Harty: Recruiting isn't an exact science

Pat Harty
Iowa City Press-Citizen

The list of scholarship offers for the Iowa football team's latest recruit won't blow you away.

Missouri native Michael Slater committed to Iowa late Wednesday night after being offered a scholarship in June. He also reportedly had scholarship offers from Buffalo, Ball State, Illinois State, Arkansas State and Austin Peay.

So it's easy to see why Slater, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end, picked the Hawkeyes.

Pat Harty

It also would be easy as an Iowa fan to criticize or question this commitment if you base everything on how many stars a recruit has next to his name.

The rankings are accurate to a certain extent, considering perennial powers such as Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State often have the best recruiting classes and the best teams.

But recruiting still is an inexact science in which developmental programs like Iowa have to take chances on certain prospects. These chances don't always materialize, but there have been enough lightly recruited players who have defied the odds under Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz to at least have a wait-and-see attitude.

Slater is an intriguing prospect in that he plays fullback and linebacker for his high school team in Chesterfield, Mo., but projects as a defensive end at Iowa. The fact that only ranks him as a 2-star recruit does make you wonder. But that's when you have to trust Ferentz and his staff because you never know when the next Howard Hodges or Jonathan Babineaux will surface.

Neither Hodges nor Babineaux had many scholarship offers coming out of high school in Texas. But that didn't stop them from becoming all-Big Ten defensive linemen at Iowa.

Babineaux also played fullback in high school before switching to defensive tackle at Iowa. He now plays on the defensive line for the Atlanta Falcons and is in his 10th season in the NFL.

JUSTIN HILLIARD UPDATE: So you're saying there's a chance?

That seems to be the reaction to star linebacker Justin Hilliard taking an official visit to Iowa City this past weekend. The Cincinnati native apparently enjoyed his experience enough to where his commitment to Ohio State might not be a forgone conclusion.

Hilliard spoke to about his visit, saying he still was 100 percent committed to Ohio State, but that his brother's satisfaction with being a Hawkeye had caught his attention. Hilliard's older brother, C.J. Hilliard, is a true freshman running back for Iowa and is being redshirted this season.

Some might interpret Justin Hilliard's response as meaning Iowa still has a chance to pry him away from the Buckeyes with the national signing day in February still more than three months away.

Efforts to reach Justin Hilliard have been unsuccessful since he visited Iowa City. His father also didn't respond to a text message request for an interview.

I'm still picking the home-state Buckeyes to sign Justin Hilliard because that's the easiest and most logical prediction to make under the circumstances. We're talking about Ohio State, a team that rarely loses to Iowa on the playing field and even less in recruiting.

But on the other hand, Hilliard's situation is unique because it's rare for two brothers to have an opportunity to play college football together for free, although, ironically, Hilliard would have company from Ohio if he chooses to be a Hawkeye.

High school senior center James Daniels, who is from Warren, Ohio and the younger brother of Iowa sophomore running back LeShun Daniels, did the improbable by turning down a scholarship from the Buckeyes to commit to Iowa this summer. It's hard to think of any Ohio native since Calvin Jones in the early 1950s who did the same thing.

It's also hard to envision James Daniels picking Iowa over Ohio State without his brother already being a Hawkeye.

WHO'S NEXT? Fran McCaffery's quest to add a fourth player to Iowa's 2015 recruiting class now has him eyeing another center who graduated from Sioux East High School.

McCaffery and Iowa assistant coach Andrew Francis both recently visited 6-10, 245-pound center Ikenna Okwarabizie, who is a freshman at Tyler Community College in Texas.

"(McCaffery) said that they were happy to be recruiting me," Okwarabizie told Hawkeye "We talked a lot. He also said that I fit in what they're trying to build and that they have a spot for me. I don't know if I should interpret that as them offering me."

A native of Nigeria, Okwarabizie moved from St. Louis to Sioux City last summer. He enrolled at Sioux City East, which is the same school that Iowa's 7-1 junior center Adam Woodbury graduated from in 2012.

McCaffery, who is entering his fifth season as the Iowa men's basketball coach, has suffered several recruiting setbacks this summer and fall, the latest being forward O.G. Anunoby picking Indiana over Iowa, Mississippi and Georgia on Tuesday.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Quarterback recruit Jack Beneventi overcame three interceptions to lead his Fenwick High School team from suburban Chicago to a 17-7 victory over St. Ignatius. Beneventi completed 11-of-27 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown. For the season, Beneventi has completed 79-of-162 passes for 1,135 yards and 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Quarterback Drew Cook made another quick exit as Class 1A top-ranked Iowa City Regina crushed West Marshall 50-0 last Friday. Cook, who barely played past the first quarter, completed 3-of-5 passes for 95 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 27 yards and another touchdown. He has completed 76-of-116 passes on the season for 1,123 yards and 14 touchdowns, while also rushing for 245 yards. Cook hasn't played in the second half in each of Regina's last three games.

West Des Moines Dowling Catholic quarterback Ryan Boyle showed off his running skills last Friday by rushing for 189 yards and scoring four touchdowns during a 50-13 victory over Johnston. He also completed 8-of-19 passes for 113 yards. On the season, Boyle has completed 65-of-119 passes for 959 yards and eight touchdowns, while also rushing for 603 yards.

Receiver Adrian Falconer, who is from Leesburg, Fla., had one catch for 63 yards in a 45-17 loss to Ocala Forest. On the season, Falconer has 42 catches for 789 yards and six touchdowns.

Linebacker recruit Jack Hockaday, who plays quarterback in high school, was held to a season-low 10 rushing yards on 18 carries as his Maroa-Forsyth team from central Illinois lost to St. Joseph-Ogden 17-14 last Friday. Hockaday threw for 211 yards, but was intercepted twice. For the season, he has 1,949 yards in seven games.

Receiver Emmanual Ogwo had three catches for 42 yards to help his team from Mesquite, Texas defeat Highland Park 42-27. Ogwo has 20 catches for 328 yards and four touchdowns in six games this season.