Can Iowa convince prep star to de-commit from Ohio State?

Pat Harty
Iowa City Press-Citizen
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz

There are times in recruiting when you have to swallow your pride and take a chance on something that might seem beyond reach.

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz will do that this weekend by hosting heralded linebacker recruit Justin Hilliard on an official visit.

Ferentz and his staff will roll out the red — or in their case, black and gold — carpet, with hopes that Hilliard might do the improbable by de-committing from his home state Ohio State Buckeyes to join his brother at Iowa.

Hilliard's older brother, C.J. Hilliard, is a freshman running back at Iowa and is being redshirted this season.

Critics of Iowa's decision to host Justin Hilliard would say that he's taking advantage of a situation in which he can visit his brother on Iowa's dime.

That might be the case, but Ferentz still must think there is a chance to convince Justin Hilliard to switch his commitment or he wouldn't have approved the visit. Even if Ferentz thinks it's a 1-in-a-million chance, it's worth spending the time, resources and energy trying to land a a recruit of Justin Hilliard's stature. He is ranked as the No. 1 linebacker in the country by both and

And it isn't as if Justin Hilliard will travel here on Iowa's expense and then just hang out with his brother or do whatever he pleases. He will take an official visit, which is carefully planned to showcase the strengths of the Iowa program.

CJ Hilliard (35) lunges for more yardage during the practice session at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City for Kids Day with the Iowa Football team on Saturday August 16, 2014. The day featured stadium tours, autograph signing, and a scrimage practice by the Hawkeyes as they prepare to open the 2014-2015 season against UNI on August 30th.

Hilliard's commitment to Ohio State, which came on July 2, ended a recruitment that involved almost every elite school in the country. Iowa was among his five finalists, along with Notre Dame, Michigan and Alabama.

Ohio State prevailed for lots of reasons, including prestige, exposure and location. Iowa became a contender once Hilliard's older brother committed to the Hawkeyes, but the lure of Ohio State proved too strong, with the Hilliard family being from Cincinnati.

C.J. Hilliard said on the day his brother committed to Ohio State that he let Justin make his own decision about college. It's impossible for C.J. to fully understand how Justin feels because C.J. didn't have an offer from Ohio State.

Defensive end Jashon Cornell, who is from St. Paul, Minn., committed to Ohio State on the same day as Justin Hilliard after also considering Iowa. They both had talked about playing together in college and now are in a position to do so.

However, their commitments won't be official until they both sign a national letter of intent on the first Wednesday in February, which traditionally starts the national signing period for football. That gives the Iowa coaches more than three months to convince Justin Hilliard to flip. But it's unlikely they would continue to pursue him without getting some indication this weekend that it was worth it.

MARKEL SMITH UPDATE: Running back Markel Smith hopes to join the Iowa football team for the spring semester. Smith, who currently attends Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y., told that he will take the ACTon Saturday. It will be the first of three chances that Smith has to earn a passing score on the test.

"I think I'm prepared," Smith told Hawkeye "It's crazy that a couple questions could determine someone's life."

A native of St. Louis, Smith signed a letter of intent with Iowa in February after rushing for over 7,000 yards in high school. However, he failed to earn a passing score on the ACT coming out of high school.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Quarterback recruit Jack Beneventi completed 11-of-14 passes for 129 yards, leading his Fenwick High School team from suburban Chicago to a 49-13 victory over Marmion Academy. For the season, the 6-foot-6, 185-pound Beneventi has completed 68-of-135 passes for 945 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Quarterback recruit Ryan Boyle accounted for three touchdowns in West Des Moines Dowling's 52-3 drubbing of Sioux City East this past Friday. Boyle completed 8-of-17 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 67 yards and one touchdown.

Boyle has completed 57-of-100 passes for Iowa City Regina quarterback Drew Cook completed 11-of-17 passes for 97 yards wh846 yards and seven touchdowns in five games this season. He also has rushed for 414 yards.

Quarterback recruit Drew Cook completed 11-of-16 passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns while barely playing in more than just the first quarter for Iowa City Regina in last Friday's 52-6 victory over Columbus Junction. He also rushed for 20 yards and one touchdown. On the season, Cook has completed 73-of-108 passes for 1,028 yards and 13 touchdowns, while rushing for 218 yards.

Receiver Adrian Falconer, who is from Leesburg, Fla., had six receptions for 61 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown, in a 38-31 loss tom Orlando Edgewater. He also gained 20 yards on his only rushing attempt. Falconer has 41 catches on the season for 726 yards and six touchdowns.

Linebacker recruit Jack Hockaday continued to shine as a dual-threat quarterback, rushing for 191 yards and two touchdown to lead his Maroa-Forsyth team from Illinois to a 30-14 victory over Monticello. He also passed for 78 yards, completing 7-of-13 attempts. Hockaday has 1,728 yards in six games.

Lineman Jake Newborg had 12 tackles and two sacks, and helped pave the way for 365 rushing yards in West Lyon's 35-7 victory over Hinton.

Receiver Emmanual Ogwo, who is from Mesquite, Texas, made his only catch count in his last game, scoring on a 25-yard touchdown pass according to Hawkeye Ogwo has 17 catches for 286 yards and four touchdowns in five games this season.

Twins Landan and Levi Paulsen anchored an offensive line for Woodbury Central that helped gain 392 rushing yards in a 35-0 victory over Lawton-Bronson.

Tight end Nate Vejvoda caught three passes for 46 yards, but his Providence Catholic team from New Lenox, Ill., suffered its first loss of the season, losing 10-7 against Loyola Academy. Vejvoda has 23 receptions for 324 yards and three touchdowns in six games this season.

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7370 or