For at least a few hours Tuesday night, Nate Wieland blended right in. As one of many who had crosstown basketball on the evening agenda, the City High senior was part of a strong Little Hawks student section that more than held its own against the green-and-gold neighbor.
The final buzzer sounds, though, and simplicity stops.
Wieland has decisions looming. What had been a fairly steady recruitment now has multiple twists and turns with National Signing Day just a week away.
“Yeah, my mind’s all over the place right now,” Wieland said Tuesday. “The recruiting has really picked up this last week before National Signing Day.
“Just trying to stay calm with it all, but yeah, it’s pretty crazy.”
For now, things remain unchanged. Wieland, who’s been a Northern Illinois quarterback commit since June, is “just sticking with the original plan” until further notice. The Huskies first connected last spring and stand as one of his two FBS offers.
But that could change soon.
Although Wieland canceled his Iowa official visit last weekend, the Hawkeyes seemingly aren’t finished yet after cranking up the interest in recent weeks. Reshuffling isn’t a problem when you’re just a few minutes down the road.
“(Iowa) wants me to go up there Friday, but I haven’t made a final decision on that,” said Wieland, who the Hawkeyes likely project as a linebacker, potentially a safety. “They said they’re probably going to pull the trigger (with an offer) here pretty soon.”
Wieland’s situation gets interesting should that become reality. He isn’t shy in acknowledging that a Hawkeyes offer — even this late in the process — would make it a “tough” decision, adding that Iowa’s hometown affection has “got a huge effect” on his collegiate choice.
The Register's Chad Leistikow and and Chris Cuellar look at Iowa's football prospects, future basketball matchups and the Penn State wrestling dual.
Things took another turn Tuesday morning, when Iowa linebacker target Thomas Johnston turned down the Hawkeyes and multiple SEC schools to play alongside his brother at UAB. That decision leaves Kirk Ferentz and company without a linebacker commit for its current class, cracking another door open for Wieland should Iowa feel that’s a position of pertinent need.
“Iowa, it seems like in every class, will try to sneak in a couple of guys late,” said Allen Trieu, Scout.com’s Midwest football recruiting manager. “They do that pretty regularly with in-state guys, so I wouldn’t say that it’s completely dead (with Wieland and Iowa).
“Obviously, he’s been on their radar for them to even have (last weekend’s) official visit planned, so I would say it’s still a possibility (he gets an Iowa offer).”
One aspect is solidified: Northern Illinois is the only one of the two offering a shot at quarterback, where Wieland thrived this season in leading the Little Hawks to an 8-3 record with a quarterfinal appearance. He racked up 2,412 combined yards — 1,671 passing, 741 rushing — and 20 total touchdowns, delivering a solid bounce-back year after a severe leg injury wiped out most of his junior season.
Still, Wieland said a positional preference only plays “a little role, but not much.” If the Hawkeyes come calling, he’s fine giving up the days under center. And if they don’t, he’ll head to DeKalb as a quarterback, still with the possibility of ending up on defense.
Trieu has Wieland projected as a defensive player regardless of where he ends up, noting that schools like Iowa and Northern Illinois have found success over the years shifting guys to different positions from where they primarily played in high school.
“Rather than trying to evaluate him currently as a defensive player,” Trieu said, “you just look at his size and his toughness and his athleticism and some of the intangibles he brings to the table, and (it’s), ‘We’ll teach him the rest of it.’
“Because those schools have done it before. I think you feel comfortable that they’re seeing something that they can work with.”
Despite Iowa’s intriguing signs, Wieland knows there’s risk involved in chasing something that could never materialize. That played a heavy role in last weekend’s cancellation, a move Wieland feels will help re-emphasize his expectations.
“I think it really set the tone,” he said, “that I’m not here just so (Iowa) can mess with me and then end up just getting a preferred walk-on or anything. I think after that, they really realized that I’m not just going to play the game.
“I know that they have some kids who they talk all along the road and just have them (be a) preferred walk-on in the end.”
The next step: to be determined. An offer might come if Wieland does choose to visit Iowa this weekend, but any feather-ruffling with Northern Illinois could prove detrimental if the Hawkeyes ultimately fall through.
With just two additional offers — Eastern Michigan and Northern Iowa — Wieland’s backup plans are minimal.
“I think this weekend will be the deadline,” he said.
Then some chaos can subside.
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.