First thing's first when you're talking about Iowa recruiting- this wonderful article from Patrick Vint at BHGP which statistically showcases just how much Iowa deviates from normal recruiting stars. A few select quotes
A BHGP-centric question remains, though: Why does that not apply to Iowa? Because it really, really does not apply to Iowa. In the last ten NFL Drafts, Iowa has had 38 players drafted. The average Rivals.com star rating of those 38 players is just 2.76. Fifteen of Iowa's 38 draftees were two-star recruits, and the chance of a two-star prospect getting drafted out of Iowa is barely lower than that of a four-star prospect (and actually better than a three-star):
And so while many of Iowa's draftees have come at traditional "Iowa" positions like offensive line, tight end, and defensive tackle (see Factor 4), Iowa's two-star success has largely been built on cultivating speed from other areas, especially from players who are at other positions. Which brings us to the second point...
The list of Iowa draftees who changed positions highlights a second Ferentz recruiting secret: Iowa loves high school quarterbacks, even though many of them never take a snap for the Hawkeyes. Chad Greenway, Micah Hyde, and Marvin McNutt were all high school quarterbacks who came to Iowa and ended up at new positions. The same can be said for former New England Patriot Jeff Tarpinian, who was an option quarterback in high school, and former Montreal Alouette Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. Playing quarterback at the high school level requires a football IQ that few other position need, an IQ that can be easily translated to other positions.
I obviously teased the hell out of that article, but there's still so many other interesting themes and factoids Vint highlights regarding Iowa's recruiting success. The main point is that the Iowa staff has developed several frameworks for finding under-recruited talented and turning them into teams that almost beat LSU and routinely turn in 8 (averaged) win seasons, while also sending their fair share of players to the NFL.
And so it's with this lens that you have to examine any Iowa recruiting class; knowing that plenty of players will switch positions, and there's a good chance that your 2 stars will outperform your 3 stars. However, before we gaze down, there are a few names at the top of the list that deserve our attention.
First, and I'm sure plenty of you know about him now, is MI QB Tyler Wiegers. The high school quarterback for 2014 signee Moe Ways had his fair share of interest from midwest schools, receiving interest from both of the BCS schools in state before deciding on Rutgers. In November, Wiegers became the fifth player to decommit from the Scarlet Knights following a 52-17 beatdown at the hands of Cincinnati and allegations of bullying levied at defensive coordinator Dave Cohen. After taking an official visit to Iowa, Wiegers committed just before Christmas. As BGHP points out, he is every Iowa quarterback ever.
The highlight tape speaks for itself. He's a big, rangy pocket passer with the ability to throw the deep ball and enough elusiveness to scramble when everything breaks down. He is, essentially, every quarterback Iowa has recruited in the last decade that remained a quarterback. He can throw out of play action, roll out, or stand tall in the pocket and hit a receiver down the sideline. All that tape needs is more cowbell.
The Hawkeyes grabbed a highly touted in-state WR for Wiegers to play with in IA ATH Jay Scheel. The high school quarterback's film is mostly him running from the shotgun, so obviously there will be a bit of a learning curve there. However, Scheel flashes pretty good athleticism and size, and Vint mentioned, Iowa has a pretty good pedigree when it comes to former HS QBs.
The other good news for Iowa is the recent dormancy of the AIRBHG. Ever since Greg Garmon decided to leave Iowa, their RBs have maintained a fairly stable existence without the looming threat of a sidewalk crack tearing an ACL or an alien form of Cholera showing up in the running back meeting room. This has been a relief to many, especially incoming 4* RB Markel Smith. Smith, who made his choice over the likes of Ole Miss and Mizzou, is another in the line of big backs with pretty good speed. Since Iowa returns its top three rushers, he will probably redshirt this year.
A couple of three star guys for Michigan fans to take note of are OH RB C.J. Hilliard and MI ATH Jalen Embry. Hilliard is, of course, the older brother of 2015 5* LB Justin Hilliard, and figures to play a key factor in his little brother's recruitment. Embry is yet another Detroit kid that Iowa has managed to pluck. He becomes the fourth Detroit kid on the roster, joining the likes of 3rd team All-B1G DL Carl Davis and Freshman All-B1G CB Desmond King. While not every Detroiter Iowa has nabbed has produced big dividends, they certainly seem to be having a higher success rate than Michigan.
Of course, since this is Iowa, I'm going to have to dig into the 2 stars if I really want to find the studs in this class. One of my favorites on film is TX CB Josh Jackson- no, not the all-world 2016 SG from Detroit. Though he's not an elite athlete and he only chose Iowa over the likes of Nevada and Colorado State, I think he has the requisite tools (good instincts, ball skills, closing speed) to be a pretty good CB at this level. Another pretty good 2 star is IA LB Parker Hesse. He's instinctive and can burst through the line, though I'm a little concerned about his frame. If he's at 205 right now, I don't know how much more he can add.
All in all, it was a good rebound recruiting class following the 2013 group which didn't feature a single Rivals 4 star prospect. Aside from the disastrous 4-8 campaign in 2012, Iowa has been almost as consistent in recent years as Nebraska (although not quite as successful). With Ferentz still getting paid an insane amount of money, that probably won't change for a while, at least unless he tanks the program (which seems unlikely). Looking into the future a bit, we see 2015 has the potential to be a pretty remarkable year for the Hawkeye's recruiting efforts- although Ohio State seems to be the current favorite, the brother factor could end up landing Ferentz with one of his highest rated signees to date in LB Justin Hilliard. They're also strongly in contention for 4* TX RB Chris Warren, 4* IL ATH/QB David Edwards and others. With the Hawkeyes returning plenty of pieces from a successful 2013 campaign, this class could end up pretty special come signing day.