Hawkeye recruiting mailbag: What's the latest with Iowa's targets on defense?

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

Anybody up for a tropical vacation to Antarctica? You know, the literal ice cap that is warmer than Iowa today?

Goodness gracious ...

I hope you all are staying warm in this polar vortex — a phenomenon that, until living here, I had no idea existed. Anyway, you know what they say: There's no better way to stay warm than by reading the newest edition of the Hawkeye recruiting mailbag. 

That's definitely a saying.

Any new names on the radar with all the losses on the D-line & if so do any of them seem promising? — @crandall_tyson

There are plenty of little nuggets on Iowa's defensive recruiting as we approach the Feb. 6 signing day — on the defensive line and otherwise.

Iowa Western defensive tackle Atlias Bell told me Iowa was originally scheduled to visit him Monday, but didn't show up. He's not sure exactly where he stands with the Hawkeyes. He took an official visit to New Mexico last weekend, and he'll visit Houston officially this weekend.

Alabama three-star defensive end Michael Lockhart confirmed to me he's done taking official visits after trips to North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Mississippi State this month. He's also set to announce his final three schools this Friday. Sounds like Iowa's on the outside looking in.

Iowa Hawkeyes defensive coordinator Phil Parker watches his players prepare Friday for the Outback Bowl matchup with Mississippi State.

Dallas three-star safety Nicholas Nakwaasah told me he talked with Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker on Tuesday and could potentially visit Iowa this weekend. He said the Hawkeyes see him as a safety or outside linebacker. He holds offers from Central Arkansas, Navy, Air Force and Missouri State, among others.

Chicago three-star defensive back Jermari Harris told me his visit with linebackers coach Seth Wallace on Tuesday went well, and that he was set to talk on the phone with Wallace again this week. He's hoping to discuss a potential visit. Harris officially visited Ball State last weekend. Iowa has been in contact with him since before the early signing period. Update: At 11:41 a.m. Wednesday, Harris announced he'd received an offer from Iowa. At this point, it'd be a surprise if he didn't wind up a Hawkeye.

Iowa Western defensive tackle Elijah James told me he hasn't heard from Iowa since the Hawkeyes came to see him on campus a couple weeks ago.

Rice graduate transfer defensive tackle Zach Abercrumbia is expected to visit Iowa officially this weekend, although he has no shortage of schools vying for his talents.

Alabama three-star defensive end Marcus Harris had Iowa coaches in to visit him on Thursday, according to Rivals.

Is Iowa basketball off to a good enough start (0 commits) in the 2020 class to end up with a minimum 4 talented players to fill open scholarships? — @iowafanwilliams

Iowa is currently slated to have six open scholarships for the 2020 recruiting class.

That number is a bit misleading, though.

On one hand, Tyler Cook will likely declare for the NBA Draft, which could leave a seventh open scholarship for 2020.

On the other hand, C.J. Fredrick and Jack Nunge redshirting this season eases the pressure to land such a large 2020 class. If Cordell Pemsl gets a medical redshirt, that helps even more. 

I'm also not entirely convinced that, if Cook leaves for the NBA, the Hawkeyes wouldn't entertain the option of taking another 2019 recruit.

So, we're probably looking at a 2020 class with anywhere from three to six people, including high school prospects and/or transfers. In my December conversation with Iowa assistant coach Andrew Francis, he said the staff doesn't have a target size in mind for the 2020 class.

"We’re entering 2020 like we entered 2019," he said. "It’s a big class in the sense that we want to make sure we get some guys that can be impactful guys — guys that obviously can continue to push our program forward in the right direction.

"We’ll be losing some key guys, obviously, and you want to make sure you have guys coming in that won’t have to take the whole weight, but have the talent and have the ability to forge forward."

To finally answer the question, is Iowa off to a good enough start in 2020 recruiting?

Yes, it's doing fine.

Oskaloosa's Xavier Foster (34) runs up court during a boys' basketball game in the Wells Fargo Advisors Shootout on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Don't be alarmed that it doesn't have a recruit committed yet. Most programs don't have anybody locked in for 2020. Only 10 of 247Sports' top 150 prospects in the class are verbally committed.

Things won't really pick up until AAU ball this spring and summer, when most top juniors get closer to making their college decision.

Of course, that's not the case with every kid.

And would a school such as Iowa, which is looking at a larger recruiting class than usual, prefer to have an early start? Sure. It almost gone one, in fact. Back in November, the Hawkeyes were a finalist for Detroit point guard Lorne Bowman, who picked Wisconsin over Iowa, Nebraska and Valparaiso.

Long story short: If it's late in the summer and Iowa still has zero commitments for 2020, that would be an issue. But it's January.

There's still lots of time and lots of work to be done on the recruiting trail.

Will Iowa's hot start to 2020 football class, specifically (Deuce) Hogan and (Gavin) Williams, entice other prospects to commit? — @BenFlaherty21

There are so, so many factors that go into a kid's college decision.

To me, the relationship with the coaching staff is usually the most important factor.

Then, there's whether you'd have an opportunity to play in big games and for championships. There's whether the program has a track record of success at your position and sending guys to the NFL. There's whether you fit the team's style of play. There's regional loyalties and fandom. There's academics and campus lifestyle.

And, somewhere in the middle of all that, there's the other players who have committed to the school.

Although it isn't the biggest factor, of course prospects are looking at who has committed where. That's why colleges love to get big, early starts on their recruiting classes. They hope to begin a domino effect, of sorts.

On paper, Iowa has started off quite well in 2020. It has four recruits so far, including Texas quarterback Deuce Hogan (a 247Sports Composite four-star prospect) and in-state running back Gavin Williams (a 247Sports four-star prospect). 

Nov 2, 2018; Johnston, IA, USA; Southeast Polk Rams Gavin Williams (21) runs the football against the Johnston Dragons at Johnston Stadium. The Rams beat the Dragons 21-7.

It would be short-sighted to say the Hawkeyes are bound to have a star-studded class just because of two early, highly regarded recruits. 

But it would also be silly to say Hogan and Williams will have zero impact on who else Iowa lands in 2020. If you want to win, you want talented teammates. Simple.

What is Iowa State’s interest level in West Sioux’s QB Hunter Dekkers? — @Col3_1214

You'll soon see why I'm including this question in the Iowa mailbag ... 

West Sioux 2020 quarterback Hunter Dekkers has not heard from the Cyclones lately, he told me. That doesn't necessarily mean Iowa State isn't paying attention to him. It knows who Dekkers is, as it hosted him as an unofficial visitor in October.

Dekkers did, however, say he talked with Iowa special teams coordinator LeVar Woods on Tuesday. 

The 6-3, 225-pound athlete holds FCS offers from Northern Iowa and South Dakota, both of which he picked up in January. He was invited to the Elite 11 Midwest regional on Jan. 8.

West Sioux, Hawarden's Hunter Dekkers (8) celebrates a touchdown to put West Sioux back up 30-28 during their 1A state football semi-final game on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Cedar Falls. West Sioux would go on to defeat Van Meter 38-34 to advance to the final round.

The lefty put up tremendous numbers while leading West Sioux to the Class 1A state title this year, amassing 3,641 passing yards and 48 passing touchdowns, along with 574 rushing yards and seven rushing scores. He also finished the season with 21.5 tackles at linebacker.

Both Iowa and Iowa State already have 2020 quarterbacks committed. There's no rule against schools signing two quarterbacks in a class, but it's not as common. 

With his size and athleticism, Dekkers could also play linebacker at the next level.

We'll see how he develops. It should be noted that both UNI and South Dakota offered him as a quarterback, and he said he and Woods discussed him as a quarterback.

No matter what, Dekkers will be a fun prospect to watch his senior year.

Curious (if any in-state prospect is poised for a big AAU season) in the 2021 class, and if any if these preps from those classes will make their way into the national rankings? — @ArbyNiar

Although it's still early, this state's 2021 basketball class is shaping up to be strong. It's not quite the talent pool we saw in 2019, but perhaps deeper than 2020.

I've seen a few of these prospects play in person. Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln's Jadin Johnson is a patient, 6-foot-4 point guard whose stock will increase as his offense develops. Waukee's Payton Sandfort can shoot well from deep. Bishop Garrigan's Angelo Winkel is a bouncy, 6-9 sophomore whose level of high school competition hasn't been great. Dubuque Hempstead's Michael Duax could be a Nicholas Baer-type player. Des Moines North's Malik Allen is an absolute bulldog of a point guard, but he's only 5-9 right now. Des Moines Hoover's Manny Austin is a talented point guard, too.

Jadin Johnson watches a shot attempt during an AAU event this summer in Milwaukee.

If were talking about rankings, though, Cedar Falls forward Chase Courbat is the most likely to crack the first batches of those.

He's a 6-9 forward who can rebound, run and stretch the floor with a solid 3-point stroke. He was a top performer at the Pangos All-Midwest Frosh/Soph Camp in October, and he's on the radar of mid- and high-majors throughout the region.

In terms of who might be poised for a breakout AAU season, I'll go with Cedar Rapids Xavier forward Jaylon Moses.

The son of former Hawkeye guard James Moses, Jaylon tore the ACL in his right knee twice and missed his entire freshman season. He's back this year, and he's averaging 6.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.

Moses stands 6-8 and plays like a stretch four/small forward — 28 of his 58 shot attempts have been 3-pointers, and he's made nearly 40 percent of those. With his frame, athleticism, basketball pedigree and ability to stretch the floor, it's not far-fetched to say he could have the highest ceiling in the 2021 class.

He'll play his AAU ball with the Martin Bros. 16-and-under team, alongside Courbat, Duax and Johnson. That'll be a fun group to watch. 

Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.