Ferentz banks on home-grown recruits to carry Iowa's 2015 class

Chad Leistikow

IOWA CITY, Ia. – This is a corn-fed Iowa football recruiting Class of 2015.

Forty-three percent of the incoming scholarship players – nine of 21 – hail from inside our state's borders.

That the group doesn't resonate nationally or even regionally doesn't bother coach Kirk Ferentz. In his mind, the Hawkeyes found some in-state gems and locked them up early.

"In a perfect world, we'd love to get all of our players from here," Ferentz said Wednesday in his annual National Signing Day news conference. "Believe me, it would be a lot easier chore for us. It's easier to recruit within state lines.

"But that's just not realistic ... with our state's population."

Six of the nine Iowa-based recruits committed to the Hawkeyes by the end of August: quarterbacks Ryan Boyle and Drew Cook, and offensive linemen Jacob Newborg, Landan Paulsen, Levi Paulsen and Brett Waechter.

With how recruiting hype works — the more widespread interest a player gets, the more his stock goes up — locking up top in-state players was a good gamble for Ferentz, who has found plenty of success in his 16-plus years here with home-grown talent.

Iowa scooped up seven of the state's top nine recruits, based on Rivals.com's final ratings, including the top four: the Paulsen twins, Newborg and Waukee defensive end Anthony Nelson.

One of the built-in advantages to getting Iowa-based recruits is those players are more prone to attend the Hawkeyes' summer camps, where coaches can form strong bonds with prospects.

"We really feel like we know the players that have come to camp a little bit better than some of the others," Ferentz said. "I think you know we've never worried too much about what other folks think about prospects. We try to make our own evaluations, and we obviously had a lot of good feelings about all those guys."

According to Rivals' rankings, Iowa lands 13th out of 14 Big Ten teams at No. 58 nationally. Only Purdue (68th) is lower.

But centered on Iowans, needs were met.

The quarterbacks, Dowling Catholic's Boyle and Iowa City Regina's Cook, come into the program well-timed, with only redshirt freshman Tyler Wiegers on scholarship behind junior C.J. Beathard and senior Jake Rudock.

"One is certainly taller than the other (Cook is 6-5 to Boyle's 6-2), but the bottom line is they're great players with great intangibles, great leadership skills," said Ferentz, who added that Cook would open his Hawkeye career at quarterback amid speculation that he would emulate Pro Bowl father Marv and become a tight end. "And we're really excited about the upside of both guys."

With Iowa's offensive line in transition, having lost three-fifths of its starters from last season including Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff, locking up the Paulsen boys — not to mention the crown jewel of the class, four-star projected center James Daniels of Warren, Ohio — was a priority.

"They have requisite ability and size, certainly," Ferentz said of the Paulsens, "and they've got the attitude and the work ethic. That's really what impressed us the most about them."

With Newborg and Waechter (who, like Daniels, is already enrolled), Ferentz was beaming about his five offensive linemen.

In the last month, Iowa filled out its class with three in-state additions, all defenders — linebacker Nick Wilson of Dowling Catholic; defensive tackle Garret Jansen of Pella; and Nelson, who flipped from an earlier commitment to Iowa State.

"This is a very healthy number (of Iowans)," Ferentz said. "You've got different positions, you've got different sizes and weights, but the common denominator, we just feel really good about the attributes we identified in the players.

"In recruiting, we try to look at the attributes and the characteristics of the guys that have had success here, whether they came from Iowa or other places, and then try to identify those in the prospects that we're evaluating. Certainly with the guys we have coming from Iowa, we feel really good about them."