Hawkeye recruiting mailbag: How much will Iowa football dip into the juco market?

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

Welcome, once again, to the Hawkeye recruiting mailbag.

Dowling Catholic's Atlias Bell celebrates a sack during their semifinal game at the UNI dome on Friday, November 13, 2015 in Cedar Falls.

In case you missed the news this week: We're also doing a recruiting Facebook Live show every Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to noon this fall on the Register's High School Insider page. I'm hosting the show with Register producer/editor/writer/utility man extraordinaire Danny Lawhon, who's among the live show gurus around here.

On air, I'll answer any question you can come up with (within reason): Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Drake, in-state athletes — anything. Some of the questions featured in these mailbags will also be featured in the show. But we encourage you to comment with questions during the show, and I'll answer them live.

You can watch the first show here.

Onto the mailbag!

How many JuCos do you think Iowa goes after and takes this year? — @Hawkfan7314

Three names come to mind here, and all three are from Iowa Western ... 

Chester Graves, a hybrid defender who could play linebacker or defensive end, is the No. 1 junior college prospect in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite. He initially signed with Ole Miss before going the juco route. Iowa has offered, along with Alabama, Ole Miss, Miami, Nebraska and more. Graves recorded seven tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss in Iowa Western's season-opener. He would be a massive haul for the Hawkeyes — who held off Alabama for another Iowa Western product in Daviyon Nixon last year. Graves is originally from the Kansas City metro area.

Malcolm Lee, a defensive end, is the composite's No. 21 overall juco prospect in 2019. Originally from Bellevue, Nebraska, Lee received an Iowa offer during a visit on June 11. A few days later, he took an official visit to Houston. Lee also holds offers from Iowa State, Louisville, Central Florida and Florida Atlantic, among others.

Atlias Bell of Dowling Catholic scoops up a fumble and scores a touchdown against Cedar Rapids Kennedy in the Class 4A Championship game Monday, Nov. 23, 2015.

Atlias Bell, a defensive tackle, isn't currently rated. But personally, he's one of my favorite juco guys out there. He's a product of Dowling Catholic, and I still remember him dominating the snot out of his opponents during the Maroons' 2017 state title run in the UNI-Dome. I talked with Bell a bit on Tuesday night, and he said Iowa, Iowa State, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina State and Washington State were all expressing interest. He said he doesn't have any visits planned at the moment. He recorded nine tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in Iowa Western's season-opener.

Those are three guys Iowa is interested in or has offered. The Hawkeyes will likely wind up taking at least one juco product, even if it's none of these three. Remember: They didn't take Mekhi Sargent, a 2018 player, until this summer. One might emerge this season, and Iowa could snag him late in the process.

Kirk Ferentz can afford to be patient and picky, if need be.

WHO is going to get Gavin Williams? — @jrobs2003_josh

Still way too early to predict. There's lots of recruiting left to be done with the four-star Southeast Polk running back, who's planning to be at Notre Dame this weekend for its season-opener versus Michigan.

Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan and Nebraska have offered, and Notre Dame is obviously interested. The Huskers aren't in the picture right now — they haven't even talked to Williams since offering him April 26.

Southeast Polk Rams Gavin Williams (21) is tackled by Valley Tigers Drew Jirak (24) Friday, Aug 24, 2018 at Valley Stadium Stadium in West Des Moines.

"They need to know what this kid needs," Williams' mother, Kori, told me, "if they want him."

But the other four schools certainly are in the picture.

I talked for a while with Williams about each school recruiting him; you can read that conversation here

During the June unofficial visit to Notre Dame, Kori said she particularly liked running back coach Autry Denson's approach. He doesn't yell. He's calm. He talks with his players, rather than screaming at them, Kori said.

She said that approach works best with her son.

"Gavin will listen," she said.

She went on to say that Gavin is all about relationships. The program's prestige won't matter as much as how comfortable he feels with the entire coaching staff. She wants to feel comfortable with the entire coaching staff, too.

"There is one university in particular where every single one of those coaches, I know," Kori said, adding she didn't want to name the school. "And every single one of them knows me. And every single one of them comes and greets us."

After the Notre Dame gameday visit, the Williamses hope to take gameday visits to Iowa, Iowa State and Michigan. 

True or false: Iowa will have a 2019 PG commitment by Oct. 1 — @racecarpassenger


All three of Iowa's 2019 point guard targets are visiting in September: Joe Toussaint on Sept. 8, Bryan Greenlee on Sept. 14 and Yuri Collins on Sept. 21.

For Greenlee and Collins, Iowa is their best offer on paper. The Hawkeyes are competing mainly with Arkansas State for Greenlee. They'reagainst St. Louis for Collins, with SMU, DePaul and Bradley on the outside looking in.

Collins told me a couple weeks ago that the Big Ten Conference has big pull with him. He's also visiting St. Louis on Sept. 8.

"That’s the big level," he said. "You can get drafted from there. I mean, I’ve seen players get out with the one-and-done, get to the league. I’ve seen some of the best players come out of the Big Ten and make it to the NBA and do good there. So, knowing I could play in the Big Ten right now, I really like it."

Iowa 2019 point guard target dribbles during a game with St. Mary's in St. Louis.

There's a little stiffer competition for Toussaint. I chatted a bit with his high school coach, Joseph Lods, on Wednesday morning. He said there are two schools pursuing Toussaint hard other than Iowa: Boston College and Dayton.

Toussaint, from assistant coach Andrew Francis' home state of New York, is visiting Iowa the same weekend as Patrick McCaffery and five-star target Trayce Jackson-Davis.

There's a good chance one of the three point guards commits on the spot during his official visit — or, at least, shortly after. Collins told me he doesn't have any visits planned after St. Louis and Iowa, and that he could make a decision after those two conclude. Toussaint doesn't have any other visits planned right now. Same with Greenlee, who took his first official to Arkansas State on Aug. 25.

Obviously, there's a chance Toussaint or Greenlee commit before Collins ever gets on campus.

Bottom line: There are too many factors pointing to Iowa receiving a 2019 point guard commitment before October.

Occasionally a college may pull a scholarship from a player who has a bad injury in high school. Do you see that happening with Britt? — @iowafanwilliams


If you didn't see this earlier, Iowa offensive guard recruit Justin Britt tweeted that he had torn his ACL and will miss the remainder of his senior season.

Iowa demands loyalty from its recruits. That's a two-way street. The Hawkeyes will stick by Britt. And they should, by the way. Britt is a high-level offensive lineman — one of the Midwest's best — and he will still be a high-level offensive lineman when he recovers.

If the Hawkeyes dropped Britt's scholarship now, that would be baaad for business.

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_.

Justin Britt, offensive lineman, Warren Central High School, part of the IndyStar Super Team for football.