Romeo McKnight became the first domino in a Monday frenzy that has Iowa's football recruiting class of 2016 at 80 percent capacity.
McKnight, defensive back Lance Billings (Lorain, Ohio) and defensive back Cedric Boswell (Beverly Hills, Mich.) gave their commitments to the Hawkeyes within 90 minutes of each other, continuing a June recruiting binge for Iowa.
McKnight, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound defensive end from Crystal Lake, Ill., announced his intentions during a noon news conference, wearing a baseball cap with the Hawkeyes' logo. He selected Iowa over scholarship offers from Miami (Ohio) and Toledo.
According to composite rankings assembled by 247Sports.com, McKnight is the No. 9 overall prospect in Illinois and the top-rated recruit in Iowa's Class of 2016. Those composite rankings offer an average score for a prospect based on various recruiting websites.
"He reminds me a lot of Randy Gregory when he was at Nebraska," said Andrew Kulha, who covers Hawkeye recruiting for 247 Sports. "He's lengthy, and his closing speed – that's the thing that really stood out to me, just how he's able to get from Point A to Point B and do so really quickly."
McKnight also is the fourth Chicago-area commitment in the group, joining linebackers Amani Jones and Nick Niemann and running back/linebacker Barrington Wade.
McKnight was the second defensive end in four days to commit to the Hawkeyes and the fourth overall. New Jersey's Brandon Simon gave his pledge on Friday, joining the Detroit duo of Chauncey Golston and Cedrick Lattimore who became Iowa's third and fourth commitments in May.
Pass-rushing defenders on the outside were considered one of the Hawkeyes' two greatest needs in the Class of 2016, and that now seems to be addressed.
The remaining biggest hole was in the secondary, until two more commitments popped up on social media.
First, it was Billings, who was so under-the-radar that he didn't have a profile on mainstream recruiting websites. Billings (5-11, 161) caught 45 passes for 799 yards and nine touchdowns for Clearview High School but projects as a safety or cornerback.
Then came Boswell, a 5-11, 172-pounder who rushed for 1,350 yards and 15 touchdowns at Birmingham Groves High School, but was being recruited as a cornerback. Like McKnight and Billings, Iowa was Boswell's only known power-conference scholarship offer.
Iowa has invoked a more aggressive strategy in recruiting under the direction of Seth Wallace, who is just wrapping up his first full year as coordinator. The Hawkeyes' 20 known commitments — 16 coming since June 8 — are tied for the top total among Big Ten Conference teams, according to Rivals.com. Michigan and Michigan State has 20 each entering Monday.
Iowa expects to sign somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 signees in February 2016; the outgoing senior class consumes 20 scholarships and inevitable attrition is always accounted for.
In an interview with the Des Moines Register last week, Wallace was asked whether Iowa was catching up with a growing trend in college football recruiting, as more high school prospects are making decisions in the summer before their senior years.
"Timing's a little bit different now than it was five or six years ago," Wallace said. "And we're right there with it, I guess."
IOWA'S FOOTBALL RECRUITING CLASS OF 2016
The 20 Hawkeye football commitments of the expected class of around 25; verbal commitments cannot sign National Letters of Intent until Feb. 3, 2016:
Toks Akinribade, ATH, 6-0, 205 (Brownsburg, Ind.)
Cole Banwart, OL, 6-4, 275 (Algona, Iowa)
Lance Billings, DB, 5-11, 161 (Lorain, Ohio)
Cedric Boswell, DB, 5-11, 172 (Beverly Hills, Mich.)
Frank Darby, WR, 6-1, 180 (Jersey City, N.J.)
Chauncey Golston, DE, 6-5, 235 (Detroit)
T.J. Hockenson, TE, 6-5, 230 (Chariton, Iowa)
Amani Hooker, DB, 6-1, 195 (Brooklyn Park, Minn.)
Amani Jones, LB, 6-0, 215 (Chicago)
Cedrick Lattimore, DE, 6-4, 251 (Detroit)
Romeo McKnight, DE, 6-5, 230 (Crystal Lake, Ill.)
Nick Niemann, LB, 6-3, 205 (Sycamore, Ill.)
Austin Schulte, DE, 6-4, 240 (Pella, Iowa)
Brandon Simon, DE, 6-1, 236 (Ramsey, N.J.)
Nathan Stanley, QB, 6-4, 193 (Menomonie, Wis.)
Kyle Taylor, LB, 6-2, 220 (Washington, D.C.)
Barrington Wade, RB, 6-1, 207 (Skokie, Ill.)
Spencer Williams, OL, 6-3, 275 (Cedar Falls, Iowa)
Devonte Young, WR, 6-0, 191 (Waldorf, Md.)
Toren Young, RB, 5-11, 206 (Monona Grove, Wis.)