'Eno effect' helping Hawkeyes thrive in Texas

Andy Hamilton

The visitor roster for Iowa’s annual Hawkeye Tailgater this weekend features at least four top Texans and underscores the increased recruiting emphasis for the Hawkeyes inside one of the biggest football hotbeds.

The talent influx from Texas could be attributed in part to Iowa’s increased profile as a program after last year’s 12-win season. Part of it could be credited, as well, to the player leading the campaign for the Hawkeyes in the Dallas area.

“I don’t know how much to overstate the Eno effect,” Texas-based analyst Nick Krueger said in reference to Iowa’s prized running back commit Eno Benjamin. “I think they wouldn’t be in the race with some of these guys if they didn’t have a mouthpiece down there to help them out with it. I think it’s case specific to what’s going on right now with Eno.”

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz watches action during the spring game for the 2016 Iowa Hawkeyes football team on Saturday, April 23, 2016, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

Benjamin would’ve been a big get for the Hawkeyes on his football merit alone. He’s a four-star talent who’s ranked the No. 7 running back in the country by Rivals. He ran for 2,652 yards and 45 touchdowns last fall as a junior at Wylie East High School in the Dallas outskirts.

But Benjamin flipped from recruit to recruiter after he made his pledge in April to Iowa, and he’s been talking, tweeting and texting about the Hawkeyes to any potential target on the black and gold radar.

“I think he’s huge in the whole pipeline to Texas right now,” Krueger said. “Once you start talking to him, he’s a really personable dude. It’s easy to see if guys are persuaded from the perspective of having another recruit talk to them. He’s definitely the type of guy who can get it done.”

Benjamin is expected to be joined this weekend in Iowa City by 14 other 2017 prospects, including three other Texans, according to Kirk Ferentz’s program secured a commitment on Monday from Texas prep quarterback Peyton Mansell, and Chevin Calloway, a four-star cornerback prospect from Dallas, visited Iowa earlier in the week.

Texas QB Peyton Mansell explains why he committed to Iowa

This comes on the heels of a 2016 Iowa class devoid of Texans.

“I don’t think there’s any question that they’ve ramped up (in Texas),” publisher Tom Kakert said. “Part of that is they got a linchpin guy in Eno Benjamin early and that was really important.

“There’s so much talent down there, it’s hard to ignore it. I think maybe they lost touch with that for a little bit. It became more difficult. But like Kirk always talks about, they have the direct flights from Cedar Rapids to Dallas and that helps. They’ve really focused in the Dallas area more than anything else.”

Iowa’s visitor list this weekend is expected to include receiver Gavin Holmes and defensive backs Matt Hankins and Kobe Boyce, a Texas commit.

Holmes, who committed to Duke in May before changing his mind earlier this month, was born in Des Moines and has family in Iowa.

“Gavin’s calling card is his speed, for sure,” Krueger said. “He has top-level speed. He does a great job taking the top off defenses. He’s not the tallest dude, but when you can outrun everybody sometimes it doesn’t matter.”

Krueger said he asked Holmes earlier this week if Iowa has a 50-50 shot of landing him this weekend and the receiver said “those are pretty good odds.”

“If the visit goes well, he’s definitely in line to make his commitment there, I would think,” Krueger said. “He said they were his leader. I suppose he just wants to go up there and confirm it’s what he’s hoping it’ll be.”