Well before fax machines around the country started pumping out signed letters of intent from 2016 signees on Wednesday, Iowa had already built the foundation for a strong 2017 class.
And the Hawkeyes didn’t need to go far away to find those building blocks.
Of Iowa’s five known verbal commitments for the 2017 class, four are members of what is widely considered a deep and talented junior class of Iowans.
Included in Iowa’s early in-state haul are the state’s top-ranked junior in Juan Harris, Mount Vernon offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs and versatile Solon athlete Jacob Coons.
Madrid defensive end Coy Kirkpatrick rounds out the group of early in-state commitments that are all ranked among the top 10 recruits in Iowa by Rivals.com.
Coons became the first area athlete to pledge to the Hawkeyes since Drew Cook in 2016, and the final of the four early in-state commits when he verbally-committed to the Hawkeyes in December.
“He knows what’s expected. He is going to go in there and work and earn everything that comes his way. He’s a kid that is willing to pay his dues and do the things that are required consistently,” Solon coach Kevin Miller said of Coons. “I feel strongly about the potential that he has and the future that he has.”
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Coons is listed as a linebacker by most scouting services.
He played all over the field as a junior at Solon, helping the Spartans to a 6-5 record and a berth in the second round of the 3A playoffs.
Coons caught 10 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns as an H-back and tight end on offense.
He made 20 tackles, including three for loss and a sack as an outside linebacker and defensive end while battling injuries for most of his junior season.
Miller can envision Coons playing any number of roles in the college game.
“I think he’s a versatile athlete that can play a number of different positions,” Miller said. “I think he’s projected to have his hand down like a tight end or a defensive end but he still has the versatility to play like an outside linebacker or an H-back because he is an athlete.”
It was that versatility that drew college coaches to Coons, who earned a three-star ranking from Rivals and chose Iowa over an offer from Iowa State.
“He is an athlete that is 6-foot-4, can run, make plays and has great hands but it’s that versatility,” Miller said. “He has shown that he is capable of playing with his hand down or in space and being successful at both and I think that’s what people see in Jake is that ability to play multiple positions.”
A starter on the basketball team, Coons is averaging 10.5 points per game for the Spartans this season.
He fits the mold of the other four early commitments for Iowa’s 2017 class that are all projected to play on the offensive or defensive line.
All five commits, which includes four-star Edwardsville defensive end A.J. Epenesa — the overall No. 2 recruit in the 2017 class by 247sports — are over 6-foot-3.
“He is kind of a basketball player type because he has great hands and super feet and I believe his best football is still ahead of him,” Miller said of Coons. “He still has to understand how to use his body more effectively and we need to do a better job of putting him in positions where we can utilize his strengths as well but he is only going to get better.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or rmurken@press-citizen and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.