Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has 142 career wins at the school, one shy of tying Hayden Fry. The Hawkeyes play in the Dec. 27 Pinstripe Bowl. Chad Leistikow / The Register
Christmas came early for the Hawkeyes on Wednesday when blue-chip safety Dallas Craddieth picked Iowa over Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. He'd previously said he would extend his recruitment beyond the early signing period — he even had an official visit scheduled Jan. 19 to Indiana.
But on Wednesday, he tweeted he was "proud and 1000% positive" he wanted to be a Hawkeye.
Rivals gives Craddieth, of Florissant, Missouri, four stars and ranks him as the No. 28 safety in the class and the No. 7 prospect in Missouri. The 247Sports Composite gives him three stars and ranks him as the No. 27 safety in the class and Missouri's No. 7 prospect.
The talented safety finished his senior season with 66 tackles, five interceptions, one forced fumble, one sack and three tackles for loss. His film reminds you of a certain Hawkeye cornerback who led the country in interceptions this year.
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Let's see what makes Craddieth stand out in this Hawkeye film room session ...
His read-and-react ability is elite: Craddieth might be known for his physicality, but his pass-coverage skills are the real deal, too. Specifically, his knack for reading receivers' routes, tracking the quarterback's eyes and blowing plays up before they happen. There's a great example at the 1:25 mark. With the camera shooting from behind Craddieth, you can literally see him recognize the receiver's route, follow the quarterback's eyes and break the pass up in just a few seconds. His read-and-react skills translate to rush defense, too, where he takes great angles to the ball.
Obviously, he's a hard-hitter: At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Craddieth is a pretty ideal prospect for safety once he gets into Chris Doyle's strength program. He's an aggressive tackler with plus wrap-up skills. He rarely plays off-balance when attacking running backs try to juke him out. You don't see many prospects excel in both pass and rush defense at elite levels, but Craddieth does. He's the full package at safety. He can bench 225 pounds, deadlift 245 pounds and squat 395 pounds, and you can tell by his tackling. Just watch the first clip and you'll understand.
Craddieth boasts hands of a wide receiver ... because he was also a top wide receiver for Hazelwood Central. You can see several examples in his film. But pay attention to all his interceptions — especially the second clip: He catches the ball high and out in front with big hands. It looks natural, easy, normal. Desmond King and Josh Jackson have great hands, too. If you're splitting hairs among top-tier defensive backs, hands can be the difference.
Versatility: Craddieth can play safety, free or strong. He can play cornerback. He lined up occasionally with the linebackers for Hazelwood Central, and at the 4:10 mark you can see him jump a route for an interception from the linebacker position. He can return punts. He can blitz effectively through a gap or off the edge. Watch him blow through a running back block for a sack off a blitz at the 1:30 mark. Iowa defensive coordinator will be able to plug Craddieth into several different roles in his defense.
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.