Recruiting Rundown: Iowa casts bigger net with Wallace
Those with a finger on the pulse of college football recruiting picked up on the trend long before Seth Wallace went in-depth on changes to Iowa's approach.
During an April news conference, Iowa's first-year recruiting coordinator continually mentioned how the Hawkeyes were casting a bigger net and tackling recruiting with more aggressiveness.
Iowa has already offered more than 200 players in the Class of 2016, according to Rivals.com. That's an increase of more than 65 percent from a year ago.
"Casting a bigger net has certainly provided us with a larger pool of candidates," Wallace said in April. "There's plenty of good football players out there, and I guess it's more so on the front end that you've got to be a little bit more aggressive with the way that recruiting has changed and decisions are coming a lot sooner than they have in the past."
The Hawkeyes had been known in the past to take their time in a search for players who surfaced as seniors.
"It's interesting what Iowa has done this year," Rivals.com Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt said. "They were the first offer for a lot of players."
Thanks to a flurry of commitments during the past week, the Hawkeyes have already addressed several of their 2016 needs. They've secured pledges from two defensive linemen, a couple offensive linemen, a linebacker, a running back and a quarterback.
Helmholdt said the results of Iowa's recruiting 180 won't be known, though, until February.
"It'll be interesting to see how it plays out," he said. "Some of these guys, (Iowa) might be the only BCS or Power 5 offer. If you have a class full of those, you won't be looking too good on signing day.
"Other guys that you get in early with, if they blow up and you've built some loyalty there, it's a good move. It'll be interesting to see how this new approach pans out, because Iowa never used to be this way. It's not that they were necessarily late on offers, but they were never the first offer for so many guys."
Here are four items on the 2016 recruiting to-do list for the Hawkeyes:
Replenish the secondary
Why there's a need: The Hawkeyes signed just one defensive back — safety Michael Ojemudia — in February and they'll need to be prepared for the graduation losses that will come in the next two seasons when six key players in the secondary depart.
Who could help: Iowa has zeroed in on two of the top players in Minnesota, extending early offers to three-star defensive backs Tyler Johnson and Amani Hooker.
Helmholdt said Johnson — who has also drawn offers from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa State — has the speed and athleticism to play cornerback and the size (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) to play safety.
"Tyler is one of the most dynamic athletes in the western part of my territory," Helmholdt said. "He's a guy I like a lot, and I'm surprised he doesn't have more offers."
The Hawkeyes were the first Power 5 school to offer Hooker, who projects as a safety.
"He'll come up and smack you in the mouth," Helmholdt said. "He's a solidly-built kid, plays a downhill brand of football and he's another kid who plays in Minnesota and if he played in Cincinnati or Chicago probably has a few more offers."
Eric Burrell, a four-star safety from Maryland, plans to visit Iowa this fall. The Hawkeyes have also put themselves in the race for Kansas safety Isaiah Simmons and Georgia safety Jarrett Cole.
"(Cole is) a guy who can play either position in the secondary," Scout.com analyst Allen Trieu said. "More than likely, at this point, I think he's going to be a safety. He might be a little undersized (5-10, 185) as far as safety goes, but he makes up for it in the fact you can tell he has really good football instincts. He's got really good quickness and athleticism — all of those things that will help him make up for not being 6-1, 6-2 like some of these other safeties they're recruiting."
Florida safety Brandon Drayton announced Thursday on Twitter that Iowa has made his top 10.
Texas cornerback Josh Drayden received an offer from Iowa last month before a flurry of scholarships came his way. The three-star prospect from Bishop Dunne High School has since picked up offers from Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa State, Illinois and several others.
"Right now, his offer list doesn't seem to match up with the talent level he brings to the table," Texas-based Rivals.com analyst Jason Howell said. "I think (Iowa has) a shot. They got in early and they've done a good job of getting that relationship started and they've got a great relationship with the school as well."
Stock up on defensive linemen
Why there's a need: Iowa's senior class includes starting defensive ends Drew Ott and Nate Meier and fellow defensive linemen Melvin Spears and Darian Cooper.
Who could help: The Hawkeyes already have help on the way. They landed commitments last month from Detroit East English Village teammates Chauncey Golston and Cedrick Lattimore.
"I like the base they've built there with Lattimore and Golston," Helmholdt said. "It allows them to really zero in on the top guys they want to get. I think that's one position where they'll be very content with what they have come national signing day."
Golston, a 6-5, 235-pound defensive end, has impressed scouts this spring with his size and athleticism.
"He's a little bit more raw, but he's got a giant wingspan, very athletic, can run really well," Trieu said. "He just played more offensive tackle last year, so I don't think people have gotten a good chance to see what he could do on the defensive side of the football. But in terms of athletic gifts, he could be another one they steal out of East English."
Lattimore (6-4, 250) could slide inside to a defensive tackle position.
"He was a kid who'd come over from basketball and had played some tight end. I think he was just starting to find himself on the football field," Trieu said. "I covered (former Hawkeye) Carl Davis when he was in high school and Cedrick could develop into that type of guy. He's a little bit longer and taller than the other inside guys, but the athleticism is outstanding."
Three-star Indiana defensive tackle Jovan Swann attended Iowa's spring game. The Hawkeyes offered Pella defensive end Austin Schulte last weekend after their camp in Iowa City, and they recently entered the picture for rising Illinois defensive end Romeo McKnight.
"He's a kid who went into the Nike camp and a lot of people didn't know who he was," Trieu said. "He was outstanding there and beat some of the top offensive tackles. Then the next week he's got a couple offers, including Iowa, and he got on campus pretty quick, so I think they're looking good for him."
Three-star Illinois defensive end Daniel Joseph has Iowa on a lengthy list of scholarship offers and the Hawkeyes have an in. He's Faith Ekakitie's younger brother.
Land a big-play threat at receiver
Why there's a need: Kirk Ferentz's best teams have been built from the trenches back, but they've also had big-play threats who could stretch the field and threaten to take any touch to the end zone. It's an element the Hawkeyes have sorely missed in recent years.
Who could help: Emmanuel Rugamba, a three-star receiver from Illinois, has the Hawkeyes on a list of schools he plans to visit this summer.
"He is so quick in and out of his breaks that he instantly creates separation," Helmholdt said. "He's not a real top-end speed kind of guy, so he's not going to stretch the field vertically. He's more of that shorter, intermediate-route (receiver). He has an excellent pair of hands. He's a very dynamic receiver. ... He's a very tough kid for defensive backs to cover one-on-one."
The Hawkeyes have been connected to Texans Aaron Fuller, Tim Wilson and Obi Obialo.
"There was a time last year where they seemed to be all over everybody in Texas," Howell said. "They were the hot team for a lot of kids."
Helmholdt said Missouri receiver Harry Ballard III could surface as an Iowa target in the coming weeks.
"He feels they're very close to an offer and he's a very good receiver," Helmholdt said. "The issue there is he's behind from an academic qualification standpoint, but he recognizes that, he's gotten together with his counselor at school, they've got a game plan, he's got a good family structure around him. He's one of those guys where … I feel he'll be a qualifier when all is said and done. He is a big, powerful, big-framed wide receiver. He's a fun kid to watch. He's definitely the real deal."
Fortify the tight end position
Why there's a need: Jake Duzey and Henry Krieger-Coble, the top two tight ends on the depth chart, are both seniors. The Hawkeyes also didn't sign a tight end in the 2014 class.
Who could help: The Hawkeyes shot for the stars, extending offers to five of the top nine tight ends in the Rivals.com national rankings.
"They shot high for tight end early on, and I always feel that's a good move," Helmholdt said. "You never know if you're out of the ballgame until you're told you're out of the ballgame."
Iowa will likely be in the game until the end with T.J. Hockenson, who grew up a Hawkeye fan and picked up an offer last weekend. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Chariton native led Class 3-A in catches, receiving yards and touchdown grabs last season.
Hockenson also holds an offer from Iowa State and plans to camp this month at Minnesota and Missouri before making a decision.
"He's a kid who catches everything," Trieu said. "You watch his film and see him in person and he's making one-handed catches, he's going up and over guys. His ball skills are top notch. Looking at how he's built, he's got to add some weight and strength to his frame. I think he's still filling out his body, but as far as having the natural ability to catch the football, he can definitely do that."
Illinois tight end Albert Okwuegbunam fits the same mold. The 6-5, 215-pound converted receiver visited Iowa in April.
"No doubt he's a factor in the passing game," Helmholdt said. "Can he play the in-line tight end position? That's the question mark there."