Iowa’s early in-state commits mounting 2019 recruiting charge
Tyler Endres took the calls and in-school visits and camp trips like plenty of other elite football prospects from across the nation.
Iowa State and Minnesota showed early interest in Norwalk’s massive sophomore lineman, with Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State and Oregon following suit. Endres ended his recruitment on Saturday afternoon, because he felt he compared every college to the one that ultimately got his commitment — Iowa.
Now, he and the Hawkeyes hope to make more top 2019 prospects feel the same way.
“Nothing else reached what I thought about Iowa,” Endres said Sunday afternoon. “Nothing was even close.
“If I knew where I wanted to go and it felt right, I was just going to do it now.”
The Hawkeyes have three verbal commitments from the Class of 2019: Endres, offensive tackle Ezra Miller from Holstein, and tight end Logan Lee from Orion, Ill.
All three are rated as four-star prospects by 247 Sports. Their combined recruiting superlatives in the young class put Iowa at No. 7 in 247’s team rankings, with most FBS programs yet to report any 2019 commits.
The rising juniors are still 18 months away from what, for now, is the earliest available signing day.
“These are three commits that a lot of other schools wish they could have,” said Derek Young, publisher for the Iowa-focused Scout site Hawkeye Insider.
“Just because they are Iowa guys that committed to Iowa this early doesn’t mean those other schools are going to stop trying.”
The most common concern with early verbal commitments is the time remaining for a recruit to consider other schools and decommit. Iowa experienced a rash of the rough defections last fall, when four 2017 prospects from Texas — Eno Benjamin, Chevin Calloway, Beau Corrales and Gavin Holmes — decided against college careers in Iowa City. And the first 2018 commitment on Iowa’s board, linebacker Mike Bruner from Wisconsin, backed out in April.
That is not expected to be a significant problem with two in-state offensive linemen and a tight end who lives closer to Kinnick Stadium than he did to his home-state Illini.
“The coaching staff was always straight-up with us,” Endres said. “They weren’t sugar-coating anything. They don’t say it’s going to be easy or tell you what you want to hear just to get you there. That’s what my parents and I liked.”
Iowa is well-positioned to maintain the early momentum it has built with 2019 prospects, too. An increase in highly rated recruits in-state and around the region mean normal hot spots can deliver tons of talent.
Young says offensive linemen are not usually known as "recruiting personalities" used to draw in coveted classmates on visits and over the phone, but added that the Hawkeyes may have unearthed some in their early commits. Illinois native and three-star interior lineman Jeff Jenkins has led the 2018 charge, and Miller and Endres appear to be integral for 2019. Especially because the first recruiting dead period of the summer began Monday.
“If there is a personality guy among the three who will get on his horse and start wrangling other guys, it’s probably Ezra Miller,” Young said. “I know he was recruiting Tyler Endres.
“Logan Lee might be able to help with another four-star offensive lineman in 2019, Will Putnam. He’s a highly touted recruit who Iowa really, really likes, and they had him on campus a lot before he just moved to IMG Academy in Florida. He’s known Logan Lee since eighth grade. And he was in the room when Logan Lee got his offer.”
Iowa’s blazing 2019 progress may soon put it above the smaller 2018 class in priority. Head coach Kirk Ferentz’s staff has picked up eight verbal commitments from seniors-to-be, but finds itself in the driver’s seat with several other rising juniors.
Four-star running back Jirehl Brock from Quincy, Ill., told Scout that the Hawkeyes were his top option after a visit last weekend. The 6-foot speedster is rated as the No. 96 prospect nationally by 247 and gained offers from Michigan State, Missouri and Iowa State after Iowa extended one in March.
Brock’s interest was reportedly boosted, not hampered, by Iowa already holding a running back commitment in 2018 from Wisconsin’s Henry Geil.
The Hawkeyes are also interested in 2019 defensive back Larry Tracy III, the cousin of 2018 receiver commit Tyrone Tracy. A three-star cornerback from Decatur Central in Indianapolis, Ind., Larry Tracy was credited with a team-high 112 tackles and five interceptions as a freshman and had 53 tackles as a sophomore before suffering a foot injury.
“You can build momentum with recruits, even out of commitments from the less sexy positions,” said Blair Sanderson, editor for Rivals site Hawkeye Report. “I know a lot of these guys are following what each other are doing. That’s not to say they’ll go to the same school or go on every visit together, but no doubt they’ll be in other guys’ ears.”
With camp and a commitment out of the way, the only summer plan Endres still has as a prospect is to reel in more players. The 6-6 offensive tackle says he weighs around 300 pounds and wants to stay strong yet light on his feet with Norwalk’s offseason workouts.
He’d like to help the Hawkeyes protect a quarterback a couple years early. Lewis Central’s Max Duggan is yet another in-state 2019 four-star prospect and is considering Iowa in a list that includes Iowa State, Kansas State, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina and Penn State.
“We’ve already talked about trying to get Max Duggan up to Iowa,” Endres said. “I’ve seen him at visits. He’s a great player.
“It’s just going to keep building, because we want to get talent to follow talent.”
Iowa’s strong start with recruits may not yet be written in stone, but it should help garner even more interest from undecided 2018 and 2019 players.
“It is a little surreal to watch it come together,” Sanderson said. “The 2019 group is already catching up.
“It will be interesting to see how it all comes together.”