio State realized that, hey, Iowa is getting a linebacker from Ohio who looks pretty good. Oh yeah, and Georgia offered the quarterback who committed to Iowa in June.
Tyler Barnes, Iowa’s director of recruiting, was still smiling late Wednesday afternoon.
Georgia running back Tyler Goodson said no thanks to Harbaugh. Ohio linebacker Jestin Jacobs told Ohio State that he had a plan and that plan has him going to Iowa. Colorado quarterback Alex Padilla gave the Bulldogs a quick thank you and stayed with the Hawkeyes.
Of course, it doesn’t always work that way for Iowa.
“You always worry about some of the bigger schools that come in, whether it’s Michigan, Ohio State or Georgia,” Barnes said. “I wouldn’t say any of them were pains in the butt, though. In all three instances, those were three kids who were completely upfront and honest and open about everything and told us what was happening the whole way through.
“When you have that type of communication, it makes things a lot easier. As a recruiting guy when these schools come in, of course, you’re going to lose some sleep, but when you’ve done all the homework on the front end and you’ve identified the right kids and have a really good relationship with the kids, it gives you a really good chance no matter who comes in.”
Iowa went into Tuesday evening with 16 commits. By the time head coach Kirk Ferentz took to the lectern for Wednesday’s news conference, the number reached 20, including Florida linebacker Yahweh Jeudy, a 6-2, 210-pounder with size 15 1/2 shoes and XXXXL gloves, joining wide receiver Brandon Smith in the XXXXL glove department.
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Rivals ranks Iowa’s class No. 38 nationally and ninth in the Big Ten. All 20 of Iowa’s signees received a 3-star rating from Rivals. (Rivals had Iowa seventh and eighth in the Big Ten in 2018 and 2017, respectively.)
Iowa recruited need. It will have just 11 offensive linemen on scholarship after this semester, so it signed four, including Ridge View’s Ezra Miller and Indianapolis native Justin Britt, both of whom will enroll for spring semester.
“You have to be able to be fluid,” Barnes said. “Coach Ferentz does a really good job all year long no matter what just making sure we have depth on our recruiting board. We took seven total linemen between D-line and O-line. It was a heavy class, with seven of the 20. It’s like balancing a checkbook and keeping a budget. You can’t let things get out of whack. If things get out of whack, they can spiral.”
Iowa needed running backs. Mekhi Sargent, Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin made it through the season, but, because of Kelly-Martin’s injuries (beginning in week 1), Iowa really only had two healthy running backs for a lot of the season.
So, Iowa had Goodson and on Wednesday also signed Alabama running back Shadrick Byrd, a 5-10, 210-pounder who rushed for 1,340 yards to go along with 500 receiving yards and 17 TDs at Thompson High School.
Ferentz said “yes” when asked if Goodson and Byrd could impact the position next season.
“I guess I’m just kind of leaning that direction where we can’t have too many backs, and I think both guys we signed are really capable guys,” Ferentz 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 you know, it’s a tough position.”
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Jacobs is from Englewood, Ohio., so, of course, that was the sweaty time for the Iowa recruiting staff. Jacobs committed to the Hawkeyes in May. The Buckeyes offered Dec. 7, less than two weeks before signing day.
Jacobs had 25 offers, including Ohio State, Michigan State, Kentucky and Northwestern.
“He was firmly committed to us, and that certainly makes us feel good, and that’s not easy when you’re 17, 18 years old to make a firm commitment and then stick with it when there’s maybe some outside pressure to do something differently,” Ferentz said. “So, that gives us a little bit of insight into his makeup, and for a linebacker that’s what you’re looking for, a guy who’s strong minded.”
What kind of players will Iowa look for before the next signing period?
“I’d probably say defense would probably be the first thing that would come to mind,” Ferentz said. “ ... And then the other thing is just to see what the best players available are. Maybe there’s somebody out there who was overlooked.”
This season, Iowa went to a 4-2-5 defense with Amani Hooker filling a hybrid safety/linebacker role (and winning Big Ten defensive back of the year while he was at it). Ferentz said that role also could be next up in February.
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