Iowa Football

The Iowa City ... or Hawkeye Block Party was a rocker

Hawkeye football pulls in six commitments, including a 2021 offensive tackle from Cedar Rapids

IOWA CITY — In real life, the Iowa City Block Party landed on a perfect June weekend.

The weather, the people, the vibe made downtown Iowa City pleasant and wonderful. Even with 100,000 or so people milling, the Block Party worked.

On a lot of levels.

Maybe it was lucky timing, but probably it was a stroke of genius. Iowa football and the recruiting staff played host to a giant group of prospects this weekend. The 22 players were one of the biggest groups in memory, according to HawekeyeReport.com.

Iowa has played host to these in the past. None have struck the vein of gold the Iowa staff struck this weekend.

On Friday, Cedar Rapids Kennedy offensive lineman Connor Colby threw out the first commitment. The 6-6, 275-pounder is a commitment for 2021, giving Iowa two now for the next class (Lena-Winslow, Ill., O-lineman Gennings Dunker is the other commit).

With an impressive offer list that likely will grow, you thought maybe Colby’s recruiting would last a little longer. Ohio State and Michigan were among Colby’s offers.

“Nothing compared to Iowa,” the Cedar Rapids Kennedy junior-to-be offensive lineman told The Gazette Friday night, after announcing his commitment to eventually play for the Hawkeyes. “Just the coaches, they are so good, you know what I mean? They are real personable, down to earth. The facilities are great. And I’ve been a Hawkeye fan my whole life. I just couldn’t wait any longer. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, weighing my choices and stuff. This is the best choice for me.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

OK, so maybe that recruiting didn’t last as long as we all thought it might for the Rivals-rated 4-star prospect.

The Hawkeyes picked up five other commitments — defensive end Luke Van Ness, defensive backs A.J. Lawson, Brendan Deasfernandes and Reginald Bracy and linebacker Jay Higgins.

On Saturday, it was Lawson’s turn. The rangy 6-2, 180-pounder from Decatur, Ill., had offers from Minnesota, Wyoming and Northern Illinois.

“That was a big offer for me,” Lawson told HawkeyeReport. “They are a big-time program and it was a big moment for me.” Lawson plays a lot of corner at MacArthur High School in Decatur. At Iowa, his 6-2 frame likely will have him at safety.

On Sunday, Deasfernandes, Higgins and Van Ness committed.

If you go by all the big, cool things that get kids stars, Deasfernandes is the outsider. This is Iowa going off the grid because it likes what it sees. Quintessential Phil Parker move. The Iowa defensive backs coach/defensive coordinator picks his guys, sees what he needs to see and moves. He knew Micah Hyde and Desmond King were NFL players before they did.

Deasfernandes is listed at 6-0, 161, so size probably scared off quite a few schools. The ones who did offer were Davenport University (Michigan NAIA), Northwood (Michigan D2) and Southeast Missouri State (FCS).

About a minute and a half into Deasfernandes’ Hudl highlights, a graphic pops up that says, “Lockdown cornerback.” And that’s what Deasfernandes did in the next few highlights. He mirrors receivers very well for someone just more than 6-feet. Deasfernandes brings the long limbs that have become a trademark of Iowa’s corners. His tape was all secondary, no wide receiver, no fun returns.

The evaluation doesn’t stop at offer lists.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Van Ness really wants to be a Hawkeye. He is from Barrington, Ill., but his family has roots in Iowa (his father grew up south of Des Moines) and his older sister is already at student at Iowa.

And then this part: “I felt comfortable because from the minute I stepped on campus it felt like home to me. Iowa represents exactly what I aspire for in my life through hard work and good relationships,” Van Ness told HawkeyeReport.

The 6-5, 240-pounder had 31 offers, including Kansas State, Minnesota and Harvard.

Higgins, a 6-0, 209-pounder from Indianapolis, Ind., was an interesting commitment. Iowa will go into fall camp with 12 linebackers. During the 2019 season, Parker made a decisive move to a 4-2-5 defense to get more speed on the field and better defend the spread. Head coach Kirk Ferentz said this spring that is now part of the program’s philosophy. It does edit out a linebacker spot in favor of a safety (last year with Amani Hooker) or a corner, which is the skill set Parker wants for the cash position.

Then this spring, linebackers were given shots to show what they could bring as edge defenders and you might see some of that in passing situations this fall, a standup, undersized pass-rush specialist.

Basically, Iowa could be really picky at linebacker this recruiting cycle. Coaches told Higgins he was No. 1 on their board.

“When the coaching staff told me I was the only linebacker invited to the visit I felt no pressure to make a decision, but with the combination of so many things that I liked about the University of Iowa, I was ready,” Higgins told HawkeyeReport.com.

Higgins probably projects as a future middle linebacker.

Bracy, a 6-0, 190-pound safety from Mobile, Ala., committed to the Hawkeyes on Monday. It’s another get out of the southeast for running backs coach Derrick Foster, who joined the Iowa staff a year ago coming in from Samford (Ala.) as well as other stops in the southeast.

Bracy had nine offers, including Indiana, UAB and Troy. Bracy likes contact and can track the ball as a defender. He and Lawson might make a future safety pairing in Iowa City.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

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

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.