Hawkeye recruiting mailbag: Diving into Iowa's future on the defensive line

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

I've been living in Iowa for about two years now, and I'm happy to say the Midwest is feeling more and more like home every day.

In my blood, though, I'll always be a Southern Californian — born and raised in Orange County (which is only a little bit like the early 2000s show "The O.C."). And, yes, like lots of SoCal natives, I love the ocean.

Solon's Tyler Linderbaum celebrates after forcing a fourth down during the Spartans' game against Decorah in Solon on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017.

But I'm really a lakes guy. Give me a mountain lake with a boat and fishing pole any day of the week over a surf board. Give me a view of lush trees surrounding water 100 percent over water fading off on the horizon.

So, I'm sitting here with Memorial Day weekend coming up, and I need a lake to go to. I adored Lake MacBride back in eastern Iowa, but I need one in central Iowa now that spring is officially here.

I've heard Gray's Lake is cool. Red Rock Lake down near Knoxville seems like a good time. I'll figure something out.

If you've got any lesser known, underrated lakes that you love, let me know. A lake guy needs his lakes.

Anyway, welcome, once again, to the weekly Iowa recruiting mailbag. A wide range of topics today. Let's get to it.

This tweet was sent after Wisconsin three-star defensive end Jake Karchinski announced he was committing to Iowa, becoming the Hawkeyes ninth 2019 recruit.

While Karchinski's film doesn't pop as much as guys like Iowa State signee Zach Petersen or Iowa 2019 target Mosai Newsom, his 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame as a junior makes him an intriguing prospect to watch develop next season.

Esquires is on the right track: If Iowa should feel confident about any position group moving forward, it's the defensive line — not just defensive end.

I do hesitate to call all of them studs, though.

As promising as Iowa's incoming recruits are, it's impossible to tell what kind of college player they'll be until they start lining up opposite other college players. 

So let's start with the guys we know are proven Big Ten contributors:

Cedrick Lattimore, Matt Nelson, A.J. Epenesa, Anthony Nelson, Parker Hesse, Brady Reiff, Sam Brincks and Garret Jansen. Dallas Jacobus was also listed as the backup left tackle on Iowa's spring depth chart. 

A.J. Epenesa runs a drill during open practice at Kinnick Stadium Friday, April 20, 2018.

Lattimore, Anthony Nelson, Reiff and Jansen are with Iowa through 2019-20. Epenesa is a Hawkeye through 2020-21. You can also add in Iowa Western transfer Daviyon Nixon at defensive tackle for 2019 and 2020.

That's already a strong foundation for next year's newcomers to build on.

Again, as well as these guys project, you can't for certain say what kind of career any of them will have.

John Waggoner could be at least a solid contributor as a sophomore.

Tyler Linderbaum could be special inside as a defensive tackle. 

Noah Shannon could develop high-end agility with his 300-pound frame.

We just have to wait and see

Dowling Catholic's John Waggoner met with Iowa assistant coach Reese Morgan on Tuesday afternoon.

I will say that I've been on the Linderbaum train for a while. You all know the deal: He's an undersized defensive tackle at 6-2, 255. But he's a ridiculous competitor who stars in football, baseball, wrestling and track and field for Solon. He's a definite redshirt candidate, as Iowa will want to take its time finding the right balance of size and speed for Linderbaum. He could even wind up playing center in Iowa City.

Here's what Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell told me about Linderbaum in December:

"Maybe on the size chart, you’re looking around the Big Ten at defensive tackle and they’re bringing in big guys, but Tyler fits the mold of all the great defensive linemen that played here. And it has nothing to do with the scale or the height chart. It’s all about what’s inside: The kid’s an animal.

"Of course he’ll come here. He’ll eat, he’ll lift, he’ll grow. He’ll get bigger, faster, stronger. But his drive to compete? That’s something you can’t coach. ... It’s off the charts. That’s what’s going to make him special."

Minneapolis four-star point guard Tyrell Terry belongs to a group of point guards Iowa is continuously evaluating and recruiting in case its top target, five-star lefty D.J. Carton, commits elsewhere. (Ohio State is generating buzz in that race.)

That group includes Terry, four-stars Rocket Watts and Harlond Beverly, three-star Noah Hutchins and Des Moines North standout Tyreke Locure (although Iowa hasn't had much contact with the Locure camp lately, while Minnesota has).

Iowa clearly likes Terry. It was his first offer in April after his sophomore year, and Terry has said how much that first offer meant.

But that was also before the Hawkeyes — and the rest of college basketball — realized just how good Carton is.

That leaves Iowa is in a peculiar situation with its 2019 point guard recruiting: It has to put essentially all of its point guard eggs in the Carton basket to do everything it can to land him.

Tyrell Terry drives the ball during one of D1Minnesota's games on the Adidas Gauntlet in Indianapolis in April.

As a result, the Hawkeyes can't go full push on other point guard prospects like their competitors can for that same athlete. Other programs, like Iowa State, can recruit Terry as their No. 1 target. Iowa isn't able to do that right now.

Assistant coach Andrew Francis has done well building relationships with top talents in this 2019 class, including Terry. But, at the moment, the Hawkeyes aren't in the picture as much for Terry as they were at the start of spring.

I'm hearing Stanford is the front-runner right now. For a kid as smart as Terry, the Cardinal will be tough to beat. 

This was an interesting question. Justin was referring to Georgia running back Tyler Goodson, who recently named Iowa and Iowa State among his top eight schools.

Justin went on to clarify he was wondering if both schools competing for prospects in other regions would bring the schools any sort of recruiting prominence outside the Midwest recruiting base.

In short: Not really.

Sure, the more Goodson and his peers in Georgia have the Hawkeyes and Cyclones on their mind, the better chance Kirk Ferentz and Matt Campbell have of plucking a couple kids from the Peach State every couple years. The same can be said for any state or any region.

But here's the thing: Iowa and Iowa State have solidified recruiting bases, as do most schools who don't recruit on a national level.

Usually, the only way those bases change is if a new coach comes in with connections to a new region. (Like Iowa running backs coach Derrick Foster and Alabama/Georgia, for instance.)

Both schools try to establish a strong presence in the Midwest, mostly within a six-hour driving radius.

Then, outside the Midwest, Iowa has had success in Florida, Texas and the East Coast, among other areas. Iowa State has generally focused more on out-of-region prospects, and it's enjoyed success in Arizona, California, Texas, Oklahoma and Florida, among other areas.

Those areas would be near the top of the list of Iowa and Iowa State's non-Midwest recruiting grounds.

So, does Goodson or any out-of-region prospect considering both schools generate some buzz? Sure, some of his peers may notice.

But it won't have the lasting effect that a new coach with recruiting ties to that out-of-region base would.

That's why Foster's tenure on Iowa's staff will be so intriguing. He's already given Iowa a presence in Alabama, and he's clearly doing good work in Georgia, too.

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 mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.