Hawkeyes aiming high on holiday recruiting wish list

Chris Cuellar

Recruiting Santa Claus is making his list and checking it twice.

But he might need a scholarship offer, an official visit and some prospective playing time before he decides who’s naughty or nice.

Holiday break and the NCAA’s recruiting dead period is the perfect time to go over Iowa’s wish list for the rest of its 2017 class.

Which top prospects could be a fancy new toy? Will the Hawkeyes unwrap a commitment or a lump of coal? We should find out before recruiting’s Christmas morning: National Signing Day.

Get the shiny star receiver

Iowa City West's Oliver Martin (8) pushes off a Cedar Rapids Washington defender  Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, during their 4A state semifinal game at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls.

As Kirk Ferentz pointed out Thursday, the medical redshirt return of senior Matt VandeBerg was an early Christmas gift for the Hawkeyes. Extending his career is equivalent to adding a graduate transfer at a position of need.

And what Iowa really, really wants under the commitment tree is Iowa City West star Oliver Martin. The four-star receiver has risen like few players nationally during this cycle, and is notably considering offers from Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State and Oregon. The Hawkeyes would love to keep the most productive receiver in Class 4A history home.

“If you’re able to land a kid like Oliver, perception is huge,” Scout.com Midwest recruiting analyst Allen Trieu said. “You’re able to win a recruiting battle against Notre Dame, against Michigan and schools like that. For a number of reasons, you land a guy like that and it makes the class more appealing if he’s in there.”

MORE: Meet the Register's All-Iowa football team

Open the stocking with Scott Nelson?

Iowa and Wisconsin are the only two official visits Nelson has taken, and the Michigan-based safety is a consensus three-star prospect. He’s an intelligent multi-sport athlete who has played quarterback and seems like the exact kind of development kid the Hawkeyes like.

“It’s definitely Iowa and Wisconsin,” Trieu said. “But Iowa won’t move on until he decides. He’s one of those key dominoes that needs to fall.”

But he’s added importance and could be the start of bigger gifts at his school, as Iowa has also offered his Detroit Jesuit junior teammates Carlos Vettorello and Elijah Collins. The former is an offensive lineman and the latter an athlete, and making a good impression with Nelson could yield results in the 2018 recruiting cycle.

MORE: Kirk Ferentz on Iowa's future

Line up the linebacker of the future

Thomas Johnston is Alabama’s all-time leader in career tackles, and the Hawkeyes have pitched giving him a year to learn behind star middle linebacker Josey Jewell. The Spanish Fort star would be an excellent get for production and for recruiting competition, as Iowa is going head-to-head with Arkansas, Ole Miss, LSU and Arizona State for his services. Johnston’s coach told Rivals this week that he would be making his college decision in January.