Iowa football’s director of recruiting, Tyler Barnes, sent a tweet Thursday night that reflected the importance of his upcoming calendar.
“BIGGGGGGGGG Weekend on tap in Iowa City!” he wrote. “No better time to join #Swarm20 than right now!”
And maybe not just a big weekend. Maybe the biggest.
I don’t write too much about recruiting (my Register colleague, Matthew Bain, handles that side of Hawkeye football). But a few times a year, I poke my head inside the recruiting door to see what’s cooking.
So, when my friends at HawkeyeReport.com say this might be the biggest recruiting weekend at Iowa they can remember in their 17 years … it’s a big deal.
“They’re going all-in on this weekend,” said Tom Kakert, the website’s publisher since 2003. “It’s pretty insane.”
The Hawkeyes were bringing in a whopping 22 official visitors this weekend, starting Friday. Ten are verbally committed to the Class of 2020; another 12 are uncommitted top targets.
An official visit includes paid travel expenses, three meals a day and entertainment for the prospect and two parents — plus, of course, red-carpet exposure to all things Hawkeyes.
From Iowa’s perspective, it’s almost like organizing a wedding, with guests coming in from all over the country. The Hawkeyes were welcoming high school seniors-to-be from Alabama, Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.
And if all goes well, new football marriages will be made.
Iowa is already at 14 commitments in its Class of 2020. That’s a big number; but Kakert wouldn’t be shocked if that number is close to 20 before July.
“There’s only so many spots,” Kakert said. “You either you get on the bus, or the bus is going to get filled up and leave without you.
“If you’re kind of sold that (Iowa) is the place you want to go, but you want to take other visits … your spot might be gone.”
Hawkeye coaches and recruiting staff have been effective in locking up #Swarm20 verbal commitments, as they call them. They landed four in a recent seven-day stretch. According to Rivals, the Hawkeyes’ class is ranked second in the Big Ten Conference.
That ranking will likely fall once other classes get fuller, but there’s a lot to like about what’s being put together. The June 2018 commitment of quarterback Deuce Hogan from Grapevine, Texas, kicked things off. Hogan’s offer list includes Georgia, Oklahoma State and Tennessee. He was on his way to Iowa City on Friday as part of this weekend’s massive party.
“They got the quarterback early, and that always seems to get the ball rolling,” Kakert said. “And then you get (running back) Gavin Williams, who is probably the top kid in the state, at least from the skill-position level. And you lock him up. Then they’re doing what Iowa does just about every year, which is building a class around offensive linemen and defensive linemen."
This group reminds me of what happened in Iowa's Class of 2016. In that group, a quarterback (Nate Stanley) and running back (Toren Young) were the first two commitments, and the Hawkeye staff effectively kept assembling hidden talent around them. Among the other names in that class: first-round NFL Draft picks Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson; fourth-rounder Amani Hooker; and current Hawkeye first-teamers Shaun Beyer, Cole Banwart, Chauncey Golston, Alaric Jackson, Cedrick Lattimore, Nick Niemann and Kristian Welch. That class could go down as one of the best of the Kirk Ferentz era.
For 2020, the defensive line is an extremely high priority, with the likelihood that pass-rushing phenom A.J. Epenesa will turn pro after this season. The Hawkeyes also lost a Class of 2019 defensive-line signee in Jalen Hunt, who didn’t qualify academically and is heading to Iowa Western Community College. Furthermore, one of the 2020 defensive-line commits, Michael Lois, is recovering from what could be a career-threatening spinal injury.
Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa also explains his "stacked" Hawkeye Championship team in Iowa's offseason program. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central
Skill-position talent is historically tougher to come by for the Hawkeyes, who are known for their in-the-trenches success. They could use another tight end to go with class jewel Elijah Yelverton of Dallas, Texas. Luke Lachey, a 6-foot-7 Ohio native whose 27 offers include Michigan State, is among the official visitors; another top tight end, Theo Johnson of Canada, made an official visit to Iowa City two weeks ago.
Three-star wide receivers Kaevion Mack (of Peoria, Illinois) and Diante Vines (of Watertown, Connecticut) are part of this weekend’s uncommitted visitors.
So, stay tuned. Pay attention.
Iowa's #Swarm20 could be growing again soon.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 24 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.
Iowa’s recruiting class of 2020
Known verbal commitments entering a flurry of weekend official visitors in Iowa City (sizes according to 247Sports; *—official visitor this weekend, according to HawkeyeReport.com):
QB Deuce Hogan* (6-3½, 197), Grapevine, Texas (Faith Christian)
RB Gavin Williams* (6-0, 195), West Des Moines (Dowling Catholic)
RB Leshon Williams* (5-10, 208), Oak Lawn, Illinois (Richards)
WR Quavon Matthews (5-11, 165), Largo, Florida (Largo)
TE Elijah Yelverton* (6-5, 225), Dallas, Texas (Bishop Dunne)
OL Tyler Elsbury (6-5½, 292), Byron, Illinois (Byron)
OL Mason Richman (6-6, 252), Stilwell, Kansas (Blue Valley)
OL Josh Volk* (6-4, 295), Cedar Rapids (Xavier)
DE Yahya Black* (6-6, 250), Marshall, Minnesota (Marshall)
DE Logan Jones* (6-3, 255), Council Bluffs (Lewis Central)
DE Michael Lois* (6-4, 258), Elkhorn, Wisconsin (Elkhorn Area)
DT Isaiah Bruce* (6-1, 270), Lena, Illinois (Lena-Winslow)
LB Ethan Hurkett* (6-3, 230), Cedar Rapids (Xavier)
CB Keylen Gulley (6-0, 165), Largo, Florida (Largo)