Iowa's recent prominence (I guess recent is relative) was not built on the backs of top-10 recruiting classes. With the exception of the likes of Bryan Bulaga, Adrian Clayborn, and Tony Moeaki, the recent surge of Hawkeye (and subsequently NFL, for the most part) talent has been focused around developing lower touted 2 and 3 stars like Ricky Stanzi, Amari Spievey, Marshal Yanda, Pat Angerer, Shonn Greene, Bradley Fletcher...well you get it. It's why one might be less concerned about this class than say, Minnesota's, the only other B1G school not to feature a Rivals 4* athlete. In fact, this class has one 4* athlete total...and no, I don't mean consensus 4* (clearly), I mean one single 4* was awarded to Jon Wisnieski from ESPN, and that's it.
But it's about what one should expect from a school that's rapidly losing momentum on the field and getting passed on the recruiting trail by the likes of Kevin Wilson at Indiana, Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern, and Gary Andersen at Wisconsin. This isn't the same Americana-stuffed Iowa team that's stealing the Darian Coopers of the world from Michigan. And they'll need to climb quite a bit to get back to that point. It's why they lost their two highest rated commits in the 2013 class (Delano Hill to Michigan and David Kenney to..Indiana), a fate which could also befall the hot start Iowa's had in the 2014 class, if the on-field product doesn't improve significantly.
To be fair to the Hawkeye coaching staff, though, this isn't Reggie Spearman playing them for months before ending up elsewhere (here, actually). In both cases, the cards were stacked heavily against them as soon as certain events outside the coaching staff's control transpired. For Delano Hill, it was an offer from Michigan. As anyone around these parts should know, any Cass Tech athlete (especially a DB) that receives a Michigan offer is likely to give Michigan a cloooose look. Yes, Iowa has Laron Taylor and Ruben Lile on their roster. Come this summer, Michigan will have Thomas Gordon, Delonte Hollowell, Jourdan Lewis, Terry Richardson, Royce Jenkins-Stone, and David Dawson, as well as home field advantage. There's just not a whole lot you can do about that.
Kenney's case was similarly one with long odds of maintaining a commitment. In addition to a hot finish to the recruiting cycle, Ferentz and his staff had to deal with Kenney's father being hired by the one and only Kevin Wilson as a recruiting quality control assistant.
"I want to play closer to home so my mom watch me play," Kenney told Mark Ambrogi of The Indianapolis Star after he decommitted from Iowa. "I feel I can stay and help a hometown school."
IU hired Kenney's dad, David Kenney II, earlier this year as a recruiting quality control assistant.
Earlier in the process, Iowa also had to stop recruiting the #3 player in the state, Trevon Young, due to repeated run-ins with the law. Sometimes, recruiting can just be a crapshoot.
Still, according to RossWB of Black Heart Gold Pants, our SBNation Iowa affiliate, many of the needs for this class were met. Specifically, the offense stocked up on speedier receivers that are closer to the Greg Davis mold than the trainwreck we saw last year, while also adding more
sacrificial lambs running backs to the mix, and the defense brought in run stuffers on the defensive line and quality depth to the secondary.
However, it was by no means the ideal class. RossWB was concerned by the lack of quality depth added to the defensive end position, but more troubled by what Ferentz had to say about the matter.
When asked about the dearth of defensive end recruits in the 2013 class, Ferentz indicated that there weren't any prospects that they really liked (or, rather, that they really liked and that liked them back; recruiting is a two-way street, of course) and said that they didn't want to take on any project defensive ends in this class. The latter comment is appreciated -- looking at the current defensive ends, it seems clear that we're running a surplus on project defensive ends -- but the former comment is very concerning. Iowa has impressive pedigree at defensive end (see: Aaron Kampman, Matt Roth, Kenny Iwebema, and Adrian Clayborn, to name a few) and an obvious opportunity for playing time (as anyone who watched just ten minutes of 2012 game film could tell you) and they couldn't get any bites from legit defensive ends? Yikes.
Ross was also somewhat puzzled by the light load of offensive linemen in a year which will see four veterans graduate, contemplative about the lack of quality brought in to aid the linebacker position, and vaguely concerned by the fact that 3 of the top 5 players in the state were headed to play for Iowa State (even though only 1 had an Iowa offer).
All in all, the narrative of this class is pretty much the opposite of the Illinois group we just studied; lacking the top crust (Bailey, James), but with a much solider core. For reference, the R squared value (a measure of variance) of the plotted Iowa class is .956, while the same number for Illinois is .8855. The highs may be higher for Illinois, but the lows are lower (and further away from the average) than we see here.
RB LeShun Daniels. This is Iowa, so you know that it's statistically probable at least 3 of the current running backs on the roster will meet their untimely demise at the hands of an unwieldy paper shredder this offseason. With that in mind, fresh blood is needed to satiate the never-quenched appetite of AIRBHG. This year's "Oh-wow-he-looks-promising-check-out-that-run-what-the-hell-I-didn't-know-that-was-biologically-possible" freshman is likely to come in the form of LeShun Daniels, the most physically college ready of the 3 lambs.
S Solomon Warfield. A quality athlete that Michigan flirted with for a while, Warfield could come in and contribute immediately to an underwhelming safety position. Warfield has great closing speed and can crush crossing receivers, and would likely have been a high-level recruit if not for his size (6'ish, 170).
WR Damond Powell. With all the youth Iowa added to the WR position, it's almost inevitable that a few of these guys get playing time in the fall. Powell just happens to be the oldest (coming from Snow College in Utah) and most explosive of the group. The only problem that comes with scouting Powell is that his highlight tape is almost exclusively fly routes, like Moe Ways.
TE Jon Wisnieski. Iowa has a lot of talent at the TE position right now, I know, but they also use their TEs a lot, and he just so happens to be their highest rated commit. While I wouldn't expect him to have a Funchess-type impact on the Iowa offense, he could be used in a similar role this upcoming season; he's that good of an athlete.
DL Brant Gressel. As Ross noted in his breakdown, being a big run-stuffer isn't the most glorified position, but Gressel happens to do it well. Although he has all the trappings of an inconsistent young defensive linemen, he also has the kind of high motor that can land you on the field anyway. The interior of the d-line isn't a huge position of need, but I think he could find himself in a rotational role.
DOWN THE ROAD CONTRIBUTORS
LB John Kenny. Kenny's a quality player at a thin position, so it's almost inevitable that he makes some kind of impact. In his year sitting behind an all-senior corp of linebackers, he'll need to add weight as well as work on his hip stiffness and instincts, but he has as good a chance as anyone at becoming Iowa's next talented OLB.
LB Josey Jewell. The prohibitive factor in Jewell's case appears to be weight. He'll need to add a lot of it to become a viable option for Iowa, and it should definitely cause him to redshirt. Still, I'm more bullish on the local prospect than other sites, and Iowa does have a pedigree for developing linebackers.
CB Malik Rucker. I was tempted to put Rucker as an instant-impact kind of guy, but Iowa has some young talent at the position. Still, Rucker's long term potential is pretty enticing, and he has upside at safety as well if the corner position isn't something that works out for him.
OG Colin Goebel. Another borderline Michigan recruit, Goebel comes in as the second-highest rated Hawkeye in this class. Since, for the most part, schools would generally rather throw out experienced walk-ons than true freshmen on the line, I think Goebel redshirts. His ceiling, however, should be around the top of the B1G as far as linemen go.
WR Derrick Mitchell. Trying to pick WR contributors out of this class is hard, but I'm actually going to say the guy who breaks the mold of the typical Iowa 2013 WR recruit is the one who has the most productive career.. For his size, Mitchell is a good athlete with the smarts to play some at the QB position in high school.
COMPARING THEM TO MICHIGAN
First off, I'll quote myself.
Before I start, I should acknowledge that you can likely compare just about all of the classes to Michigan's very succinctly; 10 are worse, 1 is about even. HOWEVER, that won't stop me from looking a bit closer, just to see how big the disparity is.
This isn't Ohio State, so expecting anything close is a bit ludicrous. I'll wake you up when we're closer to Columbus, don't worry.
The top recruit in this group, Jon Wisnieski (.8722 average rating), would have come in as Michigan's 22nd best player, right in between Dan Samuelson and C'Sonte York. The difference between this class and Illinois' however, is that their second best recruit would also fit in that slot, and the top 8 recruits also grade out higher than Michigan's (second) lowest commit, Reon Dawson.
Still, take Synpiewski out from this group, and Michigan's lowest rated commit (Dawson) is still better than 62% of Iowa's class. Just like Illinois, Michigan's entire class also grades out higher than the average for Iowa's, which is .8309.
Just 9% (2 signees) grade out within the top 500 players nationally and none are considered to be top 200 players. Once again, for Michigan, those numbers are 77% and 46%.
The B1G wealth disparity. It is very much alive.
NOTES AND CHARTS
-->While none of these Hawkeyes held Michigan offers, there still may be some names that you might recognize;
-->Jon Wisnieski, Colin Goebel, Solomon Warfield, Reggie Spearman, and Desmond King were all talked up as potential Michigan targets at some point or another. Wisnieski attends the high school of Amara Darboh, Warfield the high school of Kyle Kalis, Spearman the high school of Chris Bryant, and King is from Detroit.
-->Iowa is already off to a hot start to the 2014 class, with two Rivals 4* players on board. Their committed OG, Ross Pierschbacher, is considerd the #1 OG in the country, according to Scout. He visited Michigan last summer, but an offer never materialized (though it probably would if Michigan was in need of more OL). The Hawkeyes are currently holding off the likes of Notre Dame and Alabama to keep him in their class. The other two commits in the class are both in the top 5 of Iowa players in their class, although the top player in the state, Allen Lazard, is committed to Iowa State (for now).
While this Iowa class lacks the star power to bring them back to the top of the B1G, the group is solid enough to keep the program stable for now. If Iowa does want to come back to former strength, they'll need to convince more Ross Pierschbachers to don the black and gold. To do that, Ferentz will need a big step up this year on the field.