At last. We've finally been able to move away from the lower crust of the Big Ten (in regards to recruiting), where the only topic for discussion is 'which of these two stars can out-play their rankings?' Iowa is a school that recruits and plays competitively, and the 2012 class is no different.
Of course, there's always one thing standing in their way. Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God has no shame. A year after snatching up a promising freshman and the team's leading rusher, AIRBHG proactively went after freshman RB Greg Garmon, who hadn't even enrolled in school yet. According to the article, Garmon's scholarship status is up in the air. This was a blow to Hawkeye fans, as Garmon was a highly touted national recruit who selected Iowa over offers from the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, Florida State, Miami (YTM), and others. Ferentz and staff attempted to cover their rears by adding two other RBs, IA ATH (almost certainly a RB now, although he was also recruited to play LB/DE) Nate Meier and IA RB Barkley Hill. There is a huge disparity in talent between Garmon and these two. Meier is essentially a power back, who spent his high school career using his 235 pound frame to trample over vastly under-sized and underwhelming competition. Former Iowa State commit Barkley Hill is much of the same with a little more speed, albeit a touch lighter.
Many of Iowa's recent quarterbacks have looked a lot like Wisconsin's crop (minus Russell Wilson); small armed, but intelligent game managers. If TN QB C.J. Beathard is the future, then they're probably destined for more of the same. JUCO QB Cody Sokol has a bit of a stronger arm, but will only have three years to develop (2 years of eligibility). The coaches have told him that he'll likely redshirt this year, then vie for the starting spot next year.
At the wide receiver position, Ferentz needed to replace the game-breaker they had in Marvin McNutt, the record-breaking wide-out that was drafted by the Eagles in the sixth round of April's Draft. Although there are questions about his speed, I think OH WR Cameron Wilson could go a long way to fixing that hole. I doubt his 40 time would blow anyone away, but he's a smooth, shifty receiver that could end up developing into one of Sokol/Beathard's top targets down the road. CT WR Tevaun Smith is another above-average athlete that seems poised to out-play his star rating. And I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but I have no idea how FL WR Greg Mabin didn't get more looks from area programs. I don't know if there's some underlying, lingering issue about Mabin that I just haven't read or something, but the guy looks like at least a four star. Although he comes from a lowly scouted school, he's still in the backyards of some of the biggest programs in the Southeast. There isn't much film out there about their last WR, George Krieger-Kittle, but from a short clip at Oklahoma's camp, his hands look questionable.
The offensive line haul was small, but featured another stud in IL OL Ryan Ward. An Army All American, Ward was a top-200 player from the Prairie state, who picked Iowa over a host of other Big Ten schools (not including Michigan). In a customarily bizarre clip, the guys who do the rankings say that Ward's ranking may not be correct. Alrighty then. Ferentz bolstered depth with the additions of IA JUCO interior OL Eric Simmons and IL OT Mitch Keppy. I can't find much film on either, but Keppy is an apparently really talented wrestler, an amiable trait for linemen. Simmons is no David Molk (boom Michigan arrogance), but he could be a serviceable center for a couple of years. All in all, this is another underrated group.
Two of the more highly touted blue-chippers in Iowa's class came on the defensive line, in IL DL Faith Ekakitie and IL DT Jaleel Johnson (both of whom held Michigan offers). Ekakitie is very raw, but has phenomenal athleticism and change of direction skills for a guy his size. I'm sure we'll hear plenty of Adrian Clayborn comparisons during his time as a Hawkeye. Johnson will also need some major technique work, but looks like a future wrecking ball in the interior of that defensive line. IL DT Reid Sealby was a last minute offer recipient and addition to the class on the week of signing day. Sealby's a technician, but has a pretty low ceiling. Ultimately looks like nothing more than a depth guy. NE DE Drew Ott is another low-ceiling guy, it appears. I can't find much film on him, so I'll turn to Iowa blog Fight for Iowa for analysis.
Unless he bulks up in his senior year, he'll probably red-shirt and spend some time with Coach Doyle before seeing the field. It's a little hard to judge his talents from his 8-man tape, but he certainly looks like the most athletic kid in the videos. Overall, defensive linemen are certainly in need for the future, so Ott looks like a good pick up.
FL DE, and clear front runner for best name, Daumantas Venckus is a lanky, athletic pass rusher from the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale. I'm not certain he's going to be quite as exceptional once he fills out his 220 pound frame.
The Hawkeyes brought in just one linebacker for their class, but it's one that a lot of Michigan fans probably know well; Cass Tech LB Laron Taylor. Although he never received a Michigan offer, it looked (for a time) that he would. In my opinion, the previous staff had shown significant interest in Taylor, and would probably have offered him at one point or another. In any case, the primary knock against Taylor is size. At only 6'0, 210, he'll have to gain significant weight to make an impact at the next level. Still, I think he could be a productive WILL by the time he leaves Iowa.
Like the DL, Ferentz heavily emphasized the addition of defensive backs to the 2012 class, in an even 3-3 split between safeties and cornerbacks. Cass Tech S Ruben Lile is another kid that flirted with a Michigan offer, and might have landed one had Michigan struck out on the likes of Jarrod Wilson. Lile also impressed on the camp circuit with his ability at WR, as well. I don't think much of TX S Anthony Morgan, but he's a decently sized kid with good physicality. TX S Anthony Gair is a bit stiff in the hips, and not much of an athlete either, but I do like the way he attacks the ball.
Iowa topped off their class with an duo of largely MAC-level players, and a Glenville product. IL CB Maurice Fleming is a smart kid who played QB in high school, but doesn't seem to have the suddenness to break a play on defense. MI (Plymouth Canton) CB Kevin Buford is an under-sized speedster that lacks in the same department as Fleming, although he could add to the special teams. OH (Glenville) CB Sean Draper went largely unnoticed in the shadow of players like OSU signee Devan Bogard, but is a physical corner and a bit of a late riser. Draper picked Iowa over offers from Indiana, Illinois, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Hawaii, among others.
On special teams, Iowa brought in a 6'7 (!) Kicker from West Virginia, Connor Kornbrath. Kornbrath is ranked as the #13 and #12 kicker to Scout and Rivals, respectively.
COMMITMENTS WITH A MICHIGAN OFFER--> 3
SCOUT.COM BIG TEN CLASS RANKING--> 6th
RIVALS.COM BIG TEN CLASS RANKING--> 4th
NUMBER OF COMMITMENTS ACHIEVING FOURTH STAR ON AT LEAST ONE SITE--> 5
NUMBER OF COMMITMENTS ACHIEVING FIFTH STAR ON AT LEAST ONE SITE--> 0
MOST UNDERRATED RECRUIT--> If my drool wasn't a tip-off, then I guess I'll just have to come out and say FL WR Greg Mabin. That's a head-scratcher.
BEST OFFENSIVE RECRUIT--> PA RB Greg Garmon. Pretty self-explanatory, although it may not even end up working out.
BEST DEFENSIVE RECRUIT--> IL DL Faith Ekakitie. Raw, but so much potential.
BEST NAME--> Daumantas Venckus
THE FINAL VERDICT--UNDER OR OVERRATED CLASS? 6th might be a bit low, but 4th seems about right. If Greg Garmon ends up enrolling and making an impact, then all of the highly touted guys in the class seem to be up to their billing, and both the WR and DL groups are among the best in the Big Ten.